Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Religious Right Ten Commandments

1-Thou shalt exalt wealth and power before me.

2-Thou shalt make unto thee graven political images to bash Democrats with

3-Thou shalt not take the name of George W. Bush in vain

4-Remember the holy Sabbath day is great for pitching GOP policies and talking points

5-Honor the Republican Party and the conservative movement above thy mother and father

6-Thou shalt not kill unless it is a death row prisoner

7-Thou shalt not commit adultery unless you are a GOP legislator or a conservative defender of 'family values'

8-Thou shalt not steal unless it is an election or you’re working for a company that supports GOP candidates

9-Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor unless you work for Fox News or are a right wing talk show host

10-Thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbor’s unless it is their oil reserves or other valuable natural resources

The Black Church Summit

One of the things that really pisses me off is the Jurassic attitudes of my people when it comes to gender issues. It's mind boggling to me that a child who is a frequent visitor of the court system or is on drugs gets much unconditional love in the family and the Black church. Let that same child be gay or transgender and that unconditional love and understanding becomes non-existent.

I was heartened to see the Black Church Summit that was recently held in Atlanta January 20-21. Its stated goal is working to reverse the hateful rhetoric coming from African-American church pulpits. More than 200 ministers took part in this NBJC (National Black Justice Coalition) sponsored event at First Iconium Baptist Church with the keynote speeches given by Rev. Al Sharpton and Bishop Yvette Flunder. Several Black conservative pastors were invited such as Rev. Bernice King and Bishop Eddie Long among others but they refused to attend. (Guess they didn't want to jeopardize their faith-based hush money.)

This conversation took place because conservative Republicans are using the gay marriage issue to manipulate Black ministers and create a wedge issue designed to gain minority votes. The GOP increased its share from 8% to 12 percent in the 2004 election despite pursuing policies that have clearly NOT benefitted Black Americans.

"These anti-marriage proponents are pandering to the Black church for their own agenda. It is imperative that religious leaders realize and recognize the
contributions of the LGBT community and the impact marriage discrimination will have on African-American children and families," said Sylvia Rhue, religious affairs and constituency development director for NBJC, said in an interview.

"We have sat back and allowed the right wing to shape the political agenda," said the Rev. Al Sharpton. "Now it is important that the Black church break the backs of those who are trying to use homosexuality as a political weapon."

Sharpton also criticized some Black churches for their role in the 2004 election, explaining that right wing outsiders "came in and invaded the Black church with homophobia." He argued that religious right was not really concerned about same-sex marriage but more concerned about having the "same president" in office.

"They couldn't come to Black churches to talk about the war, about health care, about poverty. So they did what they always do and reached for the bigotry against gay and lesbian people."

Calling the 2004 election tactics an "insult to our intelligence," Sharpton said the religious right "should not be allowed to play this game" in the future. "If we had not been fooled, maybe some of the states that went red would not have gone red."

"It's time for our church to have a nonpunitive discourse on human sexuality," Bishop Flunder said in her remarks. "It's time for Black folk to get together and have a conversation so we can eliminate the opportunity for others to defile and separate us."

Amen. Now let's see if they will follow through on that.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

How to Talk to a Conservative...If You Must

1- Don't use words with more than three syllables.

2-Remember that they are used to getting their talking points from Rush Limbaugh or other conservative media, so don't assume they can think for themselves

3-Remember they think that George W. Bush ACTUALLY won two elections, so bear in mind that conservatives are slightly delusional

4-If they start ranting, offer them Oxycontinin. If it's Ann Coulter, offer her estrogen.

