Pod for the Cause host Ashley Allison interviews actress and model, Isis King, to discuss her breakout role in When They See Us. The conversation includes what pride month means to her and to the LGBTQ community, in addition to how people can become better allies.
S01 E05: Out & Proud – Celebrating Pride Month
Ashley: Welcome to Pod for the Cause – the official podcast of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Leadership Conference Education Fund, where we expand the conversation on the critical civil and human rights challenges of our day. I’m your host, Ashley Allison, coming to you from Washington, D.C. Hey everybody, we got the Pod Squad. You know this is how we kick off every show, where we talk pop culture, social justice, politics, and everything in between. Today is our Pride episode, and I have some amazing guests for you today on the Pod Squad.
First I got my homegirl Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, who used to be the White House Liaison for the Obama Administration for the LGBTQ community, and now is the Deputy Director of All on the Line at the NDRC. And we have Charlotte Clymer, the Press Secretary for Rapid Response at HRC the Human Rights Campaign, and Gerard Burley – also know as Coach G ‘cause only his daddy calls him Gerard – who is the owner of Coach G Fitness and Sweat DC. As I said, we’re talking all things Pride on the Pod Squad.
Coach G: Hey, thanks for having us.
Ashley: Happy Pride!
Raffi: Happy Pride, yeah.
Ashley: What did y’all do for Pride? Raffi let’s start with you.
Raffi: Girl, I can barely remember it ‘cause I was partying all three days.
Ashley: ‘Cause you turnt up?
Raffi: Mm-hmm. Actually, I had so much fun. DC Pride in particular is just so full of life, so full of diversity, and so full of multi-generational folx out there celebrating. I come from Boston, which has had a Pride that’s been pretty big, but over the years is getting slow – no offense to my Boston people. I come down here five years ago, and I’m like, “What is this? This is amazing.” The entire city is part of it. I was really, really proud to be out there.
Ashley: That’s awesome. Coach G, what’d you do?
Coach G: Eveything. We had Pride workouts, I was out at the parade, then I was out at the festival. It’s really like a back-to-back-to-back occasion going on, concert going on. Definitely Monday morning a brick hit me. I was like, “Whoa, I am Prided out. I’m so proud.” I’m still feeling proud.
Ashley: Charlotte, what’d you do for Pride?
Charlotte: I drank a lot. It was fun.
Ashley: Water, right? You stay hydrated?
Charlotte: No, Raffi’s on point. DC Pride is just the best. DC is the LGBTQ capital of the United States, so you have twice the rate of LGBTQ people of any state, and so we do it up. We have a great party every year, and that was no exception this weekend.
Ashley: I agree. I stopped by the parade, but I did my fitness dance workout Pride class with my sister and we was twerking and having a good time all in the effort of being proud, celebrating Pride, and burning some calories.
Coach G: Love it. I’m all about it.
Ashley: All about it ‘cause Coach G maybe you can make us do a little workout too.
Coach G: There we go.
Ashley: Let’s talk about why Pride is so important to everyone, but also we have some legislation that is pending – we talk about politics here. We talk about things that we need to do. Leadership Conference fights for civil and human rights. Charlotte can you talk to me a little bit about the Equality Act and tell our listeners why it’s so important, and where it is right now in the Congress?
Charlotte: I’ll try to give a nutshell version, but back when Obergefell was being decided, and it was pretty clear that same-sex marriage was on the way to being legalized throughout the United States, there was a big concern that – and a rightful concern for many advocates – that once same-sex marriage was legalized, that a lotta folks would just believe that the queer rights movement is over. We’ve seen that come to pass. We’ve been lulled into a sense of complacency because in 30 states, LGBTQ people are still at risk of being fired, denied services, denied housing, denied credit, denied public accommodations solely on the basis on gender identity or sexual orientation.
What we’re trying to do right now as a movement is get the Equality Act passed, which would make federal nondiscrimination protections legal across the board throughout the United States, so that if I start driving in San Francisco to New York across the country, the rights to which I’m entitled as an LGBTQ person will not change numerous times based on what state, or city, or region I happen to be driving in.
That’s what we’re tying to do right now. The US House passed overwhelmingly.
Ashley: Congrats! That was a huge accomplishment.
