Sunday, April 30, 2006

I Ain't No She-Male

By Monica Roberts and Dawn Wilson
Originally Published in THE LETTER

We read Noah (Tina) Williams' `She-Males Need Love, Too' article
that was published in the August 2002 issue of The Letter. While
there's no disagreement with the premise of the story, we do have one major problem with it: Noah's advocation of the use of the term `she-male'.

Noah asked in the article what was wrong with the she-male label and
why it was disliked by transsexuals. Well, be careful what you wish
for, because we're about to tell you why.

Grab yourself something to eat and a comfortable seat, because school is now in session.

First, sit down at your computer and prepare to surf the Net using
your friendly neighborhood web browser. Select your favorite search
engine and type in `transsexual'. Note how many responses you get
for `transsexual' and the type. You'll have some X-rated content,
but for the most part the responses you'll get will be fairly
positive. Now let's clear your favorite search engine and type
in `she-male'. You'll notice two things: You'll get more hits when
you type in `she-male' and two, the she-male hits will be
predominately X-rated sites.

That is the major reason why many transsexuals have a severe problem
with being called she- males. But it goes far deeper than that. The
term was coined by one of the transgendered community's bitter
enemies, Janice Raymond. This nattering nabob of negativity
concocted the term when she wrote her infamous 1979 book, The
Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She- Male. This mean-spirited
book is to many transgendered people the equivalent of Mein Kampf in
terms of its Ann Coulteresque rant against transsexuals. It is doubly
insulting because these words are now inextricably tied to the sex

Besides, there's already a term in use coined by transsexuals to
describe someone in Noah's situation. Can you say non-operative

Say it with us. Non-operative transsexual.
Good, we know you can do it.

The beauty of the words `non-operative transsexual' is that it not
only accurately explains who you perceive that you are, it also
avoids the use of a phrase that is used in the sex industry.
With the growth of Internet adult web sites, the word has only
exploded in infamy in the transgendered community's eyes.

As persons of color we take exception to that phrase to describe us
because of its negative connotation. Thanks to Jerry Springer and
others we already have it tough enough in terms of our images.
I don't like going into GLBT clubs and having people walk up to me
and asking "How much?". I'm blessed to be born as an attractive and
intelligent African-American transperson, and so is Dawn. I get tired
of people assuming I'm a sex worker just because they saw another
attractive African-American sista showing all of her private parts on

Dawn and I have spent years perfecting and polishing our images to be
the African-American women that we were meant to be. Our families and
the African-American community expect us to live up to that.
The last thing either one of us want to hear is someone advocating
the use of `she-male' as a acceptable descriptive term. I can't
speak for Dawn, but call me a she-male and be prepared for the
verbal tongue lashing that will swiftly follow. Yes, I loathe it
that much.

One thing that you'll learn as a minority is that image is
everything. We've learned that painful lesson over 400 years of
history. Carolyn Gerard stated in 1971,"To manipulate an image is to
control a peoplehood. Zero image has for a long time meant the
repression of our peoplehood."

What that means is that you have to control the message. Submitting
to using the `she-male' epithet to describe us means that we have
given up control of our images to people who don't like us and
ultimately want to destroy our community.

That's how serious this is. That's why our people have gone from being called `Colored' to `Negro' to `Black' to `African-American'.
African-American is more descriptive of who we are, Americans who
trace our ancestry to the African continent. The other words are
ones that we used at various time in our history here in the United
States that we agreed as a community to call ourselves. The n-word is
what we are called by others who hate us. While some people within
the African-American community still use that word, it isn't
acceptable to many of us.

In the transgender community a majority of us have agreed that `she-
male' is not something that we wish to use as a descriptive term.
For a person who chooses not to have surgery, non operative
transsexual accomplishes the same thing as African-American does for
our community.

But you're right on one point. We need to have much love for non-
operative transsexuals, and we'll start with you. If we ever get the
opportunity to meet you, we'll be the first ones to give you a big
hug. There's the bell. Class dismissed.

Friday, April 28, 2006

EKU Pride Alliance Offends African-American community - Perspective

Less than 24 hours after I posted the Shirley Q. Liquor article to the TransGriot blog, I received word from friends matriculating on the University of Louisville campus that Shirley Q. Liquor was poised to bring her noxious act to the Eastern Kentucky University campus in Richmond, KY.

A team of activists and other concerned parties immediately mobilized to stop the show and at the same time educate people on why we in the African-American community were so upset about it.

We got the word last night that the performance slated for April 29 was cancelled.

EKU Pride Alliance offends African-American community - Perspective

There have been new developments since we got the word of the cancellation of the Shirley Q. Liquor show at EKU. The Director for Multicutural Student Affairs Zenetta McDaniel Coleman wrote a response to my orginal letter that was published in the May 4 issue of EKU Eastern Progress. She's African-American and seems to have the opinion based on her letter that Shirley Q. is performance art.

Shirley Q. Liquor show strictly performance

As Director of Multicultural Student Affairs, I am compelled to write this letter in defense of Pride Alliance and the Shirley Q. Liquor controversy. This is especially important having just concluded a campus observation of First Amendment Week, which included information about freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

The letter that was published in last week's issue of The Progress by Monica Roberts, who is not even a member of Eastern's campus community, had some misinformation. Pride Alliance did take into consideration the reaction of the African-American community in late February when it was considering bringing Shirley Q. Liquor to campus.

On two separate occasions, this topic was discussed with leaders of black student organizations at a biweekly meeting we have called the Meeting of the Minds. There was some discomfort expressed by a few of the members, but the majority of the membership felt it was OK to have Pride Alliance bring her to campus. This topic also was discussed with various students who frequent my office with very little dissent.

It would have been impossible to have polled every single student. One student went as far as to commend Pride Alliance for even approaching the black leaders since many student organizations could care less what other non-members think about their programming and/or events.

What we all need to keep in mind is that this is an institution of higher learning. Your purpose as students is to gain knowledge, have new experiences and hopefully develop a greater level of objectivity. I just wish that those who protested would have taken the time to see the performance and then decide collectively how to respond.

This is about culture, and drag is strictly performance. What if a student organization wanted to invite the Wayans brothers to campus? In the movie "White Chicks," the brothers portrayed black men who dressed up as white women. Still, I did not read much about any type of disturbance at the movie theaters because most of us were inside enjoying the show.

As it turns out, Pride Alliance canceled the show, a gesture the group clearly did not have to do. I want to say thank you to the members of Pride Alliance for respecting the feelings of others on campus. Most don't know that by canceling the show they lost a HUGE amount of money as Shirley Q. Liquor was already under contract and had been paid.

Lastly, some students who might be unaware of university protocol are under the impression that I "approved" Shirley Q. Liquor's performance. It is not my place to approve or disapprove anything student organizations want to do. It is my role to advise those organizations to which I serve as faculty adviser and to support every student on this campus.

