One Equal World

Posts Tagged ‘Reina Gossett

A photo of trans activist Marsha P. Johnson. The words, "Nice girls don't make history" are written across the bottom of the photo.

Marsha P. Johnson.
Photo courtesy of Glaurung Quena via Flickr Creative Commons.

It’s about time that Marsha “pay it no mind” Johnson had a modern documentary about her life. The legacy of this black trans woman and activist is writ large across American LBGT history. And it should be cause for celebration that “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” is trending on Netflix this week. But there’s ugliness just under the surface.

David France, the filmmaker releasing the new Netflix documentary, is a white, cis, gay man with a history of writing about the dramatic and tragic in queer history. He has books on sexual abuse and Iraq’s death penalties, and a book-turned-documentary about the AIDS crisis, titled “How to Survive a Plague.” He’s undeniably a part of the queer community, but not always a part of the stories he chooses to tell.

Now, another filmmaker, Reina Gossett has spoken up to say that France has stolen from her years of work on Johnson. She alleges that France stole her language and research, got websites to remove her work, stole her contacts and hired away her research adviser. Gossett, who is black and trans, took to social media to air her grievances, which France has claimed are baseless.

“This kind of extraction/excavation of black life, disabled life, poor life, trans life, is so old and so deeply connected to the violence Marsha had to deal with throughout her life,” Gossett said on Instagram.

In the wake of the terrible 2015 movie about the Stonewall riots which completely erased Johnson and the other non-white, non-cis originators of that iconic event, it is tone-deaf to pretend to be blind to these identities. The pool of funding for a documentary on a trans woman of color is not bottomless, and Gossett’s production, titled “Happy Birthday, Marsha!” is stalled in the cradle after three years of work. Whether or not France has done what Gossett alleges, the controversy stands—which of these two artists should have the multi-million dollar Netflix deal?

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