5-Remember that conservatives are insecure because they've been handed everything on a silver platter from Mumsy and Dadsy, so they have no clue how Real Americans live

6-If you talk about religion with them remember that they worship a God that hates anyone that's not a heterosexual white male who votes GOP and condones cheating, greed, lying, gaybaiting, racism, xenophobia and sexism

7-If you're talking to a wife of a conservative, make sure that you steer clear of any water puddles or aren't standing next to her during a thunderstorm

8-Remember that conservatives don't have a grasp of reading fundamentals or proper sentence construction since many of them are low C or D students who got George W. Bush

9-Be on the look out for them to pull out 9-11 as a crutch to buttress their weak ass arguments every time they are intellectually overmatched or confronted with overwhelming evidence they are wrong.

10-Remember that a conservative will NEVER tell the truth, so don't expect them to be honest about anything or acknowledge that they are wrong.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

20 Things NOT To Say to an African-American Transwoman

TransGriot Note: These are some of the various comments over the years from various sources that I've had the displeasure of hearing. It was past time to post some responses to them.

1. How much?

Asking that question will get you either slapped, read like a cheap novel or beat down if the transwoman you insult with that query is one of the many who DON'T make their living this way.

2. Do you play basketball?

Any African-American transwoman 5' 8" or taller will hear this question ad nauseum thanks to the WNBA. Then again, if peeps are asking that question that's a sure sign you're passing.

3. The N-word

That will straight up get you severely cussed out or your butt kicked.

4. What's up 'Miss Monica'?

I absolutely HATE getting called that. First of all it's a term mothers used
condescendingly for unruly teenagers or precocious little girls. In the Black gay community Miss Anything is not a complimentary term.

When you address me as such in public the term is unmistakably a gay thang. It not only calls my femininity into question when I'm addressed that way, by doing so you may have just outed me and exposed me to more ignorance or worse.

You can call me Monica or Ms. Roberts, NOT Miss Monica.

5. The word `shemale'

Do not EVER in life call me a shemale. That is second only to calling me the N-word. It is a derogatory term created by one of the transgender community's biggest enemies, radical feminist Janice Raymond. It was later appropriated by the adult film industry.

For reasons that escape me some transwomen use that term to describe themselves. I'm not one of them.

6. You LOOK like a real woman.

You swallow estrogen for a few years, do electrolysis or laser, have some facial reconstruction, some SRS and see how feminine you look. Definitely won't be like Billy Blanks or Ah-nold.

7. You'll never be a REAL woman because you can't have children.

I have several genetic women friends who possess a uterus but can't have children. Does that make them men? I think not. When menopause kicks in for you will it be okay for me to call you a man since you will no longer have the ability to bear children?

8. Do you do shows?

I love watching them, but just because some female illusionists are my friends and share my ethnic background, don't assume that I'm also an illusionist.

9. Do you know (insert name of favorite female illusionist here)?

I repeat, just because some female illusionists are my friends and share my ethnic background, don't automatically assume that I know every one of them in Louisville or elsewhere in the country.

10. Who do you sleep with?

That's my personal business what gender I prefer to have in my bedroom. Just be thankful it ain't your partner.

11. I think of you as a real woman.

Hello? I didn't spend several years in therapy, endure 400 plus hours of electrolysis, change my name and identity documents to be called a dude. Could it be that you think of me as a woman because I look, speak, think and act like one?

12. I can't stand transsexuals because they don't take womanhood seriously.

Please. I've run into sistahs that have let their appearance go to hell, rarely wear makeup if at all, put their hair in braids like Allen Iverson, wear baggy shorts down to their behinds, wear saggin' pants and cuss like gangsta rappers. So when are they gonna start taking womanhood seriously?

13. What you're doing is against God's will because He don't make

You're right. God doesn't make mistakes. Biology does. That's why God gave surgeons the skills and talents to repair cleft palates, do open heart surgeries, fix noses and change a penis into a vagina. They have a little work to do on the other end of the spectrum.

14. All you Black trannies wanna do is party and be escorts.

All White trannies wanna do is desperately hold on to White Male Privilege and pretend we African-American ones don't exist.