That is what I am here to do and that is what I will continue to do.

Zenetta McDaniel Coleman
Director of Multicultural
Student Affairs

My Response to Ms. Coleman

To Ms. Coleman, The EKU Pride Alliance and the EKU community,

I had to respond to Ms. Zenetta McDaniel Coleman’s May 4 letter in the Eastern Progress.

While I may not be matriculating on your lovely campus, I am a resident of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the taxes I pay help support this institution. I visited the EKU campus for a recent fencing tournament a month ago.

Thanks for enlightening me to the fact that the EKU Pride Alliance consulted with African-American student leaders. You are correct in stating that the Pride Committee did a commendable job in consulting with non-members about bringing Shirley Q. Liquor to the EKU campus. That leads me to wonder whether they knew on some level that Shirley Q. Liquor’s appearance on campus would cause a problem and wanted cover so that they could say if things blew up “Well, we talked to African-American leaders and they said that it was okay.”

The Pride Alliance had to know that Shirley Q. Liquor’s appearance at EKU would cause drama. Performances in New York, Boston and Washington DC had been picketed and canceled. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has criticized the show. National gay newspapers have written articles on the controversy since 2002. Keith Boykin’s blog has an archived article about it. I wrote a May 2005 column in THE LETTER that talked about this issue and that article is on my TransGriot blog.

If the Pride Alliance wanted to bring a drag act to campus, I’m sure that the folks at The Bar Complex in Lexington or The Connection in Louisville would have been able to recommend someone either locally or nationally whose performance would have been more respectful to our culture.

And now, here’s a synopsis of the Shirley Q. Liquor show:

Chuck Knipp’s act caricatures an impoverished Black woman and draws from a number of stereotypes about African Americans. Shirley Q. speaks Ebonically, spends her days waiting for government checks to arrive in the mail, and has 19 children (some named after venereal diseases). The fathers of these children are unknown to her.

Is this the show you wished that people on the EKU campus could see, Ms Coleman?

Maybe you didn’t hear Chuck’s rousing song ’12 Days of Kwanzaa’. It’s a favorite Christmas ditty of white supremacists and was broadcast on several Southern radio stations last year.

I’m glad you brought up the Wayans Brothers and their ‘White Chicks ‘ movie. The difference between the Wayans brothers and Chuck Knipp is that the Wayans Brothers aren’t intentionally disrespecting white people with their one-time performance. They aren’t selling merchandise based on those characters in a section of their website entitled ‘Gifts of Ignunce’ or doing a performance tour based on those characters called the ‘Tour of Ignunce’.

I noticed you didn’t dispute my point that blackface images still carry much pain and historical baggage for many African-Americans even in the early 21st Century. The history of these images is linked with white supremacy. ‘Darkie’ products, theatrical pieces such as ‘Birth of A Nation’ and jokes arose to support those images that were used from the 1830’s through the early 20th century to demean, ridicule and lampoon African-Americans.

Sounds eerily familiar to Shirley Q. Liquor’s act.

The timing was also horrendous. Kentucky is in an uproar over a gay student being expelled from the University of the Cumberlands. Money is being cut from several Kentucky college budgets (including EKU’s) to fund a pharmacy school on a discriminatory campus. In the middle of all this turmoil a white gay man appears to perform on a state funded college campus doing an act that lampoons African-Americans.

Can you say PR disaster?

In the Spike Lee movie ‘Bamboozled’, blackface and minstrel images were used to satirize the way Hollywood misuses Black images and he was harshly criticized for it. So if Spike Lee couldn’t get away with using these images, what makes Chuck Knipp think that he can? .

I sincerely thank the EKU Pride Alliance for respecting the feelings of my community and making that painful decision to cancel the Shirley Q. Liquor performance.

I do have one final question, though. Is it too late for the Pride Alliance to put a stop payment on the check they sent to Chuck Knipp?

Monica Roberts
Transsistahs-Transbrothas Founder
Louisville, KY

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Say It Ain't So, Patti!

For many Black GLBT people, Patti Labelle is The Diva. She's the face that has launched a thousand female illusionist careers with her larger than life stage presence and antics, unique wigs and designer costumes. She's the sistahgirl that everybody can relate to. She had a long friendship with Sylvester and other gay men. She's had her share of tragedy and bumps in the road too.

Through it all her loyal Black GLBT fan base has been there to scoop up her records, buy her books, watch her TV appearances such as 'A Different World' and lend a sympathetic ear to their favorite singer. Walk into any Black gay club in the country. I can guarantee that if they're doing a drag show, somebody will come out dressed as Patti, will perform with her music playing in the background or the entire club will be dancing to a remix of it.

So it was a shock to hear that Patti sang at a recent Easter Sunday service in the Georgia Dome sponsored by Atlanta's New Birth Baptist Church. It's the home church of gay-hating Bishop Eddie Long and his associate pastor Rev. Bernice King. (the baby daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King) Two years ago they led an odious anti-gay march in the ATL that started at the foot of Dr. King's grave to protest marriage equality.

In addition to hating on gays, Bishop Long belives that women were put on earth to procreate.

"Woman is the soul of man. She is his flesh consciousness. In
essence, God made Eve to help Adam replenish the earth. Woman has the
canal…everything else is an exit. God had to separate Adam and Eve
where they connected so he could tell them to reconnect in covenant
to duplicate Him. In Christ, God puts his seed in us. Any other way
is a spiritual abortion. Cloning, Homosexuality and Lesbianism are
spiritual abortions. Homosexuality is a manifestation of the fallen
man." ---Bishop Eddie Long

Patti's also alleged to have made comments during an NBC television interview that seem to suggest that she supports Bigot Long. I'm still looking for the transcript of that interview to verify that.

If it's true, Black gays would be justifiably outraged and within their rights to call for boycotts of everythang Patti. If she won't stand with and stand up for a community that has loyally supported her career from jump street, then we don't need to be giving her our hard earned dollars.

We can start sending the message with the new flick she's in called 'Preaching to the Choir.' It also has a slammin' movie soundtrack that I won't be adding to my massive CD collection. That's too bad. Patti's vocals were slammin' on the house-flavored 'I Believe' track.

But we're standing on principle here. Patti LaBelle is either a friend to our African-American GLBT community or not and we need to know where she stands. If she's choosing to stand with Bishop Evil, Mini-She and all his faith-based bigot friends, then I'll be bypassing her CD's for a while.

You know, I've put off buying the Alicia Keys 'Unplugged', Kem and John Legend ones for way too long anyway.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Where is the Transgender Martin Luther King?

TransGriot Note:
This question was asked last year on another transgender list I'm on and this was my response.

If a transgender Martin Luther King existed, would the Caucasian transgender community let go of their racism, their zeal to hold on to white male privilege at any cost and their destructive co-dependent relationship with HRC to follow him?

