“Vanderpump Rules,” one of Bravo’s deliciously dishy reality shows, follows the life and times of the beautiful and at-times bonkers staff at Lisa Vanderpump’s Los Angeles restaurant SUR. You can call it many things, but a pinnacle of positive messaging isn’t necessarily one of them.
And yet, its most recent season is playing a role in moving the needle forward when it comes to representation of LGBTQ people on television. Billie Lee is a transgender activist, SUR’s newest host, the latest cast member to join “Vanderpump Rules” and, if our conversation is any indication, one of the most grounded ― both literally and figuratively ― people in this wild bunch.
We chatted with Lee about dating (a major topic of conversation on the show’s most recent episode), how she deals with bullying and harassment, and why it’s so important to her that she is on this show.
What made you want to be on the show?
I have been working in restaurants my whole life. I didn’t go into this job thinking I was going to be on the show. I just went in hoping to have a paid job. As trans people, we don’t get the same opportunities. The unemployment is three times higher than the general population. I didn’t think of the big picture. Now that all of this is happening, I am so grateful. All this hard work of being who I am and telling my truth in my everyday life makes a difference, and people are inspired by that and people can relate.
We all have things we are afraid to admit and think society might shun us for it, whether it’s sexually or a disorder or anything. I think people are inspired that I am opening up about my difficulties, even with things like dating. It’s embarrassing to talk about being rejected by men, but I talk about it because it’s a real thing and it happens. I don’t want my younger sisters and brothers to have to deal with that and being rejected as much as I did.
But now that you are on it, what do you hope to accomplish?
I just want my trans brothers and sisters to live a better and more accepting life. As a child I wasn’t accepted, and even when I first transitioned, society did not accept me, I felt like I was beat up nonstop, I didn’t have opportunities, I had to do really awful things to survive and I just don’t want that for anyone. If I can speak my truth and be vulnerable on television in front of everyone, even when it’s difficult, that’s what I need to do so the younger generation can be more accepted and have a safer environment.
How has it changed your life so far?
I was recently in New York City, and I stopped by The Stonewall Inn. I wanted to pay my respect and do a little prayer. So many people came out and were screaming my name and telling me how much they love me ― it was a beautiful experience. I love my community so much and to see them love me and have that reflection was a beautiful moment. At the same time, it’s overwhelming. I don’t want to put any extra pressure on myself because I am not the token trans person. My experience is mine, it’s not everyone’s.
You’ve talked about being bullied and harassed in your experience. Does it still happen now? How do you handle it?
It’s completely different now. Being bullied makes you feel alone. When I was being called a sissy and a faggot and being bullied, I couldn’t go home and tell my family because I was afraid, afraid they would be embarrassed and ashamed. We keep it in. That’s why the LGBTQ suicide rate is so high. We are afraid to tell anyone because we’re made to feel like we’re wrong. Now, I love myself. I’m a secure, grown woman. When I experience bullying I put them in their place immediately. Even at SUR, I’ve had moments not necessarily being bullied but with people who might not understand certain things about the LGBTQ community. Sometimes I can be called a diva but I’ve been bullied half my life. I won’t stand for it now.
Read the full article here: Huffington Post