Also.Also.Also: Jameela Jamil Came Out Yesterday, and Yeah it’s Really Complicated

Hello and happy almost-weekend!

I have tickets to see Birds of Prey tonight and that’s the best news I have today. (Also the snow outside my window looks pretty – as long as I’m inside to see it.)


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The Good Place star Jameela Jamil came out as queer yesterday, after facing some serious backlash for her role as a judge in HBO Max’s upcoming Legendary, a nine-episode voguing competition show.

Here’s a further explainer if you want to dig into it.

I’m going to be completely honest with you – I tried writing about this last night, but it made my head and my heart hurt. I have a lot of empathy for Jameela having to come out in a way that wasn’t her choosing; publicly coming out is a deeply personal decision and no one should feel they have to do so before they’re ready. I also feel greatly for South Asian queer women in particular who may feel represented by Jameela’s coming out, because there are painfully few public or celebrity South Asian queer women in the first place. That’s all true! And also(also.also.) Jameela chose to use her coming out as a justification for why she’s taking up space as both executive producer and judge in a series that members of the community represented have made ABUNDANTLY clear they would rather she not.

From one queer woman of color to another, it’s never OK to use your cis and class privilege to push yourself into a space where you weren’t wanted and then use your queerness as a cloak when others call you in and hold you accountable. That’s not what queer community looks like; in fact, it’s the opposite and very harmful. To that end, I’m also going to share words from Trace Lysette, who in addition to being a well-known television and film actress, is a mother in the House of Mizrahi:

IDK y’all. I’m sending a lot of love to Jameela, to the fans who get to see themselves in her, and to all the trans and queer folks who are being brutally erased in ballroom’s continued gentrification by mainstream media. None of it is OK.


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Carmen is Autostraddle's Deputy Editor and a black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 246 articles for us.

32 Comments

  1. ** From one queer woman of color to another, it’s never OK to use your cis, thin, and class privilege to push yourself into a space where you weren’t wanted and then use your queerness as a cloak when others call you in and hold you accountable. **

    Okay, so I’m not a POC and if I see the word ballroom I still think of ballroom dancing first, so I’m not personally touched by this story – but I kind of read her post differently?

    She explains in her post that she has the privilege and following to make sure the show get’s to be made. And it doesn’t seem like a stretch to me that a show that only features people known within a niche community might not make it to air.

    I’ve recently listned to a long interview with Jameela Jamil and she came across as a person who is very much an ally.

    And the thin privilege comment is kind of uncomfortable to me seeing as she has spoken openly about her long battle with an eating disorder and has very often called people (like the Kardashians) out for among other things pushing weight loss supplements on teens. Yeah sure she has thin privilege. But it’s not like she’s not aware of that.

    I’m not trying to be mean and I’m not saying people who are the most oppressed can’t be on tv with their own story. I’d love that actually. I’m saying the world is still very fucked up and if I have to choose between not having a show about this subculture or having a show about this subculture with a few less opressed and more famous people in the mix to make sure the old white dudes at the top agree – I choose the latter.

    I’m sorry for bad grammar and spelling. I’m tired and spent all day reading the news and it went from bad to racist to horrifyingly racist and people are terrible. Jameela Jamil seems like an exception. I need some faith in people.

    • I respect this point of view, also lots of cultural media about ball culture (including most recently and notably the Emmy award winning and cultural zeitgeist Pose, though certainly not only Pose) are being successfully made with the full backing and input of that community. Legendary has been pointed out because largely, with little exception, it has not been.

      Again, as you pointed out you’re not really a part of those conversations as it relates to ball culture, but I think we all know that when allies are called in, their first response isn’t usually to defend or take up more space. It’s to listen and to adjust. (Or at least, it should be.) I love Jameela a lot, and I hope this is a growing opportunity for her about how she can be better ally in the future.

      • So, my brain won’t let me fall asleep because I keep thinking over what I wrote and in what way that makes me a terrible person. (My brain can be a bitch.)

        First: sorry to anyone I offended, my comment was harsh. I was so sick of terrible people on the internet that I was considering nuking the planet as a good option. (I just figured out that it’s PMS that’s making me extra homocidal.)

        I still feel that Jameela made a valid point on using her privilege for good. My autistic, linear brain then forgets stuff like context and cultural issues, as those you pointed out.

        I actively try to be the ally that listens and not takes up more space in conversations that are not about me. Sometimes I fail at that. Will keep trying in the future.

        Anyway it’s 1 am now and I really need to sleep and I can’t be concise or spell when I’m this tired. Goodnight, goodmorning, timezones suck.

    • Though I’ve heard Jameela talk about her thin privilege in the past and body positivity movements, I was unaware of her history with eating disorders. As such, the line “it’s never OK to use your cis, thin, and class privilege to push yourself into a space” has been adjusted to “it’s never OK to use your cis and class privilege to push yourself into a space”

        • Being from NY I’ve seen a lot of people in and around ballroom. But, I would still not consider myself a part of it’s TRUE culture because it’s so niche to a tiny group. If you want to bring those stories forward you have to give it space, true, and a lot of publicity. The only reason I know Jameela was a part of this was because she promoted it and then because of all the controversy started from her participation. Who in entertainment development wouldn’t love to have a huge celebrity promote their show? What if Brad Pitt decided to be a producer, would the conversation turn controversial? Jameela is an ally for sure. She probably wants to see this show done right too. Despite all of this though, Trace Lysette’s point is 100% valid. I would be livid if someone put in all the work to get the show made and then doesn’t get the credit. I also don’t know if Jameela has anything to do with that. Isn’t that a network issue? Regardless, there are ways to keep your allies close and still offer criticism and an education and this angry response is counterproductive.