Charlotte: Oh, it was amazing. It was a huge coalition of folks – HRC of course, but NCTE, National Transgender Law Center – all these folks pitched in to get this done. The problem, though, is that even though 70 percent of Americans want this, even though the US House passed with a bipartisan vote, Mitch McConnell refuses to bring it to a vote on the floor of the Senate, and so we need to pressure him to make sure he brings it to a floor vote.
Ashley: Even if it were to pass the Senate, we’d have to go to the White House, and we know Trump. He wasn’t even in the States these past couple days – he was over at UK. Raffi, the people in the UK, they showed up and showed out. They were not having it, and the memes of the queen peeking, like is he gone yet – I was dying. Mitch McConnell is an obstructionist and doesn’t support LGBTQ rights right now with the Equality Act, but what about Trump? Where does he play into all of this and what about his trip to the UK?
Raffi: That trip was just – it was such a farce, and it was such day and night in terms of what was happening at the royal palaces, and the queen is gonna do her job, which is to be a head of state, and to stay out of politics. Unfortunately we don’t have a head of state who knows to just keep his mouth shut when it’s just a ceremony, although I will say I was a tad surprised that he kept it together during D-Day.
What is so apparent in our British cousins overseas is that they are so disgusted by not only the rhetoric on LGBT issues, human rights issues, but also climate change, trying to drag us to war with Iran – just so different. The thing that scares me when I think about who’s in the White House – it’s not only just the president, but who’s around him, those advisors. In particular the vice president, who’s been very anti-LGBT, and actually even today said that it was essentially the right decision for the State Department to not fly those Pride flags outside of embassies across the world as they have done for basically the past decade.
I was very heartened to see the thousands and thousands of people on the streets of London and throughout the UK really just standing in solidarity with us, and I hope in some ways we, the American people, can get up and do that more and more often. I’m a little bit concerned that we’re not in the streets as much as we probably should be.
Ashley: Yeah. Coach G, I wanna come to you. Mitch McConnell not supporting the Equality Act. Trump not wanting folx to be flying flags to celebrate love is love, and then this past couple weeks, Ava Duvernay released something – I thought the story of “When They See Us” was heartbreaking, brilliant. We knew how the story ended, but it was so heavy to watch. You said you just recently watched it. There was also an LGBTQ – a transwoman in there that had a part of the story that I thought was so important because oftentimes in black cinema, we cut it out.
Coach G: – part out. We like oh, who?
Ashley: We’re like, who?
Coach G: What she did?
Ashley: Right ‘cause she – the story of “When They See Us,” the Equality Act not being supported by Mitch McConnell – it’s all effort to disappear communities. Talk about what you were feeling when you saw “When They See Us.”
Coach G: Yeah, that series was very heavy, and it’s a story that, especially as a black man growing up in Baltimore, we know. Everyone has a brother or cousin who’s been in the system off of something crazy, and we look, and we’re like – we know that story, but when you see it, the way it was told. I think the more impactful thing for me was – 14 years old.
Ashley: I know, they were babies.
Coach G: This is a child, and I think Ava did an amazing job of depicting just the pure evil – is that the right word – of the prosecutor. When you know it’s wrong and you gonna destroy a kid’s life. Even today she came back – I think I saw she wrote into the Post or something like this. She was depicted horribly. No, it was real, and we know it’s real. Why can’t you just fall on your sword? That’s something we see across the board politically and everything. It’s just like, “Oh, I was wrong? Oh. Was I?”
Ashley: And no consequences for it. They lose their whole childhood, their innocence –
Coach G: Their whole life.
Ashley: Their whole life, and no consequences for those that are at the hand of trying to disappear communities, hurt communities, break families apart. I don’t understand it.
Coach G: Yeah, it was definitely a heavy watch, but a must watch. I think it’s even more importantly for white communities to see this, and even visualize – see the innocence in it, and visualize things that you see and people who are portrayed as monsters or different. In the Pride episode – what we’re talking about – it’s all that we all come together, and be proud, and be confident in your skin, and I think we’re not different. We have a lot more similarities than differences.
Ashley: Yeah, absolutely.
Coach G: We gotta show that.
Ashley: That’s the whole point of Leadership Conference. We’re a coalition. We believe we’re stronger together – kinda goes to your point, Raffi. I wanna pivot a little bit. I try not to talk about these folks. Kylie Jenner, the Kardashian crew – I know, right? Why? She just recently hosted a birthday party themed The Handmaid’s Tale. I don’t know if she hasn’t seen the show, I don’t know if she doesn’t understand what oppression is, I just don’t know. Charlotte, if you could say anything to our dear Kylie, what would you tell her about this birthday party?
