The Black and Brown Faces Missing from "Heaven"
If you live in the ever-updating world of LGBT pop culture, you are no stranger to the name Troye Sivan. His smooth vocals and haunting melodies fit surprisingly well within the pop genre and make his music an office favorite at TruEvolution. With poignant metaphors and resonating lyrics, the Australian singer is pretty well-known throughout the LGBT community. As one of the few out and proud pop stars of our time, it’s easy to see why he has such a following.
Being a successful gay pop star, it comes as no surprise that big names in LGBT reporting have descended on the news of his latest music video- “Heaven.” The track comes from Sivan’s latest album “Blue Neighborhood”, and proves to be both poignant and anthemic. The song takes us through a journey of self-denial, coming out, as well as familial and religious struggles that many LGBT people face. The symbolism is especially apparent when he looks up at a bare-chested lover in an almost holy and spiritual moment. Themes such as these are an unfortunate reality to most people in the LGBT community, making songs like these very relatable for us.
The music video for this song though was a disappointment. With media outlets covering the release of Sivan’s latest project, I decided to dive into the music video expecting to see some prominent moments in international LGBT history from marches and rallies, to sit-ins and celebrations. Dazed and Confused in describing the music video wrote:
“The video splices together archive footage of the gay civil rights movement in a poignant (and timely) reminder that minority communities must unite to fight discrimination.”
When watching the music video, there was a noticeable lack of “color” in the black and white footage edited into the music video. In a time when POC and especially LGBT POC representation is crucial, “Heaven” seemed to skip over the intersectionality of the community and present a “white washed” version of our struggles.
People of color have played major roles in gay rights movements (PLURAL; I’m looking at you Dazed and Confused) from the Stonewall Riots to the current LGBT Rights Movement. Not to mention, since the video already moves beyond the borders of Australia, it is not a hard stretch for the video to incorporate LGBT social movements from around the world and not just the Eurocentric ones. The video almost comes across as the musical version of the highly controversial “Stonewall” movie from 2015, in which viewers were presented with white-washed history and the erasure of people of color from the Gay Liberation Movement. Faces like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and even Miss Major (who was at the stonewall riots and is still alive today) were missing from the footage and could easily have been included. Contemporary and well known activists like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock could also have been included.
Questions about creative control, video editing, and available footage are all questions that pop into my head (as I’m sure they have with a lot of you), but rather than provide us with answers, these questions turn the conversation in the direction of excuses and blame. Representation and media visibility for the LGBTQ+ community as a whole has come a long way, but unfortunately it seems there is still an incredible lack of intersectional representation within our community. As a whole our LGBT community needs to work to make sure ALL our stories are heard, not just the gay majority. Now more than ever members of the LGBT community with a platform need to show solidarity with all intersections of the community. We are not just a rainbow of sexualities and gender identities, we are black, and brown, and indigenous. We are undocuqueer and we are those living with disabilities. Our community is as unique and loud as the colors in the flag we fly high. Let us be seen!