If a transgender Martin Luther King existed, would they follow him (or her) or would they stab him/her in the back and work to undermine their leadership as they have done with other African-American trans leaders of color?

If a transgender Martin Luther King existed, would they listen to his/her
speeches, read their words and turn them into coordinated action, or
would they criticize him as 'being too divisive', 'playing the race
card', or sabotage what he was trying to do and then brag that they were
glad they stopped 'that uppity n****r'?

If a transgender Martin Luther King existed, would they follow him or
ignore and disrespect him because they have a problem with his deeply
held Christian beliefs?

God may have already blessed us with a transgender Martin Luther King.
That person could be sitting in some preschool right now. They could be in a middle school or high school being mercilessly teased by other students or bullied. They could be matriculating in college. They could be on the Transsistahs-Transbrothas list. They could be anywhere and have an awareness of the transgender rights movement, but observed the things that have been done by the Caucasian transcommunity to various leaders of color over the years and opted not to participate.

If current activists of color can't get people to quit ignoring what they have to say, dissing their contributions to the overall transgender community or are unwilling to see past their various individual self-interests to work on behalf of a entire community, why should a transgender Martin Luther King expect better treatment? That's probably why you haven't seen him or her.

We shouldn't be expecting or looking for a messianic leader to lead us out of the wilderness toward the Promised Land of equality. There aren't that many people on this planet who possess Dr. King's combination of analytical intellect, scientific curiosity, superior oratory skills, writing skills, political pragmatism, telegenic looks, courage, strategic vision and sprituality in one package.

As Dr. King so eloquently stated, "Everybody can be great. Because
anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to
serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to
serve. You don't have to know about Plato or Aristotle to serve.
You don't have to know about Einstein's Theory of Relativity to serve.
You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics
to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."

There's a lot of work to do. Let's get busy.

Tommie Ross

There have been many women, trans and non trans who have inspired and motivated me at various times during my life long journey to become a Phenomenal Transwoman.

From time to time I'll talk about them and the qualities that they possess that I admired so much I've incorporatd them into my own unique expression of womanhood.

I'll start this series off with Tommie Ross.

I was first made aware of her existence courtesy of a 1980 article in the Houston Defender, one of the local African-American newspapers. The article mentioned that she performed at a club in Montrose but declined to give its name or location. I had a pretty good idea where it was and the club's name. Studio 13 on Westheimer Rd.

I rolled up to Studio 13 on a Sunday show night and watched Tommie perform for the first time. Houston during that early 80's time period before the initial wave of HIV/AIDS deaths decimated their ranks was a hotbed of female impersonation. We had Naomi Sims gearing up to win Miss Gay America at the time and Hot Chocolate was about to leave Houston for the bright lights of Las Vegas.

I marveled at Tommie's on stage elegant moves which extended to the way she carried herself off stage. She was cordial to her fans and always presented herself in a regal but not arrogant demeanor. I got the chance to talk to her at a short lived Black Houston GLBT club called Uptown-Downtown in 1990. I discovered that she's not only quite intelligent but plays a mean game of pool. She'd heard about me and seen me around the clubs. Tommie is a person that I always wanted to explore the possibilty of forming a friendship with but my increasing involvement with state and national level transgender politics and her pageant schedule kept that from happening to my chagrin.

She's living in the Memphis, TN area now and has gone on to capture the Miss Continental title in addition to countless others in her legendary career.

Thanks to that Defender article, I got the opportunity to discover a window to the African-American transgender community, meet a quality person and began traveling that winding road that led to me becoming a Phenomenal Transwoman in my own right.

Houston Proud!

I get teased a lot about my Texas and Houston roots and my unabashed pride and love I have and continue to express for my hometown. Well, I have a lot to be proud about.

It was one of the few cities to desegregate without the violence that took place elsewhere. It has a long history of distinguished African-American leaders from Norris Wright Cuney to Barbara Jordan and Mickey Leland. That torch has been ably picked up by US Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, former mayor Lee Brown and other African-American leaders who continue to serve not only their fellow Houstonians but have garnered attention at a national level as well.

It is home to The Ensemble, one of the best African-American theater groups in the country. It has spawned a long list of hometown musical artists that cross several genres of music from jazz to R&B, hip-hop and gospel. Joe Sample, Yolanda Adams and Beyonce Knowles all call the city home. Hall of Famers in several sports such as Mike Singletary, Darrell Green and Clyde 'The Glide' Drexler played in HISD schools before finding their way to the pro ranks and having distinguished careers.

I grew up in South Park scarfing up Blue Bell ice cream, Harlon's barbecue and Frenchy's chicken. Hanging out at AstroWorld. Spending summer days at the beaches in Galveston and Freeport. Watching Astros and Oilers games at the Dome and Rockets and Comets games at Compaq. Checking out the TSU 'Ocean of Soul' which was the inspiration for every Black high school band in the city. Field trips to NASA.
Grooving to Kirk Whalum at Midtown Live in the early 80's. Watching the classic high school games between Yates and Wheatley, Kashmere and Booker T. Washington, Forest Brook and Smiley. When my generation entered high school it became my beloved Jones Falcons vs Sterling and Yates. Madison vs Sterling and Yates. Worthing vs Madison.

The University of Houston's Phi Slama Jama. The 'unbeatable' Houston Rockets winning the NBA championship in 1994-95 and the joyous city wide celebrations it set off followed by the Comets WNBA dynasty from 1997-2000. The Astros finally making it to the World Series last year.

And how could I forget Mattress Mac and his late night commercials for Gallery Furniture 'saving you money' and the man who the Melvin P. Thorpe character in 'Best Little Whorehouse in Texas' is modeled on, Marrrrrrrrrrrrvin Zindler, Eyeeeeeeeeewitness News?

Yeah, I still have much love for H-Town. Could y'all please FedEx me some Frenchy's chicken and some Blue Bell homemade vanilla ice cream?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

It's OK -- He's Only Playing A Man Playing A Woman

By Megan Scott
Associated Press

NEW YORK - Black America is in love with man in a dress. This one wears a wig, no bra and carries a gun. Her name is Madea, and she's a smart-talking, no-nonsense-taking, grandma-with-an-attitude.

She believes in hot grits (for more than eating), a good butt-whuppin' here and there, and telling it like it is.

The plays and movies featuring Tyler Perry's alter ego, Madea, have become box-office hits over the past several years, grossing more than $130 million, according to Forbes magazine. His latest film - Madea's Family Reunion - brought in $30 million opening weekend last month and debuted at number one.

It was a follow-up to last year's Diary of a Mad Black Woman, which drew people in hordes, shocking Hollywood movie critics.

Beyond the popularity of the character, Madea also reveals a dark side to the black community. There are real-life Madeas - black transgender people - who are ostracized by the same packs going to see Perry's plays and movies.

"This seems hypocritical that we can go to a theater and put on the glasses and don't see what we are really looking at," said Jasmyne Cannick, one of the founders of the National Black Justice Coalition, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization. "At the end of the day, Madea is Tyler Perry in drag."

