It was recently announced that The Gossip Game, VH1’s reality-based series following the lives of seven women working in the New York hip-hop media, was not renewed for a second season. Back in May, viewers got an intimate look at the relationship between cast member Vivian Billings, founder of HipHopGossipSite.com, and her transgender son Kayden. In an interview with the mother-son duo, ELIXHER takes a look back at that powerful moment and how the two plan to continue talking about family acceptance now that the show is over.
ELIXHER: Vivian, how did you take the news about show not being renewed?
VIVIAN: I took the news pretty well and was not shocked in the least that we were not coming back. I mean, with all the time changes we had with our show, we didn’t have a chance.
ELIXHER: Earlier this year, we saw things get heated between you and radio host Steph Lova when Steph Lova made some misguided comments about your son’s sexuality. Why did her comments set you off that way?
VIVIAN: I think Steph Lova’s comments set me off because at the time I was dealing with something very sensitive to me. These days people have said worse things to me about my child and it doesn’t bother me in the least because if my life bothers someone who has nothing to do with my life, then they have to really start re-evaluating theirs.
ELIXHER: Kayden, during the conversation with your mother, you had to clear up some misconceptions about transgender people. A lot of people think being trans is a choice or confuse sexual orientation with gender identity. How has the show served as a platform to debunk myths about being trans (misconceptions your mother and/or society at large might have)?
KAYDEN: It’s not a choice. No one wants to pick a confusing life or live their life as a struggle. Being transgender is different from being gay/lesbian because being trans is identifying as a certain sex. Being gay/lesbian is who you’re attracted to. There are such things as someone being a MTF (male to female) transgender [person] who is a lesbian. I think [some of] what I said probably came out wrong to a few people. People probably think that you can “turn” trans if you have a unbalanced family and that’s not what I was saying. However, [my upbringing] has made me more dominant.
ELIXHER: How did talking openly about Kayden’s transition challenge or strengthen your relationship?
VIVIAN: Talking about Kayden’s transition has definitely strengthened our relationship. We are closer now because back then I didn’t know how to deal. The key is to support your child no matter what.
KAYDEN: I just want to thank Steph for saying what she said because my mom and I most likely wouldn’t have ever had that conversation. It was well needed. I needed it, but my mom needed it as well to understand me. We’ve been like best friends ever since. More importantly though, I think that’s something the world needed to see that [transgender people] do exist and that it’s not a phase.
ELIXHER: Transgender youth, especially transgender youth of color, are disproportionally at risk of being homeless (along with unemployed and suicidal) due to factors like parental rejection. Now that the show is over, how do you plan to continue talking about transgender issues and the importance of acceptance?
KAYDEN: Social [media] is one way go about it. Going to schools, colleges and universities to speak about transgender awareness is another way to help people be open-minded.
VIVIAN: I volunteer and go around to different schools and have talked to the LGBTQ community in schools. Having someone to talk to and confide in is [crucial] to all kids regardless of their sexuality. I just hope that somewhere along the way, I have helped someone or have made them think in a different, more positive manner.