15. I like you, but I can't risk being seen with you.

If you like me enough to wanna get in bed with me, then you like me enough to take me on a real date to dinner, concerts, museums and the ballgame. Some of those activities require leaving the house during daylight hours. If you have issues about being considered as less than a man for dating a transwoman, then don't step to me or any other transwoman.

16. How big is it?

Some pre-op/non-op transwomen are extremely sensitive about that topic. You wouldn't want her asking you five seconds after she met you how big yours is, so don't go there with her. You may be embarrassed by the answer you get to that question.

17. You're the first transwoman I've met.

We're 3% of the population, so you've probably met one of my sistahs. You just didn't know it or for various reasons she didn't tell you.

18. You're a transwoman because you're ashamed of being a Black man.

If I WERE a Black man I'd be just as proud of being Black as I am now. The problem is that I'm a Black WOMAN who was born in a Black male body and I dealt with it. Some of you just didn't like the solution I came up with.

19. You're a transwoman because you're gay and don't want to face society as a gay man.

What part of gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same are you failing to realize?

20. All you transsexuals are just men in drag.

Stop drinking that two-liter sized bottle of Hateraid and chill. Don't be mad because some of my sistahs look better in a dress and heels than some of you do.

Shirley Q. Liquor-Minstrel Show For the New Millenium

From a TransGriot Column I wrote in May 2005
Copyright 2005, THE LETTER

Let me create a little scenario for you. What if an African-American GLBT person covered himself in white makeup, a la the Wayans Brothers recent White Chicks movie? Let’s say that this person toured GLBT nightclubs across the country as a character called Buford T. Moonshine and used every negative stereotype of Kentuckians or Caucasian people. Finally that person created a promotional website that posted those insulting stereotypes online and sold merchandise emblazoned with those images. How would you feel about that?

Well, you just got a chance to walk in the African-American GLBT/SGL community’s pumps. Many of us are angry with Charles Knipp, the white gay man who portrays Shirley Q. Liquor, a ‘black woman who’s a welfare recipient with 19 chirren’. I’m about to explain why.

Knipp’s show has been criticized and protested by a wide array of groups within the gay community since 2002, including NGLTF, The Audre Lord Project and the New York Black Gay Network. The latter two groups spearheaded a recent protest that canceled a Martin Luther King Day performance scheduled for a New York City nightclub.
In 2002 The National Association of Black and White Men Together said, "We find the Shirley Q. Liquor performance objectionable on three fronts. First, this performance resurrects distorted racist caricatures common to the blackface performances that became popular in 19th-century American vaudeville. Second, the Shirley Q. Liquor character is constructed on a negative and degrading image of women. Third, the character is based on the classist stereotype that people who need public assistance are fundamentally lazy. On all three counts, this act offends current sensibilities of what is appropriate."

It’s interesting (but not surprising) to note HRC’s silence on this issue. NGLTF contacted and asked them to remove the Shirley Q Liquor merchandise from their website, but it’s still there. They did get rid of the offensive caption that stated ‘Welcome to my boutique of ignunce. Please do not shoplift while you is up in here!"

RuPaul has resolutely defended him since 2002. At a recent Southern Decadence he stated, "Critics who think that Shirley Q. Liquor is offensive are idiots. Listen, I’ve been discriminated against by everybody in the world: gay people, black people, whatever. I know discrimination, I know racism, I know it very intimately. She’s not racist, and if she were, she wouldn’t be on my new CD." RuPaul’s been complaining about the lack of GLBT support for it, but I don’t think he’s considered the fact that it may be the controversial company he’s keeping these days.

This goes much deeper than simply protesting a drag show. Blackface has been used to demean, lampoon, and ridicule the images of African-Americans since the 1830’s in order to reinforce white supremacy. A cottage industry of ‘darkie’ products from household goods, jokes and theatrical pieces such as ‘Birth of A Nation’ arose to support that image. Those images still carry a lot of pain for African-American people.

