‘We See Each Other’: Author Tre’vell Anderson reckons with Black trans representation in media

The Charleston, South Carolina native discusses their debut book and their hopes specifically for future generations of Black trans folks to have it all.

We See Each Other: A Black, Trans Journey Through TV and Film by Tre’vell Anderson

Wearing a pink and black polka dot jumpsuit with glossy black open-toe chunky heels, Tre’vell Anderson is a true church queen on a mission to serve — a look — and help others in any way they can. It’s Saturday, April 15. They are running all over the place with heels click-clacking, ensuring everything runs smoothly for NABJ’s inaugural Arts & Entertainment Institute.

They stop and direct attendees exuding a warm yet commanding matriarchal aura, fully embracing themselves in all their non-binary glory. But Anderson’s journey to being who they are today starts with seeing slivers of themselves in media, and unlocking and validating the imagination of who they could be. This winding road of letting others into who they are is chronicled in their debut book out tomorrow, We See Each Other: A Black, Trans Journey Through TV and Film.

Reckon spent the day with the authoress to discuss their new book and the importance of trans representation in media and those critiquing it.

The founder of the award-winning TransGriot, the late Monica Roberts was the first Black trans journalist Anderson remembers who showed them that it was possible to stand in one’s truth while doing this work.

“Up to that point, in so many different ways, I had been told that I could not stand in my truth of whatever identity label I was using at the time and be a journalist. Then the fact that the first time meeting her was in the context of NABJ, this quote professional unquote environment was mind-altering in really useful and necessary ways for me,” Anderson tells Reckon.

According to Anderson, a part of their commitment to NABJ and their approach to journalism is an outgrowth of knowing that Roberts walked those halls. “As I continue to represent a different type of journalist, as I have been told I am in ways that Monica was for me, I want to do everything I can to make sure that it is a space for those who are seeing parts and slivers of themself in me to feel safe, welcome, supported, and affirmed,” they said. It’s a full-circle moment of passing the torch to the next generation. It is an affirming not common for Black trans and non-binary folks as they offer mentorship and guidance to these young queer journalists and critics.

For Anderson, trans representation in media is nuanced and not always presented readily wrapped in a cute little bow. We often take whatever side character used for comedic relief or a cautionary tale we can get or a story that somewhat represents a part of us and not the whole, never really being able to be regarded in our full humanity but as a prop in other’s tales. Instead, trans folks have had to take the scraps and makeshift the gift of visibility and possibility.

“People always say that you can’t be what you can’t see. There’s truth to that,” Anderson tells Reckon. “I also think that so many of us, especially trans and non-binary folks are [existing], in spite of not being able to see ourselves.”

And because of this, they believe this has created “an enduring, resilient spirit,” in trans folks to imagine the possibilities themselves, a thesis present throughout We See Each Other. But like every other human, they believe trans and non-binary people deserve reaffirming representation in every medium.

“We get to that promised land when the truth of our lived experiences and the truth of our history as trans people, as human beings, is rendered appropriately on screen, magazine covers, and [social media]. It has the potential to unlock so much,” Anderson says.

What a new path in the media and entertainment industry can look like

We See Each Other: A Black, Trans Journey Through TV and Film book cover by Tre’vell Anderson

As for what steps Hollywood and newsrooms can make toward providing better trans representation, Anderson tells Reckon it comes down to resources, platforms, support, and access. But often, the current resources come with conditions. According to the, We See Each Other scribe, a Black trans story can be greenlit but requires adding a white character, micromanaging how we tell our narratives.

“People always make it seem like the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion is difficult. That it is so complex and complicated, and it really ain’t,” Anderson said. “Give the communities the resources, support, and platform to do the types of storytelling that most accurately reflect their lived experiences and desires and get out the way.”

The Charleston, South Carolina native pauses to gather the rest of their thought like a southern grandmother ready to impart their final wisdom, “While you are moving out the way, move some of those barriers out the way as well. Recognize that you might have to create in a different way because your structure, your way of going and doing what you have done, is not conducive to the trans imagination.”

In We See Each Other, the culture critic uses the 2014 TIME Laverne Cox cover to anchor the proverbial tipping point of trans acceptance as dubbed by the magazine. Anderson grapples with the truth of this revelation in relation to society almost a decade later. Because if this were indeed the tipping point cis folks designated it to be, there wouldn’t be crusades to erase trans stories and lives.

In each chapter, Anderson uses varying moments of media from classic films such as To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar to TV shows like Pose to analyze how transphobia shaped the stories told in Hollywood and the notions that influenced their internal struggle to discover themselves growing up in the religious south.

The authoress pulls the reader in by having an honest and raw conversation, allowing readers to be receptive to the knowledge of trans visibility throughout time, documenting that we’ve always existed despite the narratives of contemporary agendas. We See Each Other is for everyone, whether you are cisgender or trans. It provides tools to expand your knowledge and for trans readers to embrace the power of our trancestors and our own glorious existence. It’s an interactive novel using visual elements, recommend viewing guides at the end of each chapter and a catalog of transcestors throughout history.

“We are in a sociopolitical moment right now in which Black, queer, and trans history —our truths, our experiences— are being banned en masse. Folks would think and feel like that adds some sort of urgency to the need for this book now. I would not necessarily disagree, but I [want] to note that I’m tired of fighting. Give us a break, Jesus. Lord,” said Andreson, who believes queer folks shouldn’t have to fight for their humanity to be recognized and their history to be properly regarded as history and truth.

Lessons and hopes for future generations

We See Each Other: A Black, Trans Journey Through TV and Film,  author Tre’vell Anderson poses for headshot smiling wearing a black dress, red lipstick, ab black frame glasses

What Anderson learned most about themselves while writing the book is that they could do it. “We, as journalists, don’t get the space to do long-form much anymore. So many of us end up being unpracticed in the art of writing long-form journalistically, artistically, or creatively. So it can feel like, wow, a book,” they told Reckon.

“I’m just deeply proud of myself that I accomplished this and did it in a way that felt authentic to me and to the communities that I hope wrestle with the text the most,” Anderson said.

Ultimately Anderson wrote We See Each Other for themselves, and what others take from it is an added bonus. But as our time together came to a close, they were adamant about their hopes specifically for future generations of Black trans folks to have it all:

“I want Black trans folks to be able to continue gifting the world with our brilliance without the limitations that these motherfuckers are trying to put on us. The world should be lucky that trans people walk this earth. Many cultures recognize the importance today and many of yesteryear. I wish that the world will come to know that again. I hope that the next generation can live the lives they want, not just the lives they have to,” said Anderson.

The Reckon Report.
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