Charlotte: I’d say you should watch that show and it should channel you into advocacy. The family that’s involved in that party has numerous daughters – including three black daughters, by the way – who are overwhelmingly affected by sexual violence, misogyny, etc. You’d figure that they’d watch that show, and it would spur them to advocate on these issues. This idea was pretty disgusting, I gotta say. You walk in and it’s this glorification of a novel in which women are literally raped throughout the series. They’re just used as vessels for pregnancies.
Ashley: There’s no respect for human dignity if you don’t connect the dots between what The Handmaid’s Tale and Margaret Atwood was trying to get across, and making a joke out of it. Coach G, Raffi, you got anything to say to our dear Kylie?
Raffi: I think that I’m very careful about trying to make class distinctions, but the reality is, is we know for poor women – for poor people, but in particular for poor women – for women of color, this is lived reality. As a transwoman of color myself, this is something that I fear all the time when it comes to dating, when it comes to just even being out with friends, and really wanting to make sure that people are aware of each other.
I recognize so many of my friends who are, frankly, white, and male, and even from an upper class upbringing just don’t think about these things, and then make offhanded comments about essentially rape. They don’t even know that they’re making jokes out of it, and I actually think the Kardashians – there was such a moment of opportunity to teach that was lost here, and hopefully someone can wake them up because they have such a platform. I don’t think that they’re, at the end of the day, evil people, but I think they are truly misguided and someone really needs to talk to this girl, and be like, what the heck were you doing?
Ashley: Wake up. What about you, Coach G?
Coach G: I try to always put everything into the optimistic term, so I’m hoping that by this fumble – lightly – just being super, super ignorant that, on the flipside, it’ll bring so much awareness. When things don’t affect you, when things are three or four degrees of separation from you, you look at it like, “Oh, it’s just that.” No, it’s not just that. That’s a person. That could really happen. That does really happen every day, and people don’t really see that. I think hopefully the backlash, she’ll learn something, and by her learning something, her one billion followers and everyone else will learn something too. Everyone who they think doesn’t affect them will see this does affect me, and then big booboo.
Ashley: Yeah, I hope so. I think if you look at older sister Kim, what she’s doing right now around advocating for criminal justice reform, and working with different folks to get them out of prison – it’s quite promising. It is a, perhaps, 180 in terms of where she originally entered –
Coach G: She’s come a long way.
Ashley: She come a long way.
Coach G: Ray J long way. That’s the longest way you can come, almost.
Ashley: Okay. Alright, we gonna make that hard pivot off of Ray J. Before we close up our segment, I just wanna say, we have come a long way in terms of the conversations and acceptance of folx that identify as LGBTQIA, but we haven’t come far enough. If you could tell our listeners one thing that would mean change or transformation that they should know, and they should advocate for, and why Pride is so important, what would be that one thing you would tell them to help move us forward in another step towards equality? Raffi, let’s start with you.
Raffi: I actually think it’s more about social acceptance when it comes to families, and I think about in particular – like I was mentioning – being out and meeting people. Dating is changing in our world, but there’s still shame around bisexuality, there’s still shame around people who are attracted to trans people, and everyone needs to relax because at the end of the day, it’s just about who you’re connecting with and having an authentic relationship with. What was really exciting about this past Pride, frankly, was I saw a lot of relationships and, honestly, making out happening that I was just like, that is so cool. I wouldn’t have even seen that five years ago. My ask to people is: chill out. Stop making assumptions about people, and let people be themselves, whatever that is.
Ashley: Charlotte, I wanna go to you. What do you think is that one thing you wanna tell our listeners?
Charlotte: The first Pride was a riot started by transwomen of color. The modern LGBTQ movement was started by transwomen of color, and we’ve seen nine black transwomen killed so far this year. We saw 26 trans people killed last year, 29 the year before that – the vast majority of them, black transwomen. What I would love for folx in general to do is be more aware of the fact that we are in an epidemic of anti-trans violence. The more visible that trans people overall become, the more vulnerable we are to discrimination, and violence, particularly folx of color who are in the trans community. This is an atrocity happening in slow motion, and we need people to be more aware of it.
Ashley: I could not agree with you more. Coach G, I’m gonna let you close out. What’s that one thing you want our listeners to know?