          • What Tracey and many others around the ballroom community have been saying HAS BEEN constructive and educational. I don’t know how you get “angry” out of their responses unless you are already on the defensive. Then again that is usually the criticism lodged against marginalized people when they speak up for themselves. If only they would just shut up and be grateful for the scraps they are given. We wouldn’t want to upset our celebrity allies by not stroking their egos.

            Legendary doesn’t need major celebrities to make it a hit, any more than POSE did. That show made stars out of virtual unknowns(with the possible exception of Billy Porter who has been working for ages but had never achieved such notoriety until he did the show) and introduced the general public to the ballroom scene all while being almost entirely written, acted and executive produced by black and brown queer people in or adjacent to the to that community. People certainly weren’t tuning in for James Van Der Beek. I wish some her defenders would stop playing in our faces by claiming this show needs Jameela’s or anyone else’s star power to be a successful.

      • My best friend is a producer on this show. It’s been painful to read all the criticism knowing how much love for the lgbt community went into Legendary. They can’t possibly go into all of the details of production, but I promise that they are trying to celebrate the spirit of ballroom and bring it to a larger audience. Jameela is an ally and should get a chance. There is so much more to the show than just her as one of a panel of judges. Please watch 🙏

      • She doesn’t have class privilege. I honestly have no clue where you’ve even gotten that idea. She was brought up by a single mother in the 90s, and was regularly beaten up for being poor. Y’all seem to think British accent = class privilege.

        It’s more than fair to point out that the slot should have gone to a trans woman, drag mother or someone involved in ballroom, without pretending that a woman who literally used to be beaten due to her poverty enjoys ‘class privilege’.

    • A couple things:

      Thin people with eating disorders or a history of eating disorders still have thin privilege!!!!

      As a fellow white person, I want to remind you Yasmin that listening to Black people and trans people who are speaking out about this and amplifying THEIR opinions and experiences is what we are supposed to do. Anti-blackness and transphobia are real things which Jameela Jamil is not oppressed by, and we need to listen to and center the people most affected by this.

        • Hey Queer Girl, thanks foe the comment. “Thin privledge” is a concept that makes me beyond uncomfortable as someone who’s weight changes are directly tied how well I am managing my mental and physical health. I have been fat, I have been thin and a wide range in between and at all sizes I have been told my health is not as important as my weight.

          • Complicated personal history with body size doesn’t take away from the reality of thin privilege.. I too have been fat and thin and have a complicated relationship with health and body size but being thin allows for the ability to find clothes that fit in most stores, fitting in to chairs at restaurants and on airplanes, not being prescribed weight loss for medical conditions, even being safer in cars because seat belts fit and crash tests are performed on dummies in my weight range. These are just a few examples of privilege that thin people benefit from, regardless of personal history with eating disorders or complicated mental and physical health issues related to weight fluctuations.

          • Thin privilege is real. My weight has basically doubled after going on anti depressants. I was treated better as a thin person, even though I was using drugs and replacing meals with cigarettes, than I am as a mentally stable fat person.

            However, levelling the charge of ‘thin privilege’ at a person who almost died from their eating disorder is rather vile.

      • ** Thin people with eating disorders or a history of eating disorders still have thin privilege!!!! **

        Yes, that is right. I never said she didn’t. I said it made me uncomfortable that it was sort of used against her when her thinness is caused by a severe disorder and she has done a lot of work to discuss wheight stigma, reducing peoples worth to their wheights and eating disorders.

        For your other point please see my other comment, I’ve explained myself more.

  2. So much civil rights history is reduced to..I don’t know…what’s most palatable to white people maybe? That Rosa Parks myth is probably the one I see the most often on lower division US history tests. I highly recommend “Rebellious Life.”

    And thanks for the Political Snacks. I really needed them this week.

    • I think one of the reasons passive civil rights narratives exist and persist is because teachers of young children (read: me) tell pared down, age-appropriate versions, but then as students get older and are capable of handling more, the histories are not fully fleshed out with all their complications, subtext, and nuance.

      It’s not a bad thing for a four or five year old to know that Rosa Parks sat down on a bus, wouldn’t get up, got in trouble, and that changed things for the better. It’s a bad thing if when you’re 8, 12, 15, 18, you haven’t broadened that understanding. And right now, I fear most students never get beyond the picture book phase of civil rights history.

  3. Plus Plus Plus to thank you Carmen for doing an incredible job letting everyone involved be complex humans with complicated experiences of privilege and oppression while not compromising on how paramount it is that entertainment efforts focused on ballroom follow leadership of people with personal experience and roots in ballroom. Jameela has had other public spaces to be complicated about her identities and experiences and learning, and AS doesn’t need to hold ALL of that space for her.

  4. “it’s never OK to use your cis and *class* privilege to push yourself into a space where you weren’t wanted and then use your queerness as a cloak”

    I’m sorry, are we trying to say that a queer woman of colour who was born disabled to poor parents and developed an eating disorder as a teen is super privileged now?

    And no, Jamil does not have ‘class privilege’. Yes, she went to private school, on a scholarship. Her parents divorced when she was young, because her father was physically abusing her mother. She used to get beaten senseless at school for being Asian and poor. She literally got beaten for classist reasons and y’all are insisting she has ‘class privilege’.

    I’m guessing this is because an American is writing it and you don’t understand the British class system. But I can tell you now, a poor woman of colour who left her violent husband and become a single mother – particularly in the 90s? That’s not a woman who’s conferring ‘class privilege’ on her daughter.

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