Shirley Q Liquor makes it harder for the GLBT civil rights movement to gain traction in the Black community. Some African-Americans are already upset about the comparisons to the 1960’s Civil Rights movement and some of that backlash fed into the gay marriage debate. Their impression is that the ‘rich white males of the GLBT movement’ have no understanding, sensitivity or concern for the historical and current obstacles faced by African-Americans.

I know that’s not true, but it’s difficult to argue to the contrary when Shirley Q Liquor’s on stage and Knipp’s GLBT southern white male fan base is hysterically laughing at his antics.

Join the GOP? No Thank You

TransGriot Note: I wrote this as a rebuttal to an African-American Republican

As a life long African-American Democrat I was amused by Felicia Benamon’s GOP talking point filled essay that completely misses the mark on why 90% of African-Americans are committed members of the Democratic Party.

I have to wonder what alternate universe Ms. Benamon lives in when she states that the GOP is a party of inclusion. Yes, it surely is. It includes rich white men, poor white men, gay white men, bigoted white men, conservative white men, fundamentalist Christian white men...Well, you get the picture. The only Black people I see flocking to the GOP are ministers who are rushing to get their faith based hush money so they can build bigger church sanctuaries, opportunistic party-switching sellouts like J. Kenneth Blackwell and radical out of touch people like Clarence Thomas and Janice Rogers Brown.

I’m reminded of the quote of a longtime Democratic county chair from Oklahoma, the late Julius Caesar Watts, Sr. (the father of former GOP Rep JC Watts)

"Black people voting for Republicans is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders."

The GOP hasn't done jack to earn my vote and won't even compete for it. They spend more time and money trying to suppress my vote instead of making the fundamental policy changes that it will take to get me to support its candidates.

Far from ignoring our community, the Democratic Party embraces it. African-Americans are involved in every level of the party from the grassroots to the DNC. In addition an African-American named Ronald H. Brown ran my party from 1989-1993 before he became commerce secretary under President Clinton. By the way, under Ron Brown’s leadership the Democratic Party captured the White House and majorities in the House and Senate. So when is an African-American gonna run your party?

I’m tired of bait-and-switch GOP election tactics in which they say one thing and do the radically opposite once they are elected. They write Orwellian legislation that does the exact opposite of what its lofty titles promise. The Patriot Act curtails civil liberties. Leave No Child Behind attacks public education and underfunds it. The Help America Vote Act adds more ways to disenfranchise Americans from their precious right to vote. They coddle corporate America at the expense of working class America.

If Republicans (and conservatives by extension) value working people and wants to help you achieve your dreams, then why has the GOP consistently voted against and killed raises in the minimum wage? Why have they made it HARDER for people to sue when a corporation’s shoddy products or discriminatory practices ruin lives in the name of 'tort reform'? Why have they cut taxes for the wealthy, which increases the tax burden on the working class? Why have they made it harder for people to form and join unions? Seems that the only values the GOP appreciates is rising stock prices that put money in their pockets at the expense of working class people.

Felicia, since you went there on Affirmative Action, let me state that it is unrealistic to assume that 40 years of this policy (which by the way started under the Nixon administration) magically wiped out the debilitating effects of 246 years of slavery and another 100 years of Jim Crow segregation. While merit is a wonderful concept and a goal we should all strive for, the reality is that white people control the HR departments of many corporations and some of them disproportionately hire people that look like them without considering whether that person is qualified or not. They also had a 400 year head start in terms of accumulating the wealth that they enjoy today at the expense of the suffering of our ancestors.

Felicia, the thing that binds us is our shared values as Americans. They are not the private property of the GOP. Democrats love our flag, revere our Constitution and our country just as much as you conservatives. Then again you conservatives respect for the Constitution is debatable. It's more like contempt for it.

