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Seattle Pride Spotlight: Comedians clap back against transphobes in 2nd annual Black Trans Comedy Showcase

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Photo courtesy of Lavender Rights Project
Photo courtesy of Lavender Rights Project

Get ready to laugh because, on June 10, the Black Trans Comedy Showcase is returning to Seattle! Produced by the Lavender Rights Project, it's one of the organization's biggest fundraisers of the year and features talent from across the country. The idea for a Black, all-Trans comedy showcase in Seattle came up after comedian Dave Chapelle sold out Climate Pledge Arena shortly after making controversial comments about the Trans community.

"This event started as the LRP's response to some of the transphobia that's happening all the time, but there was a specific incident with some folks who were doing comedy and saying some transphobic things and agreeing with some transphobic people," said Angel Patterson, development associate for the Lavender Rights Project.

"It was LRP's opportunity and idea to center Black Trans joy and highlight Black Trans comedians and community," they continued. "We took that opportunity to say, 'Hey, we're back, we're Black, we're funnier, and we're going to have Black Trans comedians.' We are using that as our way of protesting everything he was saying."

Photo courtesy of Lavender Rights Project  

A stellar lineup
The 2022 event was a huge success. It featured comedians Mitch Mitchel, Chocolate the Entertainer, and Mx. Dahlia Bell.

This year the lineup is just as impressive, including Chicago-based K.J. Whitehead and Spokane-based Beyonce Black St. James. Reality TV star Ts Madison will host the evening.

Patterson and Lavender Rights Project Development Director Randy Ford hope that the evening will offer Black Trans people a fun night and a reprieve from the constant attacks they face. "We wanted this Pride season [not] to focus ...on the violence that happens or the anti-Trans legislations but to show we're resilient," Ford said.

"We wanted this Pride season to not be another vigil or campaign," she continued. "We must center joy because we're not just our trauma, we're not just the violence that happens to us, and we're not the cause of this, so why would we center it in the first place? We wanted this to be about joy, laughter, community, and clap-backs! I'm all about a good clap-back. This is a good way to clap back at all of that."

"You know, a lot of our joy comes from comedy. It comes from roasting. It's very centered on blackness, this comedy show," Ford added.

The evening will be fun and laughter-filled, but it is also a way for the Lavender Rights Project to connect with the community it serves and encourage allies to donate.

"This night is highlighting how we're disrupting systems of oppression to stop the violence against Black Trans women and femmes and ultimately liberate us all," Patterson said. "Come and expect to laugh. I've previewed the comedy. I've had a little sneak peek — it's hilarious!"

Audience members can participate in raffle drawings throughout the evening, as well. The LRP will be raffling off prizes, including two pairs of Alaska Airline tickets to anywhere, tickets to Seahawks Gameday, tickets to see Jinx Monsoon in Seattle, and a free session at Marconi Chiropractic & Wellness.

Security is a main priority of the Lavender Rights Project, and corners will not be cut when ensuring that comedians and audience members feel safe. The LRP has partnered with the Blaq Elephant Party, which will provide armed security at the door and check bags before anyone enters the venue. It will also provide security guards to accompany the comedians at the show and to and from the airport.

Photo courtesy of Lavender Rights Project  

The show will also be inclusive for all audience members. "We always tell our comedians we want you to be yourselves. We're not going to censor. We're not going to use low-hanging fruit for comedy, though," Ford said. "We're not going to be fatphobic. We're not going to be xenophobic. We're not going to be antisemitic. We're not going to be ableist. We can be funny without having to do the same things people do to us."

The LRP will also provide two ASL interpreters during the event.

While none of the "isms" or "phobias" are welcome, Ford warns that the comedians are not censored. "No, they're going to be cussing, they're going to be taking it there, and yeah, people can have those conversations with their kids if they choose to bring them," she said.

"I am an artist. Anything I do is family-friendly, because families need to see the realities that we live in. When you try to censor and dial down the actual experiences of Trans people, you're not doing your families justice. You're miseducating them, misleading them about what's happening, and having them think it's just Pride in the Park every day for us."

The focus on the Black Trans experience is intentional and vital to preserving all marginalized communities, according to Ford. "It is very important to center Black Trans liberation, Black Trans joy, Black Trans autonomy, because Black gender-diverse communities, especially Black Trans women and femmes, are the most marginalized in our society, and the world," she said.

"None of our efforts around this fundraiser, none of our efforts around our programs, none of our efforts around this community are going to matter if we're not prioritizing Black Trans women and femmes and Black gender-diverse communities," she added, "because everyone's liberation will be felt as an after-effect.

"Once we uplift [Black Trans women and femmes], all of that will just ripple like a cute little tidal wave of liberation for everyone."

