With coronavirus making large-scale festivals a public health hazard and widespread protests forcing the nation into a reckoning on racial inequality, this Pride season is one unlike any other. And yet, the spirit of a movement itself born out of a protest lives on. As the month of June comes to a close and International Pride Day nears, E! News has asked some of Hollywood's newest generation of LGBTQ stars to share what Pride means to them in 2020.
Welcome to The New Faces of Pride.
When Nicole Maines joined the cast of Supergirl in its fourth season as Nia Nal/Dreamer, she made history by becoming TV's first trans superhero. Since then, she's actively helped shape the stories written for her groundbreaking character, including one this March that tackled the very real-world issue of violence perpetrated against the trans community.
"It was so such an amazing episode to do because the very first day that I walked on set, people were coming up to me and just saying how excited and happy they were to be able to do this story on Supergirl," Maines told E! News about episode earlier this year. "Everyone kind of understood the importance of this episode and everyone was just like, Nicole, I'm so happy to be doing this. I'm so excited for people to see this episode. So it was a feeling not just for me, but for everybody on set of importance surrounding this episode, which was really great to see."
Here, Maines joins E! News' week-long New Faces of Pride celebration, offering her take on the state of things in this most unusual year.
As we find ourselves in a Pride season unlike any other, with the country battling a pandemic while rising up to tackle the systemic oppression that's plagued Black Americans for decades, how has your personal definition of Pride changed or shifted this year?
Going into Pride month this year, I was really focused on celebrating. I usually look at Pride as an opportunity to let go of the oppression that our community faces on a daily basis and celebrate being a part of that community. Pride is a celebration of freedom. But not everyone has that freedom, and so we have to take our energy and aim it towards liberating the people in our community whose fight we have been ignoring. Black queer people have been fighting two battles. One for their right to love, and one for their right to simply exist safely in their own skin. It's our responsibility as a community to fight that battle with them, and we cannot celebrate our freedom until we can all celebrate together.
How do you explain the importance intersectionality to family, friend or fans who support Black Lives Matter, but routinely leave Black trans people like Tony McDade, Nina Pop and Iyanna Dior out of the conversation?
People have multifaceted identities, and we cannot turn any of them off. They all exist simultaneously, that's what makes us all different. But because of that, it also means that we experience the marginalization and oppression of each of those identities simultaneously. A Black trans woman does not stop being trans to be Black, just as her racial identity does not go on the back burner to allow her to be a woman. She faces oppression directed at her race and her gender identity. She must also combat sexism along with racism and transphobia. We have to look at oppression as intersectional because many of us are fighting multiple battles at the same time, and we can't do it alone.
You finally get to meet your queer hero. Who are they? And after "Thank you" and "I love you," what the next thing you tell them?
I would tell [Lady] Gaga about summer 2011, the year "Born This Way" came out. I would tell her about going to summer camp and that song being played on repeat, and how you'd never seen a group of trans kids as happy and proud as we were. Then I'd say "thank you" and "I love you," again.
You are given the keys to your industry. What's the first thing you do to make it a more inclusive environment for everyone?
Every show gets a gay. Gays for everyone. Then they get another gay. I'm so sick of the tokenism surrounding diverse characters. Groups of friends in real life are allowed to have more than one queer person or one Black person or one Latinx person. Television should reflect that. That would also take a lot of pressure off of each character to have to single-handedly represent their entire community.
What is your message to future generations of queer people, coming of age right now? How do you want to instill hope in them?
I know the world seems to be falling completely apart. It's a really really scary time. And I completely understand the temptation to just lose faith in humanity. There have been many times where I felt like giving up on people. But I want future generations of queer kids to know that we are still moving forward. Just [last] week, we saw the president attack transgender people's access to healthcare, but then the Supreme Court upheld Title IX protections for all LGBTQ people. All hope is not lost. More and more people are unlearning bigotry and hatred every day. Our voices matter and they make a difference. Equality is certainly an uphill battle, but we have made great strides and we will continue to make many more. Don't lose the faith. Keep using your voice.
Supergirl returns for season six in 2021.
For more from The New Faces of Pride, check out responses from Jaida Essence Hall, Theo Germaine and Rahne Jones—and be sure to return every day through the end of June for more!