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LGBTQ Hate After Instagram Post for Trans Kid

LGBTQ Hate After Instagram Post for Trans Kid

Pride Month has an unofficial Grand Marshal this year: Marlon Wayans. The venerable comedy star (with sojourns into drama — remember Requiem for a Dream?), 51, did not expect to cause a stir when, draped in a rainbow flag, he posted an Instagram tribute to Kai, his gender nonbinary child. In it, he wished his almost 7 million followers a “Happy PRIDE.”

The post received a torrent of hate and backlash from a faction of his followers, approximately 10,000 of which unsubscribed in protest, accusing him of everything from needing to find God to degrading the Black family.

Wayans, who describes himself as a born troll, responded by posting a second Pride post, this one in a rainbow bucket hat and surrounded by colorful plastic balls. “Just for the HATE MONGERS,” he wrote, “I’m posting ANOTHER.” He’s now posted seven times in response to his haters, and he may not be done yet. (Photographer Parrish Lewis took about 60 shots in the session.)

His defiant stand on behalf of Kai and the LGBTQ community has attracted far more admirers than haters, however. And the added attention comes at a nice moment for Wayans, whose new stand-up special, Good Grief, premiered on Amazon on June 5. It provides a fascinating and fitting glimpse inside the dynamics of the Wayans dynasty, where family comes before everything.

Wayans spoke exclusively to The Hollywood Reporter about it all.

Hi, Marlon. I feel like I’ve been a fan of yours for most of my life.

MARLON WAYANS Thank you. I always feel old when people say that. Nowadays, kids look so grown, I’m like, “But you look older than me?”

“I grew up on you,” and it’s a 70-year-old man. That’s kind of what I just did, because we’re the same age. But you’ve had a long career.

I don’t realize how long my career is. I just got my head down working, and it always feels like a new beginning for me. I don’t look at what I’ve done. I don’t rest on the laurels. I got so much more to do.

I was reading your Wikipedia and there’s so many wild things I didn’t know about you. Like you were supposed to be Robin in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns?

Sure was. I’d have been the first Black superhero. But I realized in hindsight that wasn’t what God had planned for me. God has always wanted me to go the long way. If Batman had happened, I would have never produced my own TV show. I would have never written all the movies I’ve written. I would have never probably done stand-up. So I’m grateful.

I want to talk about your new Amazon stand-up special, Good Grief. It was quite the way to start my day. I went from wanting to throw up — there’s a lot of graphic sex talk involving your parents — to being very deeply moved.

It’s a lot of sweet and sour sauce, man. When I was doing it, I felt like a crazy person. I had all these different emotions that I was feeling and I had to go to these deep, dark places to rescue myself, to find laughter and joy and the humor and not be stuck in what I was feeling.

And it really spoke to me. Particularly your closeness to your parents and processing the grief of losing them.

That was my greatest fear growing up. It really hits home when you lose parents. Now the training wheels are off and that’s when life really begins. I found out who I am in the last four or five years. I found my village — my brothers, my sisters and all those that had a hand in raising me — and what kind of human they made me.

And of course you do come from a very famous and, I assume, tight-knit family.

Oh yeah. A bunch of crazy people. But yes, we were very tight-knit and that’s the beauty. We can lean on each other and support each other and love each other. I have a lot of barbecues at the house. I make sure that the time I used to spend partying or doing other things, I now spend with my family.

So let’s talk now about your own journey as a parent. How many children do you have?

I have three. Two boys and a little girl.

And Kai, the eldest, is transgender?

Yes. Nonbinary female.

And the pronouns are what?

The pronouns are he and they. That took a while to get. I still slip up. But they give me grace. I think parents of trans kids and their families have to transition with them. It takes time and it takes respect and it takes effort. They’re like, “I get it, dad. At least you’re trying. I’m proud of you.” This was definitely an adjustment.

And then you get all this hate online when you post about your child and you post “Happy Pride.” What kind of toxic world do we live in where supporting people’s fight for equality or non-judgment or happiness is met with so much animosity? What is wrong with our world? That’s when I wish social media was never here, because then I wouldn’t have to hear all this hate being spewed. But everybody now has an opinion. The worst people now have a megaphone. I’m always going to use my platform to forward the agenda of love and equality. They don’t understand that this was an adjustment for me and the family. There’s no respect in that journey.

My new stand-up material is a beautiful love letter that I’m writing about Kai. It is going to be a beautiful set. I want people to go through what I went through, for if they ever go through this, they’ll have the CliffsNotes — an experience that has happened and here’s how you get to here. Whether you have a gay child, a trans child, or say you have a child from a different race, it all comes down to acceptance.

I’m always going to protect my child. I’m always going to protect my friends. I have a lot of gay friends. I work in this industry. You know what I’m saying? Hairdressers and acting coaches. I went to performing arts high school, so none of this is new to me. When are people going to just let it go, man? Just love and let go.

