3 Podcasts. 3 Days. 3 BIPOC / API Queer / Non-Binary & Trans Voices Replacing Media Missteps.
It's rare to have media and programs devoted to Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) and Asian Pacific Islander (API) Queer voices! Especially featuring BIPOC/API non-binary and trans voices. And produced by a BIPOC / API queer person and an allied BIPOC straight woman. In the spirit of All Brown and Black Trans Lives Matter & All Black Lives Matter, let me introduce three such podcasts to you: eFEMeral: Voice Mattersstarted as a podcast devoted to women but then expanded to support BIPOC, genderqueer, non-binary, and trans voices in theatrical and public spaces. Co-hosted and produced by Monifa Harris, Voice Coach & Shannon Wong Lerner, Ph.D., Communication Coach / Consultant. The Intersection: Diverse Folx Converse supports diverse people's communication and leadership as professionals, thought leaders, artists, and activists. Hosted by Shannon Wong Lerner. And The Passion Project with Jess tells the stories of those of us who have devoted our lives to our passions. Including but not limited to BIPOC / API Queer and Trans voices. Hosted by Jess Polhuis. Let me provide some backstory so you understand why BIPOC/API along with GLBTQIA+ especially genderqueer, non-binary, and trans representations and communication are so important to me.
As a Generation Xer, I think about how few diverse representations existed when I grew up. Especially in TV and Film. The few I remember were Downtown Julie Brown the Veejay from MTV. Mr. T (Laurence Tureaud) from The A Team. And Boy George, as a musician who to me was gender ambiguous and queer. As someone who was biracial Chinese American, I don't remember many Asian Pacific Islanders on the screen. Or if I did, the ones who stood out wore yellow face. Mickey Rooney's impression of Mr. Yunioshi, the pervy Japanese neighbor of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's still haunts me. I saw the all-Asian cast of The Joy Luck Club with my Chinese mom in the early 1990s. I remember her shouting out in the theatre, "That didn't happen." When the character she saw based on Amy Tan's mother was kicked out from her house in China. My mom reminded me (and the audience) that she grew up around Amy's family, so she should know. We were far from the 2018 film Crazy Rich Asians–the only other US film to feature an all-Asian cast. However, even with this accomplishment, the film carries its problems for its Orientalist South East Asian representations. I turn to William Yu to correct much of these misrepresentations and exclusions of API people. Yu curates images and creates collages of superimposed Asian faces on famous 80s films featuring white-only representations.
Adapted from the John Hughes 1985 teenage cult classic, The Breakfast Club. Image by William Yu. Background source photograph: Everett Collection. Face source photographs, clockwise from top: Michael Germana/Everett Collection; Araya Diaz/Getty Images for IFC; Mike Pont/WireImage/Getty Images; Chris Delmas/AFP/Getty Images; Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images
We know from seeing the documentary Disclosure directed by Sam Feder and including Laverne Cox. That GLBTQIA+ and especially trans people have historically been grossly misrepresented in Hollywood. And/or excluded altogether. Luckily, we are starting to see better, more humanizing representations of BIPOC trans and queer people in the Netflix show, Pose. Written and directed by Janet Mock (among others). And set place in the late-80s and early-90s New York BIPOC Ballroom culture. Seriously. If you haven't seen Pose yet. Go do it! See it with your family and friends. Same with Disclosure.
This week, I realized something both obvious. But also radically groundbreaking for me. Here I am living as ME. UNAPOLOGETICALLY ME. And opening up spaces for other API/BIPOC queer people to speak. Not long ago, I would arrive as one of the few if not the only diverse person in the room. And most times, the only queer API or POC. At work. In graduate school. In my collaborative book projects. And in panels and conference rooms as an academic. In these spaces. Often times. My voice didn't matter. I would speak. And I was silenced. Ignored. Or I was told that my personal experience. And my wish for inclusion as a POC was too "fringe." Or too "specific" to garner interest from audiences. Or readers. They meant white audiences. And readers. Only. I always wondered. "What about the BIPOC and queer voices? And audiences? How will these voices be heard?"
My training in communication and speech has helped me demonstrate how to convey my message to an audience. As a performance professor, I have helped diverse students and clients move into and then through our most difficult communication moments. So we might express ourselves better. But oftentimes as an academic. And as a professional. I have been told to think more objectively about how I teach or coach communication. To not use "we" or "our" but instead "me" and "them." And to speak to status quo systems of thought that are misaligned with my experience. All of which fail to nurture my core values.
