‘Transparent’ actress Alexandra Billings talks Long Beach Pride Parade, AIDS, Trump

Alexandra Billings, who plays Davina on the Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning hit Amazon show “Transparent,” will be the celebrity grand marshal for the Long Beach Pride Parade — the first time a transgender person has had the title.

Alexandra Billings says pride parades are a “magical tribal ritual” that celebrate the past, present, and future.

The transgender actress, who plays Davina on the Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning, Amazon show “Transparent,” will be the celebrity grand marshal for Sunday’s Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade — the first time a transgender person has had the title.

The Pride Parade will step off at 10:30 a.m. at Ocean Boulevard and Lindero Avenue, marching west to Alamitos Avenue.

“The pride parade was founded on a revolution. It really was our community’s way of saying, You’re not gonna treat us this way anymore. We won’t be silent,” Billings says.

“There’s also a celebration in the fact of our ancestors, and our progress, and hope for the future,” she says. “To sort of sit in the center of this magical tribal ritual is astonishing to me. I can’t believe it. I really can’t. I’m thrilled to death.”

Guide to Long Beach Pride 2018: Everything you need to know

Billings, 56, is an assistant professor of theater performance at USC and a Long Beach resident via Chicago.

Billings was inducted into the Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in Chicago in 2007 and was the grand marshal for the Chicago Pride Parade in 2009.

Billings has been living with HIV since 1995, and has been an advocate for HIV health initiatives, as well as transgender issues and rights.

Billings and her wife, Chrisanne Blankenship-Billings, were married in a commitment ceremony in Chicago on Dec. 4, 1995. They were legally married in 2009.

In an interview with Q Voice News, Billings, talks about a time when the White House and reporters laughed at the AIDS crisis, how President Trump’s Tweeting helps the country, and working as a transgender actress in Hollywood.

Here are some excerpts.

Pride parades are revolutionary

“Here’s something we have to remember. You cannot have revolution unless you have assimilation,” Billings says. “We have been able to bring AT&T and Sprint to the table, and that is a win for us. That doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with sameness. That has to do with the fact that we are is no longer outlaws. We are part of society. We assimilate into what we would call now the normalcy of everyday life.

“It’s a revolutionary act merely by having me, a mixed race (Native American and African American), transgender person married to a female who has been living with AIDs for over three decades as grand marshal. That’s a revolutionary act,” Billings says. “That in and of itself should be worth celebrating. If you’re not looking at the parade, and you don’t see revolution, you’re not looking at the parade.”

The Reagan Presidency

“We live in very dangerous and precarious times right,” Billings says. “At 56 years old, though, I remember when all of my friends were dying, and I buried most every friend I made in my 20s from the AIDs plague.

“I remember we had a president (Ronald Reagan) who wouldn’t even say the word AIDS on television. He had a press secretary, Larry Speakes, that Sarah Huckabee could take a few unkind lessons from.

White House, press pool laughs at AIDs crisis

“He had a press briefing that you can find on YouTube. This is actually in the first stages of when the HIV virus infiltrated our community. The press is asking the most homophobic questions, and this guy is making fag jokes, and they’re laughing.

“When people talk about Donald Trump, and they talk about Sarah Huckabee, I remember these people, and I remember we were actually dying. We need to have some perspective,” Billings says.

Vice-President Mike Pence

“You compare that with Mike Pence’s prayer meetings, and quite frankly I couldn’t care less what he’s doing in the privacy of his office, or his church, or his bathroom, or wherever the hell he wants to pray. He can pray to whatever god he wants to. He’s not going to stop our progress.”

President Trump

“The best thing that Donald Trump has done for our country, as LGBTQ citizens, is put us in a place of true tribal revolution,” Billings says. “We understand, and it’s because we know how to survive, we understand that this man’s dangerous rhetoric needs to be stopped, and we are coming together like I haven’t seen us come together in decades.

Trump Tweets

“So unbenounced to Donald Trump and his lunacy, and idiocy, and bumbling lack of knowledge in any kind of political arena, is that he’s doing us a great service,” Billings says. “I have a friend that keeps saying he really wants Donald Trump to just keep Tweeting, because every time he does, he says something that exposes who he actually is. He’s helping the cause more than he’s hurting it. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have to be diligent, because we do. But these times are not any worse or less than the times that I’ve lived through. We’ve been through it before, and we’ll be through it again.”

Transgender actress in Hollywood

“Certainly there’s change. I wouldn’t have the kind of Hollywood career I have now without doors being opened,” Billings says. “The show that I filmed last year that’s coming out in June, ‘Goliath,’ with Billy Bob Thornton on Amazon is a perfect example. It was a nice, big meaty role of a judge that had absolutely nothing to do with my past. It was just a role on a TV show. That in itself is a real gift, and that speaks to Hollywood and their ability to change.”

A long way to equality in Hollywood

“We have a lot more allies in Hollywood than we used to. We still have miles and miles and miles to go,” Billings says. “You have to remember, we’re still talking about she was the first person on television. He was the first person to do a standup act. It won’t be until the people who have opened those doors as firsts are long, long, long ago stories that we will actually have equality.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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