Coach G: I think overall it’s easy to hate what you don’t know, and even a lotta what I see – even within our DC community, even within our LGBT community – there’s so much segregation and separation between it. Two weeks ago we had black Pride here, and you wanna talk about night and day – black Pride to capital Pride or, as some people call it, white Pride – be real. There’s so much separation, but I think it’s rooted in us thinking that people are so different. I would love to see more opportunities for us to be forced in a room, lock the door, some wine, and we sit and talk. Once you start talking about, oh, these same insecurities – I even think at our studio, I’m one of the only gay people on our instruction staff. I’ll sit down with some of our straight males and they’re like, oh, you go through that? I’m like, yeah, it’s the same thing, it’s just I’m looking at a guy.
Ashley: I’m a human being.
Coach G: They’re like, “Oh man that’s crazy! Mind blown, shorty!” If we have those conversations organically every day, how different our community would look in five years. If we bleed that into our straight communities, and everything, and we just sit down and see where we are similar, I think a lot of progress could happen because it’s easy to hate something that doesn’t have a name, a face, and a story.
Ashley: Yeah. I’ll just say for me, as an ally to the LGBTQ community, to my cisgender folks. Be a friend. Be an ally. Be open. Learn, accept what you don’t know, but be curious enough to find out, and remember love is love. I wanna thank Raffi, Charlotte, Coach G for joining us today on the Pod Squad for our Pride episode.
Coming up, we have a special guest with us today: Isis King, so don’t go anywhere. You won’t wanna miss it.
Ashley: Welcome back everybody to Pod For The Cause. Today we are talking all things Pride and our special Pride edition. And we have a special guest with us: she’s a trendsetter, groundbreaker, and is currently under consideration for an Emmy for her new role as Norman and Marci Wise in the Netflix series ‘When They See Us’. I am so honored and excited to have actress and model Isis King with us today on Pod For The Cause. Welcome to the show, Isis.
Isis: Thank you for having me. I’m so excited.
Ashley: Oh my goodness. Listen, I’m starstruck right now. We’re going to jump right into it because we got a lot of things to cover. The first thing I just want to know. It’s Pride month. We’ve been talking about all the different things folx earlier on the show have been doing. What are you doing to celebrate Pride this month?
Isis: Because of my role on “When They See Us”, and honestly the murder of so many black transwomen, I think what I’m doing for Pride is really sticking up for my sisters. The most important part is about being happy about who you are. I think encouraging others, transwomen, to be confident, happy, and feel safe is the best thing I can do for Pride.
Ashley: That is awesome. Let’s just jump right into it. This country has seen a wave of killing transwomen of color, black transwomen, and it’s an epidemic. I don’t think this is getting enough attention. When you talk about how we need to have spaces for people to really feel comfortable in their skin, what advice, if we have any listeners that are struggling with that right now, what advice would you give them to how they can be proud and live in their skin in full confidence?
Isis: I really think that your chosen family, or your family, is very important. A lot of us are kicked out of the house so you have to have a chosen family, right? I feel like finding people that love and support you is the first step to finding that confidence. Of course you have your own journey, but when you have that confidence coming from all directions it really helps you to get that confidence quicker. I think that that’s one of the most important things.
Ashley: I want to talk a little bit about the series “When They See Us”. I’ll tell you that I have watched it twice. The first time I started at 11:00 p.m. and finished at 3 a.m. I cried for six straight hours.
Ashley: The second time there weren’t so many tears as there was rage. One of the things that happened with your character is that Marci was kicked out of the house. Can you talk about what it was like to be on that set and play that role? Starting at the transition from Norman to Marci Wise in that character? What was that like?
Isis: I will say as far as the Marci aspect, I remember I always looked up and admired Niecy Nash. I remember when we got there at the beginning of the day I saw her and I was like, I have to say I’m so nervous because I’ve always looked up to you as someone who is so funny. I know the things you have to say to me and you know that makes me nervous. She gave me a hug and was just like, ‘It’s OK baby, we’re going to get through this.’ She was just so very sweet.
For the Norman part, people thought that I would be so nervous to play that part. As an actress, I’ve been doing this for just about a decade. I’ve been wanting a part since Top Model. I was kind of typecast as a model type, and I’ve been waiting for a part that allowed me to not look like myself. One that allowed me to have a different wardrobe.