I have a problem with the GOP definition of values. Disenfranchising gay people because you don’t like them is not an American value. Selfishness is not an American value. Suppressing dissent is not an American value. As African-Americans who have fought our own long and bitter struggle just to get OUR constitutional rights respected, we shouldn’t be standing shoulder to shoulder with the same bigots that opposed us in the 60’s (and still do) when we were the ones marching in the streets

So GW Bush increased his share of the African-American vote from 8% to 12%. You can be very proud of the fact that you bamboozled, frightened, supressed votes and used hatred of gay people to get that 4% increase. Congratulations.

The only thing that has been dragging our country into a pit as you put it is the mean spirited way that conservatives have imposed their views on the country. You don’t want dialogue; you want a monologue a la FOX News.

As far as you hating the term African-American, I love it. It reminds others and myself that I am an American of African descent and I'm proud of my African roots. You can’t put that in small letters to marginalize me as you do if I call myself Black. If Polish-Americans, Irish-Americans, Latinos and Asians can celebrate their cultural heritage, then why can’t we? Or are you black GOP conservatives ashamed of your African ancestry?

I am reminded of a 1978 comment from Adlai Stevenson Jr. concerning the GOP:

‘I have been tempted to make a proposal to our Republican friends that if they stop telling lies about us, we would stop telling the truth about them.’

To quote the word of your late hero Ronald Reagan, "there you go again" in terms of pushing the fiction that the Bush administration is the most diverse in history.

The most diverse administration in US history was the previous one run by William Jefferson Clinton. Brother Bill appointed more African-Americans to his cabinet than Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Daddy Bush, and GW combined. The previous record holder was another Democratic president, James Earl Carter. By the way Felicia, a president APPOINTS people to his cabinet and his administration, not elects them.

So, you mean to tell me that Alexis Herman, Rodney Slater, Hazel O’Leary, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Dr. David Satcher, Togo West, Eric Holder and Jesse Brown didn’t work hard to get their positions? Or is hard work only the province of negro conservatives?

So where are these emerging black conservatives? Oh yeah, they’re standing in line at GOP headquarters receiving their cash handouts to run for public office (Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele) or getting paid $250K to shill on national TV for Bush administration policies like Armstrong Williams.

Just as you made the decision to support the GOP, I’m a thoughtful person who’s analyzed both sides and made the conscious decision to support the Democratic Party. It just so happens that 90% of African-Americans reached the same conclusion about which party to support.

I am a Democrat because I had quality people like Barbara Jordan and Mickey Leland representing me in Congress when I was growing up in Houston. It was Democrats at the local, county, state and federal levels who looked out for the issues I deeply care about such as the environment, civil rights, education and creating a fair society. It was my Democratic state legislator Ron Wilson who fought for my right to vote in the 1984 presidential election when a white GOP poll watcher tried to deny it to me in my home precinct and Dems who consistently fought for it.

All I ever see from conservatives is consistent opposition to those policies that I know help build a prosperous African-American middle class. I see from many conservative blacks who are GOP members selfish materialism, mind-numbing rhetoric devoid of logic, arrogance, denial of their heritage, and support of racist policies that seek to eliminate or roll back everything that our people have worked hard to implement.

Join the GOP? No thank you

January 2006 TransGriot Column

Monica Is Baaack!
Copyright 2006, THE LETTER

Happy New Year dear readers! I wish you much success and happiness.
I’m celebrating my second year writing TransGriot and for those of you I’ve bumped into as I’ve been out and about in the community, thank you for letting me know how much you enjoy reading my column. I love writing TransGriot and its nice to know my efforts are appreciated.

Basically I’ve been on hiatus from THE LETTER taking care of personal issues and recharging the creative batteries. I was part of a team that helped put together a successful African-American transgender convention that took place at the Galt House in September. I coordinated the programming for the event and taught three seminars.