Cross-dressing for laughs is nothing new. Shakespeare relied on this trick to power the humor of Twelfth Night and As You Like It. Black men have been playing women since vaudeville and the Harlem Renaissance. In the 1970s, Flip Wilson was popular with black and white audiences as Geraldine Jones on his variety show. Wesley Snipes played a woman in To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar in 1995. And Martin Lawrence's Big Momma's House and Big Momma's House 2 were blockbusters.

But no one is looking at these men as drag queens. Their characters are not transgendered, said Sylvia Rhue, the director of religious affairs for the National Black Justice Coalition.

Madea is drawn as a heterosexual woman, with children and grandchildren. Her husband is presumed to be dead. Black churches would welcome her into their congregation, Rhue said.

But what about Tyler Perry dressed as Madea on a daily basis? "He would have a little problem," she admits.

At the end of the day, Rhue said that the movie is not that deep.

"Tyler Perry is not playing a man who wants to be a woman," she said. "Madea is a woman in woman's clothing. People are looking at Madea as a grandmother who is very funny. We accept Tyler Perry in the role because he pulls it off. It's not a real-world situation."

There is a difference, said Richard Wesley, the head of the Rita and Burton Goldberg Department for Dramatic Writing at New York University.

In one case, a man is deliberately dressing up as a woman and using humor to point at a particular experience within the black community.

In the other a man prefers to dress as a woman and carries himself as a woman. "We don't accept that," he said.

"If Tyler Perry showed up at church dressed as Madea and is expecting people to take him seriously or is revealing himself as a transvestite, he would have a serious problem," Wesley said.

And that's the problem. When the cameras stop running, there are men still wearing dresses.

"I don't have a problem with the content of the movie," Cannick said. "My problem is with this community that embraces the idea of men playing roles as females on the screen but cannot embrace that idea in real life."

Perry did not return calls for comment. He has said that Madea is the aunt, grandmother or neighbor down the street that most black people over the age of 30 knew growing up - a woman who was loud and brash and strict, but a loving authority figure..

Cannick contends that the only reason black men, such as Lawrence, Perry and Snipes, can play these roles is because they are assumed to be heterosexual.

Vaginal Davis, a punk-rock drag performer based in Los Angeles, said that Big Momma and Madea are pure entertainment. To Davis, the characters aren't designed to give a lesson in acceptance of transgender people. The movies are escapism.

"Let's not forget," said Davis. "The mainstream black community is still extremely rigid and conservative. Individuality isn't always tolerated. ... I don't fit in any group, never have and never will, and I embrace that, and I'm treated accordingly."

Perry is currently doing the stage play Madea Goes to Jail, and a book is coming out called Don't Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings: Madea's Uninhibited Commentaries on Love and Life.

Katina Parker, who works with issues for people of color for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, hopes black men playing female roles will open up serious dialogue in the black community about transgender people.

"Hopefully, we will one day take it from humor to real discussion about gender identity and gender expression," she said.

Shirley Q. Liquor Is STILL A Minstrel Show

Out of all the columns that I’ve written over the last two years, the one that plucks the most nerves and generated the most criticism (and still does) is the May 2005 one I wrote blasting Shirley Q. Liquor’s 21st century minstrel show.

Exhibit A: A comment on my blog from Marshall (who when I clicked on his profile was too cowardly to leave contact info in it):

You really need to get a life! If you don't like it, don't listen to it! Ever watched In Living Color? A show produced by black folk who did it all the time themselves. The reason racism is still around is because people like you and the protestors in NY wont let it! You are full of it!

My response:

Gee Marshall (if that's your real name) did I strike a nerve?

Sounds like you're another one of Shirley Q's fans who get their panties in a bunch every time ANYONE calls him out for his 21st Century minstrel show which is demeaning and racist to African-American women.

Racism is STILL around because your ancestors encouraged and practiced it for 400 years.

And by the way, I still have the first four seasons of In Living Color on VHS. Shirley Q ain't even in the same league with the Wayans family, much less Jim Carrey.

Shirley’s fan base rose to defend the indefensible. They first tried to call it a comedy act. (Yeah, right) Then the defense line became, "It's satire and you don’t get it." Yeah, the '12 Days of Kwanzaa' was sooo funny white supremacists everywhere have turned it into their favorite Christmas song.

What you Shirley Q. fans don’t get is that minstrel shows and those images still carry a lot of pain for African-Americans and trotting RuPaul out to defend her doesn’t change that one bit.

But the latest defense line is the one I want to talk about in detail. The new spin is that Shirley Q. Liquor is honoring black women by doing her schticKKK. If that were the case, then why schedule a 2002 New York performance on Martin Luther King Day if Mr. Knipp is soooo sensitive to African-American culture and wants to honor the women who raised him?

There will be a short break while I roll my eyes and double over in laughter.

Okay, I’m back. We now return you to your regularly scheduled column

Honoring the black women who raised him? You got to be kidding. I don’t know any African-American women or transwomen who wear blackface, multi-rainbowed eye shadow, an Afro and brag about being a ‘welfare mother with 19 chirren’.

Wanna talk about drag portrayals that honor Black women? Let’s start with the late Flip Wilson’s Geraldine Jones. Even the ones that I have a mild dislike for such as Miguel A. Nunez’s Juwanna Mann,Martin Lawrence’s Big Momma and Shenehneh from his ‘Martin’ show have their base in our culture and aren’t done in a demeaning way.

You may also want to hop down to your local video store and pick up copies of any Tyler Perry play or the movies ‘Diary of a Mad Black Woman’ and ‘Madea’s Family Reunion’. Tyler Perry’s Mabel ‘Madea’ Simmons IS rooted in our culture and is also played in a way that honors Black women. She represents the family matriarch that takes no prisoners, zealously defends her family members when the world does them wrong and dispenses wisdom and sound advice to all that need it. She also ain’t afraid to administer the rod to unruly disrespectful children either.

But the gold standard for drag performances that honor Black women takes place at any pageant or various GLBT clubs. Legendary divas such as Tommie Ross, Stasha Sanchez and Domanique Shappelle exude beauty, class and dignity and there are other up and coming illusionists who strive to meet those standards that these ladies have set.

Those are cornerstones to living life as an African-American woman. It shows a nekulturny lack of understanding and disrespect for African-American culture and the struggles that we’ve had to survive in this country when you are trying to equate Shirley Q. Liquor with that.

A Life-Long Republican Bids GOP Farewell

by AG Casebeer
Published in the Louisville Courier-Journal April 18, 2006

I was raised in a family that consistently voted Republican. Into the voting booth I went, every November without fail, to pull the levers for my mother and father. And, more often than not, I pulled the lever with the little pachyderm on it, but also levers with Democratic names of distinction. Levers that had names on them like John Sherman Cooper, Marlow Cook, Barry Goldwater, Louie Nunn, Richard Nixon, Romano Mazzoli, Gerald Ford and Harvey Sloane were pulled, at the direction of my parents.

