When transgender powerhouses Angelica Ross and Imara Jones saw that the entertainment and media worlds weren’t telling their community’s stories in a realistic way, they took matters into their own hands. After all, they said, “who controls the story has control.”
Ross and Jones spoke with Pride Media’s Mey Rude about trans representation on Wednesday as part of TheWrap’s Power Women Summit 2020. Jones, a renowned journalist, founded TransLash media to tell stories that she felt traditional outlets weren’t approaching correctly. And Ross, an actress known for her work on “Pose,” is the founder of TransTech Social Enterprises, which helps employ trans people in tech roles.
As an entertainer, Ross works to tell authentic stories about trans people that don’t rely on, as she says, “backhanded opportunities like being visible on ‘The Maury Povich Show.’”
“For me, as a Black trans woman, I just had to learn how to navigate the world myself,” Ross said, before explaining how she has used those lessons to fuel a life mission that helps others in the same position.
“Coming up in a time where trans people were relegated to very marginalized spaces… it was a moment for me as a trans person to start to become visible, while at the same time being in an environment that was very demeaning at times,” Ross said. “Valuations on trans lives used to come from outside of our community, not from within ourselves.”
Jones agreed, recalling how she has faced barriers when trying to appeal to major media outlets about the gaps and oversights in their coverage of trans people.
“Creating TransLash came out of a necessity to tell our stories because I come out of the world of journalism. I had gone to so many different outlets and tried to get them … to take us seriously, to take our stories seriously, as they would any group,” she said.
Many media gatekeepers, Jones continued, fail to understand “that us not having stories told about us in a way that humanized us — centered us in a way that everyone else would be centered — is a driving force for the hostility and the marginalization and the violence that we face.”
She added, “Who controls the story has control.”
Watch Ross and Jones share how they’ve taken back that control via the video above.
The Power Women Summit, presented by the WrapWomen Foundation, is the largest annual gathering of the most influential women in entertainment, media and technology. The Summit aims to inspire and empower women across the landscape of their professional careers and personal lives. This year’s all-virtual PWS provides three days of education, mentorship, workshops and networking around the globe to promote “Inclusion 360,” this year’s theme.