How to show support
Uplifting the Black Trans community comes in many forms, but the easiest way to contribute to liberation is through donation, according to Patterson.

"We know folks get activated during Pride season," they explained, "but we like to use this night to get [them] to understand our mission and understand why it's important not to just do those one-time donations.

"A one-time donation is great for Pride. You're an ally, but we want to see you continue and stand up for Black Trans folks, Black Trans women and femmes, and show that you're about our liberation.

"Once you liberate Black Trans women and femmes, then you liberate us all, and that's the goal we're working toward: our liberation and ending violence against Black women and femmes."

Organizations like the Lavender Rights Project see support during Pride month, but once the rainbow decorations go away, so does a lot of the funding. "Year-round support [is needed], not just [in] June," Ford said. "It's cute, it's fun, it's amazing, yes, but do you even realize that Pride is possible because of a Black Trans woman? If you're not centering Black Trans women during Pride, you're doing a disservice to the founding mother."

"A monthly recurring donation is one of the best ways [to support the LRP]. It doesn't have to be a large donation, but anything within the means of folks," she added.

"Really, put your money where your mouth is, put your heart where your mouth is."

The organization is also looking for all kinds of volunteers. Volunteering is also a great way to contribute to the LRP. "Our outreach coordinator, Farren, is in charge of training our volunteers and getting them competent on how to talk to Black Trans folks and about LRP when they're on the street," she continued.

Other ways to boost the organization's footprint include "word of mouth, sharing our Instagram and our Twitter, subscribing to our newsletter, [and] educating yourself on policy advocacy," Ford said. "Because that's also one of the biggest things with our programs. Our programs won't mean anything if there's no policy behind it."

Allyship can also be as simple as standing up against comments made by transphobes like Dave Chappelle. "Whenever you hear about this anti-Trans legislation, don't just turn your head, actually say something," Ford added.

"Advocate for us when we're not in the room. If you want to include us in your plans, include us from the beginning and not just at the tail end to show face.

"Being intentional with how you approach Black Trans people is the biggest way you can help, whether it's monetary, whether you're volunteering and donating your time, or redistributing the wealth that is stacked in Seattle.

"We're also going to be hiring...for some positions," Ford said. "If you're interested in fundraising, come holla at us."

For anyone interested in getting involved with the Lavender Rights Project, donating, or volunteering, Ford and Patterson suggest reaching out via the website or Instagram.

Next steps for Lavender Rights
Currently, the LRP is working on a new housing initiative to help BIPOC Trans people get equitable access to housing in Seattle.

"We are going to create BIPOC and gender-diverse-specific housing, and it's almost here. We're excited," Ford said. "We're also excited about the advocacy behind it. We need more of these spaces. Our gender-based violence prevention team is doing amazing legal and advocacy work. We're creating public service announcements and a video project that will be coming out, which will be another creative way to share a story about what it's like to be Black and Trans in Washington."

However, she added, "[Our] housing initiative won't mean anything if there aren't housing protections included on the legislative level for Black Trans people."

The LRP is also looking at mobilizing beyond Washington. "We're very excited to be doing some national advocacy work, national policy work, and branching out from the Pacific Northwest," Ford said. "We're finding more and more organizations similar to our mission and vision and doing similar programming. We're all on the same wavelength. We're ready to not feel as isolated as we are. That's the next step, to connect and get that web nice and strong."

Why are you laughing?
If you're looking for a little more joy and a lot of laughter, tickets are still available for the Black Trans Comedy Showcase.

"I want everyone in the room to feel joy, but I also want folks to be activated," Patterson said. "I want [them] to walk away really feeling like, 'I was so inspired by everything that happened tonight that I feel I can better assert myself in this movement [for] Black Trans liberation,' and ...empowered to donate, to volunteer, and to walk away feeling ready to share what they learned about our mission with other [people] and be an ally for Black Trans liberation."

Ford also hopes the night provides an opportunity for reflection. "I hope people laugh. I also hope people think about why they're laughing," they said. "Not every laugh comes from joy. Sometimes people laugh when they're nervous. Why are you nervous? What about these amazing people is funny? Yes, you're coming to a comedy show, but comedy is a way to tell stories — to bring light to some of these things we have a hard time talking about."

"I hope people have conversations after and think about what role they can play," Ford said. "No role is too big or too small to contribute to Black Trans liberation. Everyone can do their part. It can't be the Black Trans community that saves us. We did not cause this, so we don't have the answers. Everyone else does."

The Black Trans Comedy Showcase on June 10 will serve as one of the LRP's Pride kickoff events. Doors will open at 6 p.m., and the show will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are available now at https://bit.ly/transcomedy23. Black Trans comedians interested in participating in next year's comedy showcase can reach out to Angel Patterson at [email protected].