They taught me to vote for the best person for the job, the person who, in their estimation, was most likely to reflect their ethics of honest government, low taxes, responsible spending, provision of necessary government services, a strong defense, maintenance of a social safety net, fresh ideas for dealing with current needs, and civil rights for all. With the exception of Nixon, nearly everyone they voted for fit these standards.

When I was old enough to vote on my own, their ethics stuck with me. I worked briefly for George H.W. Bush's campaign in 1980, then voted twice for Reagan. I gladly voted for Mitch McConnell each time he ran for Senate, but also voted for Jerry Abramson and continue to support him to this day.

However, I became uncomfortable with the GOP's move to the right, and began to question its candidates' judgment. Reagan's huge deficits bothered me greatly, as did George H.W. Bush's continuation of them. In 1992, I chose to vote for Perot, ended up very happy with Bill Clinton's performance in office, as well as Brereton Jones' and Paul Patton's gubernatorial terms (with minor exception made for Patton's extramarital problems).

I have lobbied Congress a number of times in the 1990s and 2000s, as an unpaid citizen lobbyist, on the subject of civil rights. To say that I am most displeased with the quality of government we, the people, are receiving from the GOP, is the understatement of the century. The GOP is basically owned lock, stock and barrel by the Donald Wildmons, James Dobsons, Chuck Colsons and Pat Robertsons of the world, people with whom most Americans do not share a worldview, and people who want to impose their morality on the entire nation.

Anne Northup was supported by George W. Bush long before he ever ran for president, while he was still running up huge deficits in Texas as governor, deficits that have crippled that state's ability to deal with the problems of their schools, roads and infrastructure, not to mention the influx of hurricane refugees from Louisiana. Bush has continued that record as president, running huge deficits, starting a costly war on a false pretense and actively depriving people of civil rights to please his fundamentalist Christian friends. I am proud to state that I never voted for him.

Which brings us to the issue of Ernie Fletcher, and his rewriting of Paul Patton's executive order, removing protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in state employee hiring. It is another in a long line of attempts by fundamentalist Christians to use GOP-led government to impose their morality on citizens who do not agree with it. The failure of Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the last decade, the failure of Congress to pass a significant hate-crimes bill, the creation of hysteria surrounding gay marriage that resulted in the GOP victories of 2002 and 2004, and the repeated attempts here in Kentucky to void local Fairness laws with acts of the state legislature, are testament to that. Fletcher's removal of protection for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Kentuckians in state hiring, along with the support of many in the state legislature for the odious bills that would have erased the Fairness laws, mean that the GOP is bigoted, mean-spirited and tied to an ideology that should have died with the old century.

So, with this, I bid farewell, permanently, to the GOP at all levels. Yes, they once fielded candidates for office who were honorable, who did good jobs. But no longer will they gain my vote. I cannot vote for bigots, for candidates who look to decrease, not increase and broaden, civil rights. I cannot vote for candidates who start wars with lies. The current federal tax code and levels of deficit spending are the very definition of irresponsible government.

We have a state legislature that is more concerned with erasing local laws it doesn't like, than in assembling fair and well-considered state budgets, which should be the first job of each state legislative session, not the last. And, finally, with his cutting of state employees' rights, on Diversity Day of all days, Ernie Fletcher has revealed himself to all to be a tool of the fundamentalists, a sellout to manna, and unfit, in my opinion, to govern.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Power of The Pen

Every so often I get a reminder of the old saying 'the pen is mightier than the sword' and its relevance in today's techno go-go society.

One of my friends was moved to write a letter blasting Governor Fletcher's (R-KY) craven sellout to the radical right wing. A few days ago he rescinded the executive order that Governor Paul Patton (D-KY) signed three years ago that protected Kentucky's GLBT citizens in state employment.

The most odious part of the entire episode is that Governor Fletcher did it on 'Diversity Day' in front of school children and on the same day the University of the Cumberlands was expelling a gay honor student for declaring he was gay online.

Well, that letter to the editor was published as an Op-ed piece. Since it hit the paper this morning the phone has been ringing off the hook. A GOP state legislator called this morning who is the rep in AC's KY House district. A woman campaigning to replace the Republican in her eastern Jefferson County KY House district invited us to her speaking event tonight.

It's one of the things that I always loved about writing. The written word still has the power to galvanize people to action, right wrongs, soothe troubled souls, entertain, enlighten and inform. Even legislators place a higher importance on written communications than phone calls. They equate one written letter to representing the views of TEN constituents. So grab that pen and some paper or sit down at your computer and start writing your local newspapers about what's bugging you. You may see it in print and be surprised at the results.

It may even get you your own newspaper column one day.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

April 2006 TransGriot Column

Friends..I Got Friends
Copyright 2006, THE LETTER

I got friends
My values are with my
So glad that I
I got friends
And not the fair weather kind

This is the chorus to the classic 1980's Shalamar song about friendship and what it means to be one.

One of the unexpected benefits of founding Transistahs-Transbrothas in 2004 was the fact that I gained some new friends and reconnected with some old ones in the trans community.

A member of Transistahs-Transbrothas recently posted to the list about feeling 'alienated' because TSTB members share a closeness and cohesion that isn't found on many Internet lists and the member felt left out. While that wasn't intentional, the comment did spark some discussion and I spent a few days pondering the question.

What does it mean to be a friend?

Maintaining a friendship takes a lot of work, shared values, some shared interests and a commitment from both parties to keep the lines of communication open. I've been blessed to still have some friends around in my life that I met in elementary, junior high and high school. Others I have met during various periods of my life.

One of my cardinal rules about friendships is that I treat them like a marriage. Once I've gotten to the point that I consider you a friend, it's till death do us part. Loyalty is another important characteristic that I look for in my friends. What I mean by that is that they know that I'll have their backs and they'll have mine.

In that regard I've been blessed to have friends that took two days off from work to help me move, forwarded a manuscript of mine I was working on to an agent, read another one of my manuscripts and critiqued it, set me up with DJ gigs, paid my airfare home when I needed to go back to H-town for my grandmother's funeral and was in between paychecks, and helped teach me the ins and outs of Femininity 101.

I also don't limit myself to my age group when I choose my friends. I like having a diverse, intellectual group of people around me. There are times when a 24 year old can give me fresh insights on an issue that someone in my peer group may not be able to. I also like soaking up wisdom from friends who are older than me.

I always liked having people smarter than me around that I can learn and grow from but that doens't necessarily mean that you have to be a college grad to be my friend. Some of the smartest people I've interacted with in my life had less than a high school education but taught me much.

Friends will also tell you when you're screwing up, give you that motivational kick in the butt when you need it, praise you when you deserve it or give you that comforting hug or words when you're feeling down. They have a way of making you feel that you are the most important person in their lives at that particular moment in time.