When I went in to hair and makeup, I asked for the sideburns and I was like, “Can I get sideburns too?” Every little bit just made me feel like Charlize Theron in Monster or Rebecca Romijn as Mystique in X-Men.
I’ve been waiting for a part that allowed me to really step outside. I was super excited and walking down the streets of Harlem from my hair and makeup trailer to set. I had a little pep in my step and I was like, are you a little too comfortable? Even to myself, I thought you look too comfortable right now.
When I think back to earlier in my career, I don’t know if I would have been comfortable at this point. I wanted to do this doing this for so long and wanted to really be taken seriously. Having this opportunity really made me so excited and I just wanted to do my best.
I really appreciated that moment in that scene talking to George Ramo, who plays my little brother. I have two younger brothers, I’m the oldest in real life, so I know that conversation all too well. I just had that conversation with my brother this morning actually. I told him that you got to do good, you got to pay attention. I want you to do your best. So that part came so naturally because I always try to encourage my brothers.
As far as getting kicked out the house, I was never kicked out the house. I had to think ahead of the game and save my money. I told my mom right when I knew I was going to be moving to New York to transition. I just didn’t want her to have that option, if it was going to be an option, because I’ve heard so many stories. And yeah, I moved to New York and I found that community in the bar room scene.
Ashley: In film you probably know way better than me, I’m not an actress, but I was watching something that Billy Porter was talking about recently and it’s how people try and typecast you. So the opportunity that you were able to –
Isis: Come at the round table right?
Ashley: Yeah, right. It’s like yes, if you’re a black woman you gotta be the angry black woman; if you’re a transperson you have – you know, and it’s just like you are a talent! You are so talented, you have so many ways to present yourself, and well, give people the opportunity to truly shine.
Now can we rewind the clock a little bit and talk about your time on “America’s Next Top Model”? What was that like breaking out that way? I love that show. I always thought I could be on it but I would’ve been a plus-sized model.
Isis: I hope Tyra come back with more seasons because we need more. I have never stopped loving “Top Model”. I remember when it first came out, I believe I was in eleventh or twelfth grade. I didn’t tell anyone at the time that I was trans. I knew my whole life. I was just watching the show like ‘Oh my God, I would love to do something like that.’
I would have never guessed that I would be in a position to do that because there wasn’t even an option. It wasn’t even something that I thought was possible. The only representation I felt as a transwoman was on Jerry Springer or Maury. So going on “Top Model”, I mean I was living in the shelter at the time and I just went on the show. Saying to myself that I have nothing holding me back, I have nothing to look back at, and I just want to do my best because this is going to change my life.
When I got eliminated the first time, I was on there twice, I literally remember crying in the confessional because I was just, ‘What am I going back home to?’ This is my only opportunity and I didn’t think that it would change my life the way it did. Even though I didn’t win. I mean granted one hundred thousand dollars a night-
Ashley: Right? That’s right.
Isis: It really did change my life. I was just thinking the other day I had to constantly give Tyra the praise because when I first moved to New York as a black transwoman, I was told the only thing that you’re gonna be able to do is sex work. That’s the only option you have because that’s what we do as transwomen. Someone told me that in the bar room scene. In my heart I was like, ‘No. If that’s something that’s gonna happen, then it’s not gonna be because someone tells me that’s my only option.’
I just remember not really seeing anyone around me that jumped more or had the same kind of dreams that I did. So when I went on “Top Model” I have to thank Tyra because that allowed me to dream bigger. I didn’t think that I could be on “Top Model”. When I went on there [it] unlocked my brain and my imagination and say you know what if I can do this, I can be the actress that I always wanted to be. I just thought oh yeah, you’re crazy. That really allowed me to dream bigger, and allow me to be more than even I thought at the time that I was. Things I knew that I wanted but I don’t think it was possible.
After the show I literally just started dabbling into everything. Back then there weren’t really any trans roles that often. I would always hear you’re too passable, or you’re too petite, or your voice is too light. So that was always the issue with me, was acting at the beginning. But I never gave up because “Top Model” was something I looked at as a high school or a little scrawny boy looking at tomorrow and said “Wow, I wish I could do something like that,”. The sky’s the limit.
Now the next generation is gonna see not just me but so many different options: you have transwomen in politics, we have models, actresses, you have directors, producers, you have doctors, you have so many different options now – especially with social media – to see what you can possibly be that the next generation will never hear someone say oh this is the only thing you can be cause that’s what we are.