I decided after years of Microaggressions. Bias. And outright prejudice against queer, diverse people. I would only take on clients. Collaborators. And projects with others whose core values aligned with diversity and inclusion.
And I would only take on guests on my podcasts. Whose actions demonstrate they care about the community surrounding them. Now, I am creating my own content. I am talking about issues that matter to me and other diverse queer people. And I am hearing and broadcasting our personal stories. And experiences.
Every day, I want to exclaim to my neighbors and housemates: What are you going to be doing at work? Guess what? I get to broadcast BIPOC / API queer and non-binary/trans voices today!
In my 3 Podcasts in 3 Days Challenge. I become realigned with my authentic voice. I resonate with the voices of other BIPOC women, queer, and non-binary / trans BIPOC / API people. We don't need to create tension to feel something. We don't need to stand in conflict with one another. As we are seeing right now with the 2020 Presidential debates. And the political commentary that follows. Each of us knows what it's like to be in our specific skin. And we know how it feels to be alone in our experience. So instead, we tell stories. We talk about our families. Our relationships. Our coming out! Our transformations. That really aren't transformations at all. They are the processes of self-awareness. And communication. That we take on to come back to ourselves. And to find our partners. And each other. To enrich one another's and our own lives. To mentor our students. And coach our clients.
As I spoke and moved with Special Guest of eFEMeral: Voice Matters Podcast, Tiffany Lin (they/them), Embodiment / Expression Coach. And as I looked over and smiled and vocalized with Monifa Harris, Voice Coach. As I laughed with Patrice M. Palmer (they/them/theirs), Director of Social and Cultural Inclusion in the College of Business at Colorado State University in The Intersection: Diverse Folx Converse Podcast. And as I told my story of how I discovered my voice as a busker in New Orleans with Jess Polhuis of The Passion Project with Jess. I FELT SEEN. I FELT HEARD.
Patrice M. Palmer says the significance of the BIPOC / API queer podcast is providing a series of mirrors. For ourselves. For each other. And for our listeners. Partly because of media missteps. Diverse people oftentimes have trouble seeing themselves accurately. We need reflections of ourselves. And others who resemble us. In our image. But also our experience. So we might see ourselves correctly and clearly. And so we can turn away from the influence of mainstream media. Including television and film. Which are improving. But still have a long way to go.
When I look back at the podcasts, Patrice is right. I can now see and hear myself through my podcast family. Each of us have a unique way to communicate. To express. To vocalize. And to breathe, meditate, and visualize. WHO we are. HOW we experience the world in our specific skin. WHERE we come from. And HOW we IDENTIFY. It might not always be in a way others might recognize. At least not right away. But with this more embodied approach. And with sharing our stories. We can acknowledge our experience as diverse people. And by joining us. You can get closer to witnessing or experiencing some of what we feel. And experience. When we navigate the world. And when we go within. It's not all about trauma. And violence against us. Even though there's a lot of that. As many of us have experienced. And as others can see on the news. But as Tiffany Lin says, "It's also about our bliss. Our pleasure" and enjoying life as diverse people.
Shannon Wong Lerner, Ph.D., Communication Coach / Consultant, Founder of Wong Lerner Coaching:
I have 20+ years of academic and industry experience across several Fortune 50 and Fortune 500 companies, engineering and Ivy League universities, non-profit organizations, and U.S. and international government entities. My clients have remarkably high success rates as thought leaders, public speakers, presenters, interviewing, landing dream jobs, skill building to advance their careers, and gaining confidence. As a gay biracial Asian coach / consultant, I meet you from your unique starting place to better support you as women, BIPOC, WOC, non-native English speakers, people with learning differences, allies, & LGBTQIA+ talent. Inclusive of genderqueer, non-binary, and trans individuals. I help you take back the power of your voice by learning how to tell your story: in an interview, for a cover letter, for a speech, for a presentation, or for a podcast or vlog.
To Find out more about Dr. Shannon's services, contact her through LinkedIn:https://www.linkedin.com/in/shannon-wong-lerner/
Or her website: https://www.wonglernercoaching.com