Thankfully, there has been increased visibility of trans men and women in pop culture in recent years, largely because of outspoken role models like Laverne Cox and a greater cultural conversation about gender identity, the gender spectrum and inclusion in general.
That being said, tokenism as a means to solve the greater issue of diversity and representation is a widely criticized practice — and Rihanna reminded a well meaning fan of that fact on social media.
On Wednesday, Twitter user @lbertootero sent the singer a direct message reading, “Fenty Beauty campaign is awesome, next time you record something you should invite a trans girl to the group.” In a lengthy response, RiRi replied that she doesn’t “think it’s fair” when trans people are used “as a convenient marketing tool.”
— savage (@lbertootero) November 29, 2017
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with many gifted trans women throughout the years, but I don’t go around doing trans castings!” she explained. “I respect all women, and whether they’re trans or not is none of my business! It’s personal and some trans women are more comfortable being open about it than others so I have to respect that as a woman myself!”
She adds, “Too often do I see companies doing this to trans and black women alike! There’s always just that one spot in the campaign for the token ‘we look mad diverse’ girl/guy! It’s sad!”
The majority of responses to her comment have been positive. However, there were a few fans who countered that visibility is more important than whatever negativity spawns from tokenism. “We respect Rihanna and agree that Trans bodies are used as an easy way to make brands appear ‘inclusive,'” wrote Sateen, a queer music duo, on Twitter. “But at this point visibility is integral for trans [people]. More brands need to be hiring trans/[gender non-conforming] [people] and [people of color] in GENERAL.”
We respect Rihanna and agree that Trans bodies are used as an easy way to make brands appear “inclusive”. But at this point visibility is integral for trans ppl. More brands need to be hiring trans/gnc ppl and poc in GENERAL. Ps: hiring them means paying them.
— Sateen (@sateenie) November 30, 2017
This article was originally published on The Hollywood Reporter.