Ashley: I mean you literally went from being eliminated on Top Model to being nominated for an Emmy. Like that is –
Isis: Well, well, in consideration.
Ashley: Well listen. I’m just making it into truth, OK? You’re gonna get that Emmy. If not for this one, then for something. We can claim that, all right?
Isis: I’m claiming it. Thank you so much. I’m so excited.
Ashley: I’m claiming it for you. I would love to kind of go inside your brain – what is giving you inspiration right now? What is the thing that is pushing you and driving you to your next project? I want to know what that one might be also. What is giving you inspiration these days?
Isis: I would say for me even choosing my name. I named myself ‘Isis’ because I felt like I had a bigger mission and I just wanted to live up to the name of a goddess.
My whole career had been trying to live up to that, and just trying to be someone that inspires and motivates people. I just feel like I keep going because there’s so much more. I feel like I haven’t even hit the surface of what my destiny is in this lifetime. I feel like every little thing I do I’m just like this isn’t it. This isn’t it. Like there’s more, there’s more. I think that that is what keeps me going.
I feel like I went the road less traveled a lot of times. I really haven’t saw a blueprint of what I can possibly do. I’ve been kind of figuring it out as I go. Like I said, I feel like there’s so much more for me to accomplish and to do and this is just the beginning.
Every time I hear a story about how I influenced someone to move to the US, to follow their dreams, or I encourage somebody to do this, I help their family do that, or I kept someone from committing suicide. Each little story I hear about how I help someone, just by me living my truth, really gives me the fuel to keep going and to try to live my life in such a positive way that I can continue to help other people.
Ashley: I asked you what gives you inspiration, but you are an inspiration yourself! So thank you for all that you do. You got any new projects up on the horizon? Or what are you hoping to work on next? I mean I would just bask in the glory of “When They See Us” for a while because it was so amazing, but what’s next for you?
Isis: I’m trying the whole social media influencer thing right now. I’m doing Pride because Pride is such an important time. Corporations are starting to come around, but hopefully they give a percentage of the way to the community. I just want to make sure anything I do is definitely a company or organization that is giving back to the community because so many people are jumping on board.
Episodic season is coming up soon. So I think that will really show the moves I made and how we can possibly help. I’m just ready to do more auditions honestly. I’m so hungry. I feel like it’s the beginning of my career. A lot of people think like oh but you’ve been doing this for so long. But even just more recently I was turned down on an audition because they said, ‘Oh we love her but she’s just too pretty for this role.’ That’s what my manager told me. I had to school her and let her know that that’s the new way of saying I’m too passable. It’s just the more politically correct way of saying it because you can’t really just say that anymore and audition.
We should all be given that option. That’s why I thank Ava because she could’ve easily said the same thing with me playing both pre- and post-transition. She really let me come in there to the audition. I was like, “Can I take my wig off?” you know I put my shirt on and cover my boobs like – let me show you that I’m serious.
I don’t want to just look pretty, it’s not about looking pretty. With acting I really want to bring these characters to life and I’m serious about this. I really hope that that translates into auditions to come.
As far as what I want to do? I’m such a quirky person. I would love to be a part of a rom com that has a lighter note. I remember in one of my acting classes the teacher was just like, “You are just so funny, I can really see you in comedy.” But they really haven’t opened up that division for transpeople yet. Everything we do it is important for people to see our real story.
But for me personally I trip around, like I trip when I walk. Or if I go on a date I’m really shy. We’re all so different and I would just love to play a part where I get to show that aspect of our lives. I really would love to play a superhero. I’m just the biggest geek. I would love to do something like Charlie’s Angels. I want to go try and be like Halle Berry and John Wick – I want to do like three months some type of martial arts or training. I want to do that. I want to fight with my my manager and say I’m so sore this is so hard. I can’t wait for that.
Ashley: That’s awesome.
Isis: I want to be pushed. As far as designing or even modeling I feel like I’m the best. When I get on the runway you can’t tell me anything. When I sew something you can’t tell me anything. But acting, it really really pushes me. I think that’s why for so long I’ve really been adamant about chasing acting because I love that challenge.
Ashley: So you know we started the talk about how you were celebrating Pride. You were honoring your sisters, women of color, transwomen who have been murdered, and it needs to be getting more attention. We’ve been talking about that on the show, but as we close out I guess my last question is if you could tell our listeners, what does Pride mean to you?
