Kissy Duerré, who shot to TikTok fame during the pandemic, says as a Black transgender influencer she plans to diversify the platform.
With her endless energy and infectious positive spirit, it’s no surprise the Canadian social media star has amassed a following of more than half a million. Not only a performer and activist, Duerré motivates her followers by radiating pure positivity, love and light.
A source of hope and inspiration for thousands, she says there should be more LGBTQ+ representation on social media, especially among the BIPOC community.
“If you ask a cis person who they know in the transgender community they’ll say Laverne Cox or Caitlyn Jenner, but that’s not enough,” she tells ET Canada in a new interview.
Although she draws inspiration from the actress Laverne Cox herself, the performer says there’s more work to do to cultivate acceptance, reject hate and end stigma for everyone in the trans and gender non-conforming community.
“That’s not the representation of transgender as an identity, so it’s actually nice that I gained some presence as a Black transgender woman to add to diversity on social media,” she explains. “We need, not just more Black transgender people, but more transgender people in general. Sometimes the narratives can be very white-washed, so it’s important to show some colour in there.”
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Last year saw a paradigm shift in America’s perpetual struggle for racial justice. In the midst of a deadly pandemic and historic levels of unemployment, people took to the streets to protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin.
One fundamental difference between 2020’s movement was the increasingly sophisticated presence of social media. With its growing influence over young people across the globe, TikTok became an unlikely yet prominent tool for activism and education.
For Duerré, she says she originally started on TikTok to occupy herself during lockdown, and her startling organic growth was somewhat unexpected.
Focusing on fun, sassy educational and motivational videos, filmed by herself, her boyfriend or brother, she encourages others to speak their truth. Explaining, “My journey was hard at first, but I’m glad I had a very accepting and supportive father and for that, really I am very grateful.”
In addition to admiring “Orange Is The New Black”‘s Cox, she says she’s also moved by other iconic Black women.
“Laverne Cox has beauty, grace she has all the sass and the elegance, but there’s others in the Black community that I draw my inspiration from, like Maya Angelou, a phenomenal woman and very wise. I’m also inspired by my own mother for example,” she explains.
Adding, “There’s so many things she taught me and I feel I somehow embody that and try to project that and give it to other people. She loved me and accepted me as a transgender woman, she couldn’t see me as a woman due to complications but despite that, I take that love with me and share with others wherever I go.”
The social media star’s adopted father is highly supportive and regularly cameos in her popular videos. But, with such social media reach comes the inevitable dwindling private life, societal pressures and a slew of online trolls.
“I’m a Black transgender woman, so it’s easy to have trolls,” she laughs, continuing, “Yes I have to deal with trolls, with a little bit of sass, a little bit of grace. I take the negative comments, not let them touch me and try to use that moment as well to educate people and say, this isn’t the comment to say to a trans woman, in a simple digestible way.”
Young, fearless and ready to rebuild the system, Duerré has become a role model herself, using her voice to inspire hope, build a community and break barriers. Her goal: to improve the lives of transgender people who face challenges in a predominantly transphobic society.
“In the Black community transphobia and homophobia is very high,” she explains. “It’s important to see more Black transgender, LGBTQ+ whatever gender identity they are, that’s the only way to deal with toxic masculinity. We need to be able to break that.”
According to Human Rights Campaign, this year has been the deadliest year in history for Black trans women. So far this year, five of the six known deaths have been Black transgender women. When asked how that makes her feel, Duerré said: “It’s devastating. You hear about this and think, that person could’ve been me, the only difference is I wasn’t in that geographical location.”
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She continues, “The only way to deal with this is to increase awareness about the murdering of transgender people, anti-transgender violence, bullying of transgender youth and hope some sort of help and awareness is going to come out of this.”
Duerré started opening up on the platform about the discrimination she’s experienced as a Black transgender woman in Canada, while working to combat stigma against transgender and non-binary people with her energy-filled content.
“TikTok continues to be a platform that amplifies black voices, yes there’s some censorship and there’s always room for growth,” she says. “They could do better to support communities, but they are making progress.”
Concluding, “Right now I’m going with the flow, in the future I hope to find what’s best in me, to nurture that and become the best version of myself I could possibly be.”