One of them was on African-American transgender representations in the media. Another one I taught was on the cultural differences between the white and African-American trans communities and how they impact us working together. The final seminar I taught was on African-American transgender history. It was a great honor to meet African-American Stonewall veteran Miss Major, who gave us a firsthand account on what happened at Stonewall that night. We were thrilled to have Mandy Carter as a keynote speaker for TSTBC 2005. It was a lot of fun seeing old friends and meeting other African-American transpeople from various parts of the country. Those of us who attended TSTBC share a vision of erasing the negative perceptions of African-American transpeople. We’re determined to make it happen in our lifetimes.

In November I took part in the Transgender Day of Remembrance observance at the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. It was the fourth year I’ve been involved in the TDOR in some capacity either as a featured speaker, teaching a seminar, or taking part in the candle lighting ceremony. I enjoy the time I get to spend with Mary Sue Barnett, The Women’s Center and the students, faculty and other great people associated with the LPTS that put it together. I have been asked by the National Black Justice Coalition to write occasional articles for their newsletter on transgender issues, which I accepted. I needed to make sure their publication deadline didn’t conflict with my new TransGriot deadline.

Finally, I needed some time to work on my novels. I enjoy writing fiction as some of you who read my August column discovered. I’m tweaking them and working on some short stories for various writing contests I plan to enter in 2006. I’m debating whether I have the time in my busy schedule to start a blog.

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about New Year’s is the symbolism. It’s a time to reflect on what happened to us either positively or negatively in the preceding twelve months and not just resolve to do things better, but follow through and commit yourself to making those things happen.

When I started the Transsistahs-Transbrothas list on January 1, 2004 I started posting my personal resolutions for the upcoming year on the list. That way I have a record of how well I did in living up to them.

This is what I posted to TSTB on January 1, 2005:

I resolve to continue my efforts to meet, cultivate friendships with and network with other T-sistahs, do my part to ensure that we have a successful September convention, mentor our young T-sistahs that ask for help and advice, seek them out when I need it, and become a published author by the end of 2005.

Well, I’ve fulfilled every one of those save one, getting one of my novels in print. I'm STILL working on that ;)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Phenomenal Transwoman

TransGriot Note:In addition to my op-ed writing and novels that I'm working on, I like to write short stories and poetry. Here's a rewrite of a Maya Angelou poem called 'Phenomenal Woman'. I've always liked it and came up with transgender themed verses for it.

An MKR Poem

I am what I am,
I am what you see,
But I traveled another road to femininity
Forged by trials in a male body
My female spirit yearning to break free
Some sistahs say that this can’t be
Because I can’t create life inside of me
There’s more to being a woman you see
Than just having a baby
I’ve become a woman
Phenomenal Transwoman
That’s me

Keep on playa hating me while you can
Or my existence you plot to ban
I still left the club with your man
And he didn’t care if my birth name was Dan
He saw the curve of my hips,
And the smile on my lips
And my personality makes his heart turn flips
I’m what he wants, ain’t that a trip?
I’ve become a woman
Phenomenal Transwoman
That’s me

Sistah, I don’t wanna fight with you
Black womanhood to me is precious, boo
I spent night after sleepless night
Praying to God to make things right
Hoping that He would answer my prayer
To shed this cursed male body layer
Went to sleep believing that the next day
My body would be shaped in a feminine way
I’ve become a woman
Phenomenal Transwoman
That’s me

Christine and Justina, they blazed the trail
That led to attainment of our Holy Grail
Hormones, electrolysis and SRS
Allow us to look our very best
Molded the outer body shell to be
Like the inside and now my spirit’s free
This ain’t no ‘Imitation of Life’
It’s freed me from anguish, turmoil and strife.
I’ve become a woman
Phenomenal Transwoman
That’s me

This is a precious gift I’ve been allowed to gain
Steeped in millions of years of sweat, tears and pain
We should be higher specimens of womanhood
Using our lives to promote the greater good
Black women are the vanguard of our race
Our spirituality molds our cultural base
It’s the challenge I strive to meet every day
Because I’m deliriously happy to say
I am a woman
Phenomenal Transwoman
That’s me.