It also takes some risk to open yourself up to possible rejection when you first approach someone that you are trying to get to know on that level. But if you do and the two of you click personality wise, its a win-win situation for both parties.

I can't comprehend my life without the friends I've made and I'm going to make and don't even want to try to imagine doing so. But unfortunately we have some peeps in this world who believe that it's a waste of time and energy to get to know someone on that level or they don't want friends because they're antisocial, loners or afraid of being hurt.

Have my friends said things to me that pissed me off? Yes.
Have I said things that have hurt my friends feelings? Yes.

That's just a part of life. If you choose them wisely it minimizes those occurences. Sometimes those moments are either unintentional or can't be avoided because you need to hear the unvarnished truth about something even if you aren't in the mood to accept that advice at that time. If your friend didn't love you, they wouldn't speak up and tell you what you needed to hear in the first place.

There are times when you will crack up laughing at each others stories, cry a bit or get on each other's last nerve, but the benefits far outweigh the alternatives of trying to make your way in a world alone.

Love The Sinner But Hate the Sin: NOT!

Ninety-nine percent of the time I am vehemently criticizing anything Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) says. But I have to agree with this statement that he made on November 8, 1996 to a conservative columnist.

“I’m a firm believer in feeding people their own words back to them, when it’s appropriate.”

It’s time to serve dinner to my fundamentalist friends. On the menu is one of their signature phrases with a generous portion of hypocrisy on the side.

Over the years we’ve heard ad nauseum from them the oft-quoted statement ‘Love the sinner but hate the sin’. They have wielded it like a baton to beat down GLBT people with. Only one problem: Nowhere in the Bible do those words appear together in scripture in either the Old or New Testaments.

I’ll repeat this once again: ‘Love the sinner but hate the sin’ does not appear as a single verse ANYWHERE in the Bible.

Now it is true that God tells us in John 15:12 to love one another as he has loved us. It's also true that God says He hates sin. But unfortunately Fundamentalists have taken these two separate scriptures and melded them into an attack weapon that in their convoluted thought process gives them carte blanche to denigrate gays, abortion doctors, women and anyone else who wants equal rights with impunity.

When you call them out for their Jurassic attitudes against gays, for example, it becomes their all purpose defense for the hatred, bigotry and discrimination they liberally heap upon them. They’ll reply that their actions are okay in "God's eyes." They are just following a literal interpretation of the Bible by denying gay people their constitutional rights to equal and fair treatment under the law and are only showing their displeasure with the sin. Fundamentalists aren't "hating" the sinner when they claim that gays are sick and need healing, should wear warning labels or undergo a godly fumigation. They’re just simply fulfilling their ‘Christian’ mission by showing they need to be "healed."

Yeah right. And Reverend Stanley Kirk Burrell is gonna make a comeback touring as a gangsta rapper.

Fundamentalists have conveniently forgotten that anyone who professes to be a Christian is supposed to forgive the sin, not ‘hate’ it. It is mandatory that you must forgive the sins of any other sinner – including the GLBT peeps you hate. If they can’t or won’t do it and start uttering that ‘love the sinner but hate the sin’ pseudo argument, they will find themselves being condemned by the very God that they claim they love and serve.

Albert Einstein stated that “You cannot simultaneously say that you love someone and use your power against them." Explain to me how you can say with a straight face (pardon the pun) from the pulpit that you ‘love’ someone but demonize them, pass constitutional amendments to deny them the ability to get married, fight tooth and nail to strip away their civil rights protections, openly discriminate against them and work to pressure companies to revoke their domestic partner benefits? That’s not ‘Christian’, that’s just plain evil.

You know something? When The Rapture does happen some of you folks are gonna be in for a big surprise in terms of who gets Left Behind.

Got room for dessert? Let me get that Devil’s food cake for you. Bon appetit.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Monica’s 2006 Trinity Acceptance Speech

TransGriot Note: This is the text of the speech I delivered to the IFGE Conference in Philadelphia, PA on April 7, 2006

Giving honor to God, the leadership of IFGE, friends and family. I am humbled to be standing before you today as a representative of Transsistahs-Transbrothas, the Lone Star State, the Bluegrass State, and my hometown of Houston to officially become the third African-American transperson to be awarded a Trinity.

This day is one that I thought that I’d never see because of my outspokenness about a myriad of issues in the transgender community. But like my mentors, Phyllis Frye and Sarah DePalma and one of my leadership role models the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, I have not hesitated to call people and organizations out when I felt that they could and should do better to uphold the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. The Transgender Rights Movement is the next evolution in the ongoing struggle for human rights and we need to take that seriously.

It’s been an interesting road that I’ve traveled to get to this point in my life and ironically I have IFGE to thank for giving me the impetus for jump starting my activist career. At the beginning of my transition in 1994 I started a subscription to Tapestry. (hold up the magazines) Inside these two issues were the Out, Proud and Trans series that pissed me off to the point that I made it my mission to attend my first GenderPAC Lobby days in 1998, a subsequent one in 1999 and become a leader in the transgender community.

What was it about these two issues that made me angry? Well, the problem for transgender people of color has always been visibility. Ever since Christine Jorgensen stepped off that flight from Denmark onto the tarmac at JFK airport in 1953 the lion’s share of the coverage of GLBT people has been of people that looked like you and her.

Out of the 50 people that these two issues honored for being ‘Out and Proud’, the two they found to represent me were RuPaul and Dennis Rodman. Neither are transgender people like the other two African-American Trinity winners who preceded me at this podium, Dawn Wilson and Dr. Marisa Richmond. RuPaul and Dennis Rodman both stated publicly that they didn’t want to be.

So why hold them up as representatives of my community?

The other problem is that it unintentionally reinforced a stereotype that the only thing that my people can do, can become or be recognized for is being an entertainer or an athlete.

Why is this important? For a transkid of Euro-American descent they get to see role models that are lawyers, doctors, airline pilots, police officers, et cetera that cancel out the negative Jerry Springer images. A transkid that shares my ethnic heritage doesn’t have that balance and that concerns us. A reasonably intelligent college bound African-American transkid is left to wonder after seeing that contrast, “Where are the people who look like me?” “If I transition is this what my life is going to be like?’ “Do professional African-American transpeople exist?”

In my era my first exposure to transgender people that looked like me besides the 1977 Jefferson’s episode was either through attending drag shows or seeing transgender sex workers plying their trade. The ones that did pass were hiding in deep stealth mode. I didn’t meet another out professional African-American transperson like myself until 1999.

Lack of media coverage hurts. I can only name two African-American transpeople that I read articles about when I was growing up and both were surprisingly published in one of the journalistic Bibles of Black America, Jet Magazine.