Isis: I think Pride means celebrating who you are stripped away of everything else. I think is just celebrating that you get to be yourself. We live in a world, or we live in a country unfortunately, that harms us or takes away our things because we are who we are. I think it’s just important to stand up strong and brave, and say “This is Me”. No matter what you take away from it, I will always be me.
Ashley: Listen. The world, this country, people all over are so glad that you are who you are. That you are brave, that you are groundbreaking, that you are doing all the things that you’re doing. I can’t wait to see what’s next for you. I will be following you forever on Twitter, in your career.
You are awesome. Thank you so much. Everyone this is Pod For The Cause. We have been talking to Isis King and we are just celebrating Pride. We are celebrating her. And there are only great things to come. Coming up I’ll hit you with some real talk. During our hot take segment where I get a few things off my chest in three minutes or less.
Ashley: Welcome back to Pod For The Cause where we’ve been talking all things Pride today. And between our Pod Squad, our phenomenal guests Isis King, I have a few things to say.
You know I grew up in a small town in Midwest Ohio. Youngstown. And the reality is in that town we didn’t grow up really talking about sex. We didn’t talk about straight people. We didn’t talk about gay people. We just didn’t talk about it, right? It was just something that was over to the side and you might not even know really existed depending on the home you were raised in.
The reality is on the journey of being an ally for many people, including myself, it has been a little bumpy to be a friend, an ally, and a true supporter of people of the LGBTQ community. It hasn’t been because I didn’t accept them. It was literally out of ignorance and not knowing. So today I just want to talk about and be honest and vulnerable about how important it is to be an ally and my journey of becoming one.
I didn’t know my first gay person until my best friend in high school came out to me. I remember I cried. It wasn’t because I didn’t want her to be gay it was literally because I did not know what to do. I didn’t understand why she had never told me before. I felt like did she think I was going to hate her? We ended up graduating from senior year in high school and going to college together, and I’m still in contact with her via Facebook, but I remember just feeling stuck. What do I do with this now?
Then I went to a college in a slightly larger town of Columbus, Ohio and definitely had an opportunity to learn more, to meet more people who identified as LGBTQ, and actually learn the term of being an ally.
But the reality is other than having a couple of friends, I didn’t really show up for the LGBTQ community the way I should have. I wasn’t ignoring them and I wasn’t discriminating against them. I just wasn’t actively trying to support them.
Then I moved to New York and lived my best life and that was a whole nother experience. (And that’s for another show.) We will not talk about that today. Quite honestly it wasn’t until my adult life when my sister came out that I said, “If anyone ever tried to come for her, they would have to come through me first.” I think for the first time in my thirties I’ve really learned what it meant to be an ally.
For all the people out there who are cisgender and don’t identify as LGBTQIA, we have to be courageous enough to know that we got the Internet, the Googles is out there, Google and find out yourself.
I also just want to give us a couple of things to think about as we celebrate Pride and we create space for people to be their authentic self. The first thing I want folks to know is that it’s not about us. People need to be able to have the space to learn to love themselves first and then allow themselves to open their heart to love whoever they are called to love.
The other thing is, it’s really none of our business. We need to stop projecting sexuality onto LGBTQ folx. I don’t need anyone in my bedroom and I surely don’t need to go into anybody else’s bedroom. It really is all about love. If we can just start to approach people and not care what they are, or how they identify, and just have a heart that is exuding love we’d all be a lot better off.
Then the final thing that I always hear people say, and I kind of said it today in this hot take, is that if you don’t know someone that is gay and think you don’t really have an ability to be an ally – that’s just not true.
We are all in spaces where we can hold space for people whether they are in the room or not. When you hear slanderous things, or discriminatory comments for people who identify, or people of color, transpeople, LGBTQ people, it is our responsibility and it is our right to stand up for them and truly be an ally. I’m so excited that I get to celebrate Pride with my sister, with my friends, and everyone else across the world in country that identifies as LGBTQ. And I promise and commit to be the best ally I possibly can be.
Ashley: Thank you for listening to Pod for the Cause, the official podcast of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Leadership Conference Education Fund. For more information, please visit civilrights.org, and to connect with me, hit me up on Twitter, @podforthecause. Be sure to subscribe to our show on your favorite podcast app and leave a five star review. Until then, for Pod for the Cause, I’m Ashley Allison, and remember, a cause is nothing without the people.