Say It Loud: Black, Transgender and Proud

TransGriot Note: An article I wrote for a local publication, the African-American Journal. Got the runaround on it, so I submitted it to IFGE who just published it.

There are a lot of words you can use to describe me. Daughter,aunt, friend, woman, sister, native Texan, Houstonian, African-American, deejay, Christian, transplanted Louisvillian, transplanted Kentuckian, activist, writer, sports fan, columnist, Kentucky Colonel, American.

Another one that would be accurate to use in my case is transgender.

Since much of the media attention that transgender people have garnered since 1953 is heavily slanted toward white transgender people, many African-Americans aren't familiar with or have preconceived notions about us. So let me take a moment to drop some science on you. There are also female to male transgender people but I'm going to focus on the male to female aspect of it

Transgender people are persons whose gender identity, that deeply held internal sense of being male or female, doesn't correspond with the body they were born with. One thing I want to stress is that gender identity and sexual orientation are two entirely separate and distinct issues. Being transgender doesn't necessarily mean that you are also gay. Current medical research has determined that one in every 250 births is a transgender person or about 3% of the population. Of the 34,772,381 people in the United States that are or identify as African-American, that translates to about 1 million of them being transgendered. Ongoing worldwide medical research into why it happens has been leaning to a biological cause for it

To become the Phenomenal Transwoman you see today, I had to adhere to the Standards of Care protocol devised by the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, or HBIGDA. It's the medical association that devoted to research, understanding and treatment of gender identity disorders. I did counseling in the Houston area with a therapist trained in gender identity issues,endured several years of electrolysis to remove facial hair, changed identity documents and started hormone replacement by taking estrogen and several testosterone blockers. I was also required to live in the new gender role for a year before I would be allowed to have the gender reassignment surgery.

So as you can see, the journey to make my body match its gender role is not an easy one or a joke. I've been transitioned for 11 years and I still to this day deal with issues that crop up from time to time. Unfortunately a lot of the issues that affect me come from my own community. I love my people, our history and culture but we can sometimes be more narrow-minded, contrary and intolerant than many right wing fundamentalists. It's bad enough when African-American transpeople are disrespected by society at large. But it really hurts when the drama comes from people that share your cultural heritage. But as Zora Neale Hurston once wrote, `All my skinfolk ain't my kinfolk.'

So what is it like to be transgendered? The best way I can describe it is if you grew up female, imagine that you had all the same feelings, hopes, desires and dreams you always had growing up but you had your brother's (or some other male relative) body. Then try navigating puberty in that body knowing that something's different about you, but you can't quite put your finger on it. While you're trying to sort that dilemma out, you're being ostracized, picked on,and bullied. Then it finally gets revealed to you that you're on the wrong side of the gender fence and start making the moves to correct that situation.

I'm blessed that I came through the journey as a well-rounded spiritual person proud of who I am, what I have accomplished, what I'm going to accomplish and the person that I have evolved to become. I'm extremely happy and content with my life. I may be six-two without my heels, but that does not give you carte blanche to refer to me as `he'. I look at and think about life, love and the world around me through a feminine prism. Unfortunately thanks to anti-transgender violence many of my sisters don't get that chance and fall by the wayside.Others are emotionally wounded by the anti-transgender vitriol that comes from people in our community, their families and increasingly the pulpits of our churches

There are a lot of talented African-American transgender people like myself who are poised and ready to contribute our education and talents to uplift our race. Many of them reside in the Louisville metro area. The question I put forth to my fellow African-Americans is will you allow us the opportunity to do so?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I Won A Trinity!

A few days ago I received word that I became the third African-American transwoman to receive an IFGE Trinity Award.