Justina Williams had one written about her transition and her struggles with General Motors in 1979. It’s also interesting to note that in this article the author used the proper pronouns to describe Justina 20 years before the AP changed their stylebooks. Almost a decade later, in 1987 an article appeared about Sharon Davis which chronicled her transition and the book she was writing about it entitled ‘A Finer Specimen of Womanhood’.

When you’re a minority, positive role models, a connection to your history, and faith are vitally important building blocks to the maintenance of one’s pride and self-esteem. That fuels personal achievement that uplifts the entire group. IFGE has played a major role in documenting that history and honoring the people doing their part to build a transgender community and for that I applaud and support their efforts to do so. From this day forward I will be doing my part by not only writing occasional articles for Tapestry but encourage other people of color to do so.

One of the problems that we’ve had in the African-American trans community is that for various reasons we haven’t had a similar ongoing effort to organize it on a national scale until now. The late Stokely Carmichael aka Kwame Toure once stated, “In order to become a part of the greater society, you must first close ranks.”

Basically that is what the African-American transgender community is doing. We’re not doing it to shut you out of the process but turning inward to build the same kind of infrastructure and support systems that you have enjoyed for two decades. We seek to not only build a community that our kids can be proud of but at the same time build and lift ourselves up in order to become a stronger partner for the entire transcommunity. We spent a few days during TSTBC 2005 hammering out a document that we call the African-American Transgender Action Plan or AA-TAP for short. It is a ten-point program rooted in the lessons that our ancestors brought here with them from Africa that will serve as the guiding organizing principles for building our community

TSTBC is a major building block in that effort. Just as the IFGE conference over the last 20 years has served to educate, inform and train our past, present and future leaders and allies the Transsistahs and Transbrothas Conference will do the same. It will also provide a way for you to reach our people that may not be comfortable coming to an IFGE conference or to SCC but will show up in Louisville to hang out with their peeps. By the way, the second annual TSTBC is happening October 18-22 once again in Louisville.

So why aren’t African-American transpeople comfortable attending events like this?
It always mystified me when I attended SCC for example why there were almost no peeps like me that were attending this event except the hotel staff and the conference was hosted in the Black gay mecca of Atlanta, GA.

Well, let me tell you a few reasons why. One of them is the cultural difference. African-Americans have always been a spiritual people with a church centered culture. I am a Christian as are many people who are African-American and transgender. I have seen every faith tradition represented and respected at GLBT events except Christianity.

Granted, some people who profess to be Christians have invited this negative response but there’s a major difference between little ‘c’ Christians and big ‘C’ ones. Big ‘C’ Christians believe in love, tolerance, understanding others and their differences and embracing them. Little ‘c' Christians are the intolerant ones who are using the faith as a white sheet to camouflage their bigotry and hatred. Christianity isn’t the private property of right-wing zealots. It’s past time for those of us in the GLBT community who are Christian to proclaim it, stand up to those thugs and take our faith back from the Pharisees who are using it as a baton to beat us down with.

Unfortunately because of the hurt and pain that’s been inflicted on GLBT people by these Bible-thumping posers, some GLBT people have begun denigrating ALL Christians in response to what has been done unto them. Bashing Christians doesn’t play well in my community. In fact one of the things that we were adamant about during the planning for TSTBC 2005 was starting a tradition of having a church service to close it. We also wanted to create an environment where not only Christianity is respected but we strive to respect TSTBC attendees whose faith traditions differ from our own.

Another thing that doesn’t play well in my community is America’s original sin, racism. As I have written, taught and said to anyone who would listen, the transgender community is a microcosm of society at large. The same problems that exist in the parent society also exist in our subset of it.

I have been called the n-word in Euro-American dominated online groups. I have been called an uppity nigger behind my back. I incredulously saw someone post last year on another list that the only reason that TSTBC was being held was because it would make it easier for us to solicit tricks. We have had activists walk into Congressional Black Caucus offices during lobby days and tell legislators that share my ethnic background that African-American transpeople don’t exist.

Yes Virginia, racism does exist in the trans community and we need to put a stop to it post haste before it creates a permanent split between the African-American transgender community and you. That is dangerously close to happening right now.

It also pisses us off when you don’t listen to us or dismiss what we have to say. I have been a minority since I was born at 10:45 PM on May 4, 1962. People of color are equipped with coping skills and mechanisms that we learned growing up that allow us to deal with the daily slights, slings and arrows that come with minority status. We have an uncanny ability to read people or organizations that say one thing and do the opposite since we’ve been historically lied to over the years. So if we tell you not to trust them, listen to us. You’ll save yourself a lot of grief in the future.

And please don’t ever in life use the words ‘you’re just playing the race card’. It infuriates me and other people of color when that term is used to marginalize our very real experiences with bigotry and the racism we deal with in this country by disrespectfully comparing it to a card game.

Since I’ve laid out some things that depress African-American participation in the overall transgender community, It‘s only fair that I offer a few suggestions that will hopefully increase it.

The dots have to be connected in terms of the historical roles that African-American transpeople have played in shaping the transgender community. An African-American transwoman was present at the Stonewall Riots. We helped found GenderPac, NTAC, BGB and the Tennessee Vals in addition to other regional organizations that have uplifted transgender people. Unfortunately we’ve gotten very little recognition for it or have been edited out of the historical records. That needs to stop. If the historical record reflects the fact that we helped found it, then people of color will be more inclined to take ownership of the various groups and participate in them.

We have to have some media face time too. The African-American transgender community has some long term plans to help correct that imbalance. While we’re working on that, the bottom line is that media peeps will call the white transgender community first because you already have the infrastructure in place. When you get that call, make sure that you also let them know that there are people of color that need to be included in this conversation.

Basically that’s how Dawn and I got the notification for the Courier-Journal article that we’re featured in. Reporter Angie Fenton called Fairness looking for help in finding transgender people who’d be willing to talk on the record and they referred her to us. When transkids of color see peeps in the media that look like them who are living their lives and telling their stories, it’s a win-win for all of us.

Second. Make events affordable and accessible. African-Americans only get 70 cents to every dollar a white person earns. When you have a conference in a hotel in which a room costs $200 dollars a day and you then have to pay conference registration fees on top of that, it creates participation barriers. The fiscal participation barrier leads to a perception that people of color aren’t wanted and that’s how you end up with an event that ends up with 99% white transpeople.

I realize that middle and upper class transgender people support IFGE, other transgender conventions and our organizations. However, this fiscal access problem that shuts out TPOCs also is keeping other T people of color out including the Asian and Latino/a communities. Watching the economics of conventions and keeping hotel prices affordable will grow the community amongst all transgender people, make the convention programming resources accessible to more T people of all income levels and make this community more inclusive in general. It’s a simple formula. Make the events more affordable and eventually all colors of the transgender rainbow will appear.

The accessibility issue is also important. Too many times support group meetings are held in suburban locations with little or no access to public transportation. If your city has a GLBT Community center that is located close to public transportation consider using that as a meeting site. If you’re planning a convention ensure that your host hotel is close to public transportation and that schedules and route maps are widely available to the convention attendees.

