For decades, LGBTQ representation in the media has largely been reduced to stories of white gay men. In the 2016-2017 television season, only 2 regular characters identified as transgender and an embarrassing 0.96% were Black LGBTQ people.
Two filmmakers, Bea Cordelia and Daniel Kyri, are looking to change that with their revolutionary new web series, “the T”. The series follows Jo (Cordelia), a white trans woman, and Carter (Kyri), a Black queer man, as they navigate life, love, and self-worth in their native Chicago. Produced by Full Spectrum Features and OTV/Open Television, “the T” gives new meaning to queer representation in television.
Affinity had the opportunity to speak with co-creators Bea Cordelia and Daniel Kyri about their groundbreaking web series.
Can you tell us what “the T” is about? Where did the inspiration for this project come from?
Bea Cordelia (Creator, Writer, Director, Producer, “Jo”): “the T” follows ex-partners-turned-best friends Jo and Carter. Jo is a white trans woman from the north side of Chicago and Carter is a Black queer man from the south side. The series follows their ever-growing relationship as they navigate love, sex, and kinship.
The inspiration for this project came from my very own best friendship with someone who I was in a romantic relationship with shortly before coming out as trans. Watching our relationship grow and develop and blossom has taught me so much about love. I wanted to honor that very rare and specific form of connectivity and humanity.
How has working together as partners for this project changed your approach to filmmaking?
Daniel Kyri (Creator, Writer, Director, Producer, “Carter”): Working together has changed us in ways that neither person could really foresee. We’re both newcomers to this medium and having a partner to share this experience with has been amazing. I think that we’re better individual artists directly because of our collaborative efforts. When you think about, Bea and I exist on opposite ends of the spectrum in many ways. That has only helped us tap into the universality of the series. Bea can see things that I simply cannot because of her perspective on the world and vice versa.
Bea: In most of my artistic projects I have been as a solo performer and creating all my work only for myself. Finding someone who I vibe with so thoroughly is refreshing and exciting. We have been able to balance out this shared vision by bringing in all our own personal history. It’s truly led to an examination of the human experience we couldn’t have done without the other.
In your Kickstarter, you say why this was a story both of you wanted to tell. Can you expand on that?
Bea: First and foremost, this was a project that came from a place of frustration with the representation of queer people, trans folks, and people of color in the media. The art we consume shapes the way we see the world and the possibilities we make available to ourselves. With this in mind, we wanted to create a story grounded in a certain truth that reflects the lived experience of Daniel and me. We wanted to portray queer folks and people of color in a fully realized way that subverts any sort of stereotyping. And I think by making this work so intimate and so personal, we achieve a beautiful level of universality.
Daniel: For personal reasons, I think this was a story I wanted to share because being able to see myself and my story represented on screen has given me an immense amount of validation. I wanted to create a series that celebrated my uniqueness and the uniqueness of those around me.
What do you hope viewers, especially queer youth, will take away from “the T”?
Daniel: Above all, this is a story about humanity. I hope the audience — especially queer youth — will see that their identities are not “other.” In many ways, society leads queer people to feel like we’re alone and “the T” challenges that master narrative. No one is wrong in their existence and this project is a celebration and affirmation of uniqueness.
Bea: I’m not going to spoil it, but the second to last scene of the series is one that speaks to queer youth. It’s a reminder of how much you’re worth and to stand in your truth. I think that scene is really a microcosm for themes of the whole series. “the T” serves as evidence of queer worth and beauty that people can access to feel less alone. Don’t let people diminish your importance. You’re worth it and that’s the damn T.
What does “the T” say about human relationships?
Bea: The themes of love and worth and growth aren’t just contained just to the queer community or communities of color. As said earlier, this idea came from a real-life story of relationship-turned-best friendship. That time in my life taught me so much about the complexity of love and loneliness and friendship. I think what “the T” does really well is exploring human relationships in ways that aren’t often explored in television.
Daniel: The series aims to show how truly malleable love is. We really set out to create a series that examines the complex and often underscored relationships between queer people — whether romantically, platonically, or sexually. You see this almost reverse diaspora, where people come from all walks of life but find kinship in their queerness. These are the stories we wanted to tell.
How do you hope “the T” will expand the public’s perception of queer television?
Bea: Much of the media that portrays queer people is fraught with negative characterizations and stereotypes. We’re the villains, the sidekicks, used for a laugh, or killed off. We’re not stylistic choices or plot points, we’re people. We attempt to undermine all these oppressive tropes by humanizing our characters to the highest degree. “the T” truly shows the potential and possibilities for trans folks and people of color in television. I also think just from a political standpoint a series about a white trans woman and a Black queer man will hopefully lead to an understanding of what it means to join hands across community boundaries.
As a trans artist myself, I’ve constantly been plagued with doubts that my voice is not welcome in certain spaces. What would you say to queer artists who feel discouraged about their potential in this industry?
Daniel: We are enough. To every queer artist, to every POC artist, to every artist of a marginalized community: we are enough. We give color to the tapestry of life. We need your stories, your voices because we’re what makes this artistic medium full of life and multidimensional.
Bea: First: Watch “the T”. Secondly though, don’t wait for permission to tell your story. There are gatekeepers in the media who will devalue our stories. That doesn’t mean you can’t tell it yourself. I think that if we have a sort of grassroots television revolution, the gatekeepers will see the need for a shift in representation. There’s a lot of hustle involved in creating your own project. But if you stay focused and stay determined you might be surprised with the result.
Answers edited slightly for clarity and length.