I've had a few days to think about it now that the shock has worn off. I've always been a pretty outspoken individual. My friends can tell you that along with the peeps who post to the blogs, Yahoo lists and websites that I inhabit. They have seen me blast at various times the hypocrisy of Black ministers, negro Republicans, the Religious Right, the GOP, DINO Dems, the Human Rights Campaign, and the Euro-American transgender community for their racism and desperate desires to hang on to whatever remaining vestiges of White Male Privilege they have left. (Hey, I have a low tolerance level for bullshit)

Ever since I've transitioned 12 years ago I have done my part to simply live my life as an out and proud African-American transwoman. I don't wear my transgender status on my sleeve, but if you approach me in the spirit of loving curiosity about how I live my life, I'm happy to share that with you. I'll also tell you if you're treading too close to personal space.

But just a little background on the Trinity. Since 1991 the International Foundation For Gender Education has given out this award to transpeeps and their allies. Some of the biggest names in the transgender community have received this award at one time or another such as Phyllis Frye, my activist mentor down in Houston, Jamison Green, Monica Helms and Angela Brightfeather of TAVA, and Vanessa Edwards Foster just to name a few. There's another one for lifetime service to the transgender community that IFGE issues called the Virginia Prince.

The first African-American winner was Dawn Wilson in 2000, followed two years later by Dr. Marisa Richmond. I thought it would be a while before I got one, because of my opinionated big mouth and noting that other African-American transpeeps have yet to be honored such as Chanel Tresvant of Los Angeles, Lorrainne Sade Baskerville of Chicago and the late Alexander John Goodrum. They have yet to honor an African-American transman with a Trinity. (Hint hint. Maybe we can start with either AJ Goodrum or Zion Johnson, the first African-American president of FTM International)

Nevertheless, I'm damned happy to finally get one and will be at the IFGE Conference in Philadelphia in full diva mode this April to collect it.

Sure will look good on the mantel.

What's A Griot?

You may be wondering how I came up with the name TransGriot for my now two year old column and this blog. When I started the column back in January 2004 I wanted to come up with a name that reflects my ethnic heritage, the history that I'm trying to document and my love of writing. Then it hit me.

I come from a long line of historians in my family. I'm also a voracious reader. I recalled something that I'd read about the griots of Western Africa, the storytellers who pass on the oral history and traditions of their people. Some griots can recite up to 500 years of their people's history from memory. It is said that when a Griot dies, a library has burned to the ground. They are mainly present in the Western African countries of Mali, Gambia, Senegal, and Guinea. There are also Griots among the Mande, Tulkuloor, Wolof and Serer peoples and Mauritanian Arabs.

A Griot is not just a human library, storyteller and historian. They are all of these things and more. Griots are a visible and tangible human link to the past. They are someone who not only could be touched, but could touch you with stories and facts that enlighten you and others about who you were and are as a person.

That's what this blog's mission is. I am going to be your guide to a world that many people have not seen or heard about until now. I'm going to introduce you to your African-American transbrothers and transsisters. We've played a much larger role in the history of our people than you've been led to believe. I'll also comment on the general stuff that goes on around me from time to time, too.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and welcome to TransGriot!

I finally decided at the urging of a few friends to try my hand at the wonderful world of blogging.(They really didn't need to push me too hard, I'd been thinking about it for a few months anyway).

One of the things I've noticed is that while there are tons of blogs out there, I'm willing to bet that there probably aren't many on The Web that feature the musings of African-American transpeople. (If there is one, please bring it to my attention)

One reason I've started TransGriot the Blog is that when I write my monthly column for a local GLBT alternative newspaper, there are subjects that pop up in which I'd love to go in depth on, but I'm constricted by time or my word limit. This blog will allow me to do that and comment on breaking news and issues that crop up in real-time.

One thing I can promise you dear reader is that you won't be disappointed. There will be times I'll make you laugh. Other times I'll touch your heart. Then there will be the occasional time or two when I piss you off. But my goal is to make you think and expose you to some of the drama that African-American transpeeps (and transpeople in general) deal with.