Let’s walk through what happened on Instagram. You took photos wearing a rainbow mask and LGBT-themed props in honor of Kai for what I assume was going to be one post celebrating Pride Month?

I didn’t know what I was going to use it for. I was filming the Jordan Peele-produced movie, Him. And Parrish [Lewis], who’s the photographer, was like, “Hey, let’s do a shoot.” And my acting coach was like, “Yo, get some props.” At one point my tour was going to be called Skittles, so we had a bunch of rainbow-colored props sitting around. So I had these great photos and it was Pride Month. And I was like, “You know what? I’m going to honor my child and I’m going to honor my friends and the community with a post saying, ‘Hey, Happy Pride and I’m rooting for you. I celebrate with you. I support you and I love y’all.’”

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When I did the first post, I didn’t think I was going to be met with any kind of hate. And, my God, when I got hit with that flood of hate, the only thing I could do is post again. I’m a troll. So when I get negative energy, it was like being on stage and getting heckled. I’m going for you. You’re not going to win this contest. What I’m not going to let you do is bully the people that I love. Not on my watch.

And then I got more hate all over again. So I posted again. “I could do this all day.” Because this is my child. I’m a father. I’m a son. I’m a brother. I’m a friend. I’m an uncle. Those are the titles that mean something to me. When I’m in protection mode, I don’t care. I’ll lose every last single follower to protect my children, period. I posted four more times and then a fifth one, just to be a troll. And when I felt the hate, I’d say, “Keep it up. I got about 60 more pictures.”

When you say you felt a lot of hate, it was through comments on Instagram?

A lot. The comments on Instagram, and especially X. Since Twitter turned to X, man, it’s just a cesspool. I’m like, what am I even listening to? What kind of nonsense and rhetoric is this? Who are these people? Where do these people exist? Where does this kind of hate exist? I’ve never felt that at my shows. I just think about how the LGBTQ community must feel every day, being punched down on. And I’m always going to extinguish hate.

Well, the mission has been heard. Everyone’s talking about it. I’ve seen you pop up in all of my friends’ feeds as a hero for just doing the decent thing and standing up to it.

I’m not trying to be a hero, but you’re right. I think everybody needs to be decent. This is my child. And some people are like, “You’re tearing apart the Black family.” I’m like, “No. YOU’RE tearing apart the family. I’m doing what you do to keep your family a unit. You love your children. You made those children — love your damn kids. You don’t ostracize people because of their sexuality or anything else. That is your child. Find a way to love them because if you don’t love your children, I believe you don’t love yourself.”

Let me ask you something about the nature of stand-up comedy. Dave Chappelle has gotten a lot of heat for what people feel is transphobic material in his sets. Do you feel that anything goes on the stage, so long as it’s in the bubble of comedy? If it’s funny, it’s OK?

I think comedians have an understanding of each other and a respect for each other and a respect for the art form. And we have to allow each person and each individual to express themselves in their truth and not judge. Dave Chappelle is one of my dear friends. I love Dave. Dave is like my brother. And my child knows me and Dave. Even though they may disagree with what’s in the set, I still urge them to watch it. As an artist, you have to allow yourself to take in different kinds of art forms — because that helps you with articulating your own expression. Chappelle is a master storyteller, and for me, he is licensed to tell his truth now and tell his story and tell his point of view.

I’m not going to judge him. I’m still going to go to Ohio and Yellow Springs, hang out with him or hit the stage together or rock at one of his shows and go have drinks afterward and laugh and hang out. That’s my guy. My child don’t hate Chappelle, because they understand comedy. Every comedian deserves to have their point of view. And I’m not going to extinguish that, because you know what? I can’t make every person happy.

Now, what I can do is when it’s my turn to tell my story, I have a different story than Dave, because my child is trans. So it’s a different journey. It’s a different point of view; it’s a different telling. I have a little bit more insight. I’m a little bit more sensitive, because I’m closer to it. I’ve been through the journey. But do I get mad at Dave or any comedian that tells a dark joke? No.

I know this is going to sound so crazy, so narcissistic, but comedians have to go into dark places to find light. This may be a terrible analogy: It’s like a fireman running into a building to save a cat. I got to go in there, and I got to go get it. And that’s what comedy is. We go into dark places because all we’re trying to retrieve is this joke — and that joke is our contribution to making the world a better place. Humor is something the world needs. Laughter is healing. We should laugh as much as we possibly can. I think we’re all too sensitive right now. We’re not politicians; we’re comedians.

It’s great to hear your masterclass in comedy. And I’m very moved by what you did for your child. And while I have you, can you make another Scary Movie and a White Chicks sequel, too?

For sure. From your lips to God’s ears. Let’s keep up the laughs. Let’s keep up the love and congrats and Happy Pride to all my peoples.

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