LA Weekly: Who I Be

[slideshow id=46]

“It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to…”

People have asked me several times why on my website I have a section dedicated to how I want to be referred to in the media.

Acceptable

  • Journalist
  • Political Commentator
  • Community Activist

Unacceptable

  • Lesbian activist
  • Blogger
  • Gay activist
  • Black lesbian blogger
  • Black N***** B**** or any other variation of those words

For me it’s simple, if you don’t let people know they will place their own labels on you and frankly I’m not having it.

At this point in my life, I am clear about who I am, what I do, and how I wish to be labeled for others and let me tell you, “black lesbian blogger” isn’t one of the labels I’d ever choose to define myself.

Now this isn’t an issue I have with the Black media. Having written for the Black media for about ten years now and having appeared on countless radio and television shows, I can tell you that depending on the context of the story, I am a journalist, a political commentator, or even a community activist. What I am not is a Black journalist, a Black political commentator, or a Black community activist. Probably because it’s obvious that I am Black, but more importantly because it’s irrelevant. As is my sexual orientation. Unless it’s specifically tied to story, there’s no need to mention that either.

Beverly White isn’t that Black reporter-sometimes-anchor on KNBC Channel 4, she’s just a reporter-sometimes-anchor for KNBC Channel 4.

Michel Martin isn’t that Black radio host of National Public Radio’s “Tell Me More.” She’s just the host of NPR’s “Tell Me More.”

Keith Boykin is a CNBC contributor, not a Black gay CNBC contributor.

Follow me?

So why is it then that whenever gay media or the mainstream media chooses to quote or refer to me, I have to be labeled as the “black lesbian blogger?”

Case in point, Steven Mikulan and the LA Weekly who referred to my “Negro Please Award” piece on Compton minister the Reverend E. Joshua Sims.

Now this isn’t the first time someone over at the LA Weekly has referred to me as such and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to just be happy that the LA Weekly linked to lil ole’ me so never mind how they refer to me, but that’s not the case. I really could care less if the LA Weekly links to me, refers to me, or even reads my website, especially if it means that I have to be labeled as a “black lesbian blogger.” And I mean that, quote me, but just not as a “black lesbian blogger” please.

The piece that I wrote had nothing to do with my sexual orientation or race, other than the fact that Reverend Sims is Black and so am I, so I am confused as to why it was even relevant in the first place for the LA Weekly to even label me as Black and lesbian.

I’ve worked too hard to be solely defined by sexual orientation and race.

I am not a professional gay. I am not even a professional Black gay. I am just a professional.

I am also not in the closet. I came out dressed a long time ago, so that’s not the issue and at point this point in my life, wouldn’t even be an option.

So it’s really trivializing when the media feels the need to label my race and yes, my sexual orientation when referring to me. Just because I am both doesn’t extend carte blanche to tack the words “Black” and “lesbian” before my name—no matter what the subject—politics, healthcare, music.

I am more than who I sleep with—correction. I am more than who I would be sleeping with if I was sleeping with someone in the first place and it marginalizes me and presents an immediate bias for readers every time I am incorrectly labeled as a “black lesbian blogger.” It says, hey—before you read this, know this, she’s Black and she’s a lesbian.

That’s a prejudice I can do without, even it’s the LA Weekly. So Steven Mikulan, thanks, but no thanks.

And for the record…

Unapologetically Black, Jasmyne Cannick is known for addressing the issues that others can’t or simply won’t. At 31, Jasmyne is a lot of things, but just a blogger she is not.

Jasmyne is a critic and commentator based in Los Angeles who writes about the intersection of pop culture, race, class, and politics as played out in the African-American community. An award-winning freelance journalist who works in politics, Jasmyne was selected as one of ESSENCE Magazine’s 25 Women Shaping the World and is a frequent voice on National Public Radio. Her work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Ebony Magazine and more. She currently works as a political consultant in California on local and state campaigns.

The Court of Public Opinion

  • kayman

    You are a bad, bad chick in my book. I hate how the world does try to make us label. You are NOT a label whore and shouldn’t be treated as such.

  • Y’know, as a journalist and blogger who happens to be Black, I feel ya when people want to describe you as a “Black journalist” or “Black blogger” or “Black whatever.” It doesn’t happen to White journalists and bloggers and it shouldn’t happen to anyone else because of their gender, sexuality or race.

    So keep ya head up and telling the hard truths, JC.

  • As a former journalist and another blogger who happens to be black and LGBT, I completely understand where you’re coming from.

  • Serious Sistah

    Jasmyne, you make a great point, and I think it goes beyond journalists and activists. I used to catch myself telling stories and describing people by race, sexual orientation, etc., when the stories didn’t involve any of those things. At a certain point, I realized that I would catch an attitude–quickly–if someone took the time to mention my race when it was irrelevant, so I’m trying to stop doing that to others.