Todrick Hall throws down the gauntlet for everyone to speak up for Black trans lives
Todrick Hall has come a long way since his childhood in the Texas panhandle. But when he learned his state had become America’s deadliest place for trans people, it hit home.
As the singer, songwriter, actor, director and choreographer skyrockets through the entertainment industry he’s had to reckon with the fact that many of his fellow LGBT+ people of colour are still being left behind.
It’s why he’s partnered with Skittles as it pledges $100,000 to the National Black Trans Advocacy Coalition, a Texas-based organisation addressing the inequities faced by the Black transgender community.
“I can’t stress enough that in my entire life growing up as part of the queer community, I never thought that I would see a day where a company like Skittles is talking about the trans community,” he told PinkNews.
“I love that they are so willing to support this group, because I think they need it, they deserve it, and anything that I can do to help keep our trans community safe is something that I’m one thousand percent willing to jump off.”
We tend to hear of Todrick Hall’s activism in relation to Taylor Swift’s; how he inspired her to make her position on LGBT+ equality abundantly clear and to use her voice for positive change. Yet he has a powerful voice of his own, and he’s keen to use it to highlight the Black trans deaths that are so frequently overlooked.
“A lot of news outlets are afraid to [report] it or it just isn’t important enough to them, or it isn’t ‘pop culture’ enough for it to matter,” he said.
“And I think that this story is so important, the story that these people, these creative, gorgeous people have lost their lives because people didn’t understand them and because they were afraid of them.”
The Human Rights Campaign reports that this year transgender people are being murdered at the highest rate since their records began, with Black trans women most frequently targeted by violence and harassment.
“I mean, I grew up there, it obviously doesn’t make me feel great to be connected to all that is happening,” Todrick said.
Why Texas? He admits that, as one of the country’s biggest states, part of the high figures is simply down to the greater population size – but it’s more than that.
“I think that the main reason why the numbers are so high there is because the Bible Belt is such a strong and powerful thing,” he said.
“There’s this pressure in that state specifically, to be perfect, to not break rules, to not colour outside the lines, to stay in inside a box, the conservative Christian Republican box.
“And it’s something that causes a lot of pressure that I feel, that a lot of people from the LGBT+ community as a whole feel, specifically the trans community. People just don’t understand because their their mind hasn’t been opened to it.”
He says he can see a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of awareness, of conversations that simply weren’t being had a few years ago. But he’s keenly aware that America is hurting right now, and for a lot of people, things just aren’t getting better.
“I feel like Obama healed our country in a way that spread so much love, but the LGBT+ community has been marginalised for so long, and everybody feels so beat down and battered,” he said.
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“I think that right now we need everybody to use their voice, to use their social media, for positive change. And I also think we need to accept the fact that some people are just unaware, and we need to try to teach them as opposed to trying to fight with them.
“I think they’d be more willing to listen to us if we lead with love and understand that certain people have not had these experiences. So their hate is coming from a place of ignorance.”
While Todrick Hall never expected to be backing Skittles in this fight, he sees genuine sincerity behind their “humble” campaign, and most importantly, the fact that they actually put their money where their mouth is.
As well as the National Black Trans Advocacy Coalition the brand has also donated $100,000 to GLAAD, continuing their advocacy well beyond Pride month.
“This is the first company that I’ve ever worked with that has thought about that from the perspective of LGBT+ community. I really appreciate that because it is something that is forgotten in most major corporations,” Todrick said.
“They understand that these people are not just here during Pride month, they’re here all around and they need your help. They need your love. They need your support.”