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Janet Mock's powerful directorial debut shows why representation matters.

Her episode of 'Pose' sidestepped the tired trans tropes we've come to expect.

Janet Mock's powerful directorial debut shows why representation matters.

If you're not watching FX's "Pose," you're missing out.

The show, an '80s-era drama centered on New York City's ballroom culture and the HIV/AIDs crisis, made a lot of news when it was first announced. To tell a story about transgender people, creator Ryan Murphy did something novel: He hired trans actors, writers, and directors. Trans actresses MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Dominique Jackson, Hailie Sahar, and Angelica Ross landed starring roles. Our Lady J and Janet Mock, who are also trans, serve as writers and producers on the series.

Ryan Murphy poses with Janet Mock, Dominique Jackson, and MJ Rodriguez during VH1 Trailblazer Honors 2018. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for VH1 Trailblazer Honors.


You might be asking yourself what's so remarkable about a collection of trans people telling trans stories. The answer is sadly simple: It's a rare thing to see, even as storylines about trans people seem to be on the rise.

With this week's episode, Janet Mock made history as the first trans woman of color to write and direct an episode of TV.

That's a pretty big accomplishment! Her episode, "Love is the Message," included a scene in which [very mild spoiler] one of the characters comes out as trans to another. It's a scene that's been done many, many times before, but never with as much nuance as Mock's direction and Moore's acting showed here. There's a fine line between sincerity and exploitation involved in this scene, but the combined lived experience involved in its creation steered the narrative back toward the sweet.

"Everything I can’t have in this world is because of what I have down there," says Moore's character, referring to her genitals. "If you really want to know who I am, that is the last place you should look."

The episode's gotten largely positive reviews, as has the show itself.

Janet Mock attends the 2017 Forbes Women's Summit. Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images.

Representation matters, especially for trans people.

Most Americans don't personally know a trans person — at least that they know of. When people don't know a member of a marginalized community, they're less likely to be supportive of that community. Part of what led to so many breakthroughs in gay rights over the past 25 years has to do with the fact that 65% of Americans currently have a close friend or family member who identifies as gay or lesbian. This is precisely what makes the fight for trans rights such a tough battle.

A 2017 Public Religion Research Institute survey found that just 21% of Americans had a close friend or family member who was transgender. To put that in context, that's roughly the same percentage of the population that knew a gay, lesbian, or bisexual person in 1993. The relative unfamiliarity with trans people makes it that much more important that people's exposure to trans people and issues — coming largely from news and entertainment media — is accurate.

Poor representation can reinforce inaccurate stereotypes.

There's a real aversion to letting trans people tell their own stories, such as the recent casting of Scarlett Johansson in the role of Dante "Tex" Gill, a trans man. While Johansson's gotten a lot of backlash for taking the role and for her flippant statement in defense of it ("Tell them that they can be directed to Jeffrey Tambor, Jared Leto, and Felicity Huffman’s reps for comment," read a message from her representative, citing other cisgender [non-trans] actors who've played trans roles), there's one aspect that's not often addressed. When cis men are cast as trans women (as Tambor, Leto, Eddie Redmayne, and Matt Bomer have all done in recent years) or cis women are cast as trans men (as Johansson is doing here or Hilary Swank did in 1999's "Boys Don't Cry"), it buttresses the inaccurate image people have of trans people as simply men pretending to be women and women pretending to be men.

How do we know this is the case? For one, because multiple trans actors have gone on record to say they were passed up for trans roles for not "looking trans enough." If a trans man doesn't "look trans enough" and the answer is to hire a woman to play him, it's because society falsely believes that trans men are women; the same goes for society's belief that trans women are men. When someone says a trans woman doesn't "look trans enough," they're saying that they expect her to be more masculine. When someone says a trans man doesn't "look trans enough," it's because they expect him to look more feminine. To be sure, there absolutely are trans women who err on the masculine side of things and trans men who embrace femininity, but this stereotype is inaccurate, narrow, and holds back progress.

GLAAD's Nick Adams is joined by Alexandra Billings, Laverne Cox, Shadi Petosky, Jill Soloway, and Rhys Ernst at the organization's "Transgender Trends on TV" panel in 2017. Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images.

Throughout history, a lot of movies and shows have been made about groups without their involvement. They haven't aged especially well.

Go back and watch 1961's "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and you'll see what I'm talking about. Mickey Rooney's Mr. Yunioshi was little more than an offensive Asian caricature. Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones eating monkey brains is another moment that'll make you cringe. Even Greg Serano's portrayal of Enrique (actually, more the way Reese Witherspoon's Elle Woods interacts with him) in 2001's "Legally Blonde" isn't aging especially well less than two decades later. Adam Sandler and Kevin James's 2007 dud "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" came off as homophobic at the time — and has only gotten worse since.

Daniela Vega starred in "A Fantastic Woman," and was the first trans actress to present an award at the Oscars. Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images.

We already know that movies like "Ace Ventura," "Glen or Glenda," and "The Crying Game" don't stand the test of time. The question is whether creators want to make work they can be proud of 20 years from now. Trans people are everywhere, and there's really no reason not to include them in the creative process. If not for the sake of accuracy, creators should consider the lasting power of their art.

Daniela Vega played the lead in "A Fantastic Woman," the winner of the 2018 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Laverne Cox was twice nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series at the Emmys for her role on "Orange is the New Black." Shadi Petosky created the Emmy-winning Amazon series "Danger & Eggs." There's a lot of trans talent out there both in front of and behind the camera.

Janet Mock's powerful directorial debut is only the latest example of trans people kicking ass in the entertainment world.

Janet Mock attends the Brooklyn Artists Ball 2017. Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images.

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A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.

It's been nine months since we found ourselves thrust into a global pandemic the likes of which the world hasn't seen in a century. Now here we are on the precipice of administering vaccines that will hopefully put an end to it, many months ahead of the expected schedule.

The speed with which scientists and pharmaceutical companies have raced to figure out how to make a novel virus vaccine both safe and effective has been impressive to say the least. It's a testament to modern medicine, innovation, and dedication on the part of the scientists who have worked tirelessly to bring it to fruition.

As of today, Moderna is asking for FDA approval of its mRNA vaccine, which trials show to be 94.1% effective in preventing coronavirus infection and 100% effective at preventing severe cases. Pfizer's vaccine has shown similar effectiveness.

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True

A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.
via Twins Trust / Twitter

Twins born with separate fathers are rare in the human population. Although there isn't much known about heteropaternal superfecundation — as it's known in the scientific community — a study published in The Guardian, says about one in every 400 sets of fraternal twins has different fathers.

Simon and Graeme Berney-Edwards, a gay married couple, from London, England both wanted to be the biological father of their first child.

"We couldn't decide on who would be the biological father," Simon told The Daily Mail. "Graeme said it should be me, but I said that he had just as much right as I did."

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Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

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"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.