Third. If you want us at your events, you’re gonna have to advertise in our media too. There are African-American newspapers in many cities that would love to not only get the advertising dollars but want stories about transgender issues. For example, CLIK magazine is an Atlanta-based GLBT publication that caters to the national African-American community.

I’ll close with the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King from a November 1956 speech he gave in Montgomery, AL entitled ‘Facing the Challenge of a New Age.’

‘Another thing we must do in speeding up the coming of the new age is to develop intelligent, courageous, and dedicated leadership. This is one of the pressing needs of the hour. In this period of transition and growing social change there is a dire need for leaders who are calm and yet positive. Leaders who avoid the extremes of ‘hot-headedness and ‘Uncle Tomism’. The urgency of the hour calls for leaders of wise judgment and sound integrity-leaders not in love with money, but in love with justice; Leaders not in love with publicity but in love with humanity. Leaders who can subject their particular egos to the greatness of the cause.'

Dr. King continues by paraphrasing an author with the last name of Holland by saying:

God give us leaders!
A time like this demands strong minds, great hearts
True faith and ready hands
Leaders whom the lust of office does not kill
Leaders whom the spoils of life cannot buy
Leaders who possess opinions and a will
Leaders who have honor, leaders who will not lie
Leaders who can stand before a demagogue
And damn his treacherous flatteries without winking!
Tall leaders, sun crowned, who live above the fog
In public duty and private thinking.

I hope and pray that over the last 8 years that I’ve evolved into that type of leader and will continue to do so in the coming years.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Play Ball!

I'm in love with twenty-five guys.

The twenty-five guys who wear the uniform of the Houston Astros, that is. ;)
In addition to being a huge football fan I love watching baseball. I played Little League ball as a kid and still attend games on a regular basis.

The 2006 Major League baseball season starts tonight and the 'Stros open their National League title defense and 45th season at Minute Maid Park versus the Florida Marlins.

The Astros started play as the Houston Colt .45's three weeks before I born and changed the nickname to Astros in 1965 to coincide with the opening of the Astrodome. It took them 44 years to get to the World Series and I have been watching every frustrating high and low with this franchise as we both grew up in Houston together.

It's been a bumpy ride. Watching them blow a 10.5 game NL West lead in 1979 and getting overtaken by the Reds for the division title. Winning that one game playoff to capture the National League West over the Dodgers in 1980 only to fall to the Phillies in the NLCS in a Game 5 that went extra innings.

In the 1986 NLCS against their expansion cousins the New York Mets, they lost the series in a dramatic Game 6 that lasted sixteen nerve racking innings. They won three straight National League Central titles from 1997-99 only to fall short of the World Series each time courtesy of the Atlanta Braves (twice) and the San Diego Padres. They were six outs away from the World Series in 2004 against St. Louis in the 2004 NLCS with homeboy Roger Clemens on the mound only to lose Game 7.

Then there's last year. Having a 15-30 record on May 31 and being officially declared out of contention by a Houston Chronicle sportswriter. They've always had a history of being a second half ballclub but they outdid themselves in 2005. They put together a monster finishing kick that led to them capturing the NL wild card playoff berth and parlaying that into the 'Stros first National League title.

They FINALLY made it to the World Series only to be swept by the White Sox in a series so close it was decided by a mere six runs.

Oh well. New year, new season. Go 'Stros!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

A Black `Transamerica'

The recent release of the critically acclaimed and Oscar
nominated movie `Transamerica' has once again focused attention on
transgender people and our issues. That's great and it's a
conversation that's definitely needed to happen for a while but once
again it's all one sided. Transgender people of color are being ignored.

So what would a Black `Transamerica' look like? I posed that question to my Transsistahs-Transbrothas list in February and here's the synopsis of what we came up with.(Thanks to Lexi, Monica Jr, Fredrikka, Joshua, Martina, Jay, and 'errbody' on TSTB that contributed some great thoughts as to what a feature film about us should cover).

The group believes that a movie focusing on a Black transperson would have to include a few themes:

1) Family turmoil. It would highlight the interesting dynamics and
relationship of the transperson with his or her parents and
siblings. It may even include that one aunt or uncle who has offered
undying support while it took others, including parents, more time to
become accepting.

2) Internal Conflict. The movie would need to show how the
individual growth process relates to transfolk. The movie would show
the person move from confusion to denial to questioning to
understanding to self-love and self-acceptance.

3) Romance. It could be covered by a string of romances that range
from partners who only want a 2:00 a.m. hotel rendezvous to the one
who loves and accepts the person for who he or she is irrespective of
the plumbing issues.

4) Club Scene. I don't think they'd could ever put together a realistic Black
TG movie that didn't take place at least 25% of the time in a club--
one that hosts drag shows no less. The club scene is integral to the
Black transgender experience.

5) Violence. It's Hollywood and that sells. It would underscore the
fact that a disproportionate number of our sisters are victims of
anti-transgender violence.

6) Independence. The movie would show the resilience, faith and
the regal demeanor that it takes to be Black and transgender in America.

As to who we'd cast in our production that doesn't have a name yet,
we'd go with the trend of having a genetic female play a transwoman.
You'd have to use some of the taller actresses in Hollywood and
several come to mind. Vivica A. Fox, Gabrielle Union, LisaRaye
McCoy, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, Sanaa Lathan, Meagan Good and Tracee
Ellis Ross in the lead roles. We'd have to cast Jenifer Lewis or
Sheryl Lee Ralph to play the understanding relative. Of course some
of our female illusionists would get cameo roles and legendary divas
like Stasha Sanchez and Tommie Ross come to mind.

As for the love interests, maybe some up and coming actors
interspersed with a big name or two. Our lead actress would be
pursued by a plethora of callers. The guys that are attracted to transsistahs are diverse and that needs to be reflected. A thug would get some time in our movie as well as the big businessman and the blue-collar brotha working at the corner store or neighborhood garage.

When it comes to the drag show and club scenes it would have to be shot in a real Black GLBT club with some of the actual clientele. No way in hell Hollywood can authentically duplicate the flava that a Black gay club has but they will try.

As much as we would like to, we can't ignore the easy-money temptations of the sex industry in a story of this nature. Some of our transsistahs are unfortunately involved in that life. To illustrate it we could introduce a pimp named Sweet Black who tries to sweettalk or coerce our gorgeous sistahfriend heroine into his organization - unsuccessfully, of course. Or we could have an old T-girl friend reenter her life years later who's an adult movie star and try to talk her into doing a photo shoot for her adult website.

We also can't ignore the fact that if we want a positive representation of us onscreen we have to control as much of the message as possible. We'd probably have to write, produce and direct it ourselves or have a transgender friendly director film it. Having a fly poster and soundtrack to go with it is a must.

Okay Hollywood, see ya in a few months with the script.