Oversexed. Catty. Stereotypical.
These are the words director Terry Torrington uses to describe present depictions of black gay men in the media ― which is why he and his husband, Sean, are launching SlayTV, a global TV network for the black LGBTQ community.
Sean and Terry, who are both in their 30s, came up with the idea for the network when they saw how well some of their YouTube web series were performing. “No Shade,” a dramedy about a queer black artist on a path of self-discovery, was their first online series. Its pilot episode, which premiered in February 2013, has received almost 110,000 views.
“That’s how we really got noticed by the community,” Sean said. “Because at the time there was no other series like it. It really touched on a lot of issues going on at the time.”
The two were hesitant to create a second season for the show without a proper way to archive it. So they created Slay to catalog series they’d already made, premiere new productions and invite series ideas from the LGBTQ community.
“Love At First Night,” a Slay series created by Terry, serves as an antidote to what Sean says is a lack of representation of queer black love on other platforms.
“I feel like we are only looked at as sex objects,” Sean said. “There are no real representations in the media when it comes to black queer love and that’s really important to me. That’s why I created ‘Love At First Night.’”
The show, which they describe as being loosely based on their relationship, is a dramedy about a black gay couple and the lives they lead in New York City.
“It really shows the dynamic of two black gay men ― or queer men ― that are in love and the issues they go through,” Sean said.
For gay black men, the show provides a sense of relatability that they don’t often get to experience while watching television. The show’s season finale premiered last August and the two are now working on the second season.
While “Love At First Night” and “No Shade” offer the occasional laughing fit, the Torringtons also touch on more sensitive subjects on the network.
The Slay documentary series “Other Boys” ― created by video producer Abdool Corlette ― explores what it means to be black and queer in New York City. The 50-part series, which premiered in February, discusses family, careers and socioeconomics through the lenses of queer and transgender black men, a perspective they made a conscious decision to include.
“We need to be more intentional about when we talk about LGBTQ,” Terry said. “I think a lot of times, we’re not including the L, G, B, T and Q. ... We felt we needed to be able to bridge the gap between all those acronyms.”
But whether they’re serving up laughs or painfully relatable narratives, Sean said Slay’s overall mission is to “normalize black queer and trans people of color in media.”
“I don’t feel like we are represented in the right way,” he continued. “A lot of times, [media] reappropriates a lot of things that we do. I just want to let people know where all the cool and dope things come from.”
He mentioned the popularity of terms like “slay” and “shade.” While the words are enthusiastically used in mainstream culture, their origins in the black LGBTQ community aren’t often discussed or widely known.
This lesser-known history is part of the reason they decided to name the network SlayTV. The other influence for the title comes from the sheer excellence of black gay men.
“We have always been here and have always been killing it,” he said.
SlayTV is available to view now but will officially launch on May 15.