Carmen Carrera and Janet Mock on Lorena Escalera, Media Justice, and ‘Utmost Fabulosity’

From The Huffington Post:


A wildly insensitive New York Times article on the life and death of trans artist and drag performer Lorena Escalera flared tensions between the gender-variant community and the paper when it was published as part of the Sunday edition on May 14. The article, called “Woman Dies in a Brooklyn Fire That Is Deemed Suspicious,” served as a painful exemplar of the media’s salacious, oversexualized understanding of trans women of color, said Carmen Carrera, Escalera’s friend and fellow trans-identified drag performer. Carrera is most widely known for her performance on the third season of Logo reality series RuPaul’s Drag Race.

“You know what it is? I knew Lorena from shows we did in the New York City scene,” said Carrera in an interview with me. “She was much more than what they were trying to portray her as. She was always happy, always having a good time. And she was definitely a big inspiration to me.”

Escalera, whose success as a drag performer likely inspired many, was a direct influence on Ms. Carrera, who recently came out as transgender herself.

“When I read that article, I was like, ‘Wow, are you serious?'” she said. “They put her gender above everything else. My first thought was, ‘When I die, is that how it’ll be? Nothing’s going to matter besides my gender? Nothing I do for others, nothing else? What’s the point, then?'”

Carrera described her disgust with The New York Times‘ depiction of Escalera as “curvaceous” and the fact that the writers of the article (Al Baker and Nate Schweber) depicted Escalera as a 25-year-old woman who “often drew admiring glances in the gritty Brooklyn neighborhood where she was known to invite men for visits to her apartment.”

“If she was a non-trans female that was killed, they wouldn’t have described her like that,” she said. “The article makes it OK to portray trans people like, ‘Oh, she was an escort. Oh, she was promiscuous.’  It’s just disrespectful and shows so much ignorance.”

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