Thursday, May 25, 2006

Transgender Teen Shut Out of Prom

GARY, Ind.
A transgender student who has worn women's clothes to school all year was turned away from her high school prom because she was wearing a dress.

Kevin Logan, 18, went to the West Side High School prom on Friday in a slinky fuchsia gown and heels. She believes officials discriminated against her by not allowing her inside.

"I have no formal pictures, no memories, nothing. You only have one prom," she said.

Logan received an $85 refund for her prom ticket Tuesday but was not satisfied. She said she is considering filing a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana.

Sylvester Rowan, assistant to Gary Schools Superintendent Mary Steele, said school policy bans males from wearing dresses. Excluding Logan from the prom was based on "the dress code, not the student's homosexuality. That's his personal preference."

Tyrone Hanley, the youth program coordinator for the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition in Washington, D.C., said he often sees cases like this and called it gender-based discrimination.

"Prohibiting really short skirts for everyone is a fair dress code; prohibiting them for males is not," he said.

Logan said she had spent years defining and exploring her gender identity. This year, she took a major step by dressing as a female every day, wearing makeup, a hair weave, nails and girls' fitted jeans to school.

His mother, Donnetta Logan, said she was not surprised by what she called the ignorance of school administrators.

"I tell Kevin that in society there will be those who accept him and those who won't."

© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

TransGriot Note: Pronouns in story adjusted because original article is NOT in compliance with the 2006 AP Stylebook guidelines for writing stories on transgendered people.

From the 2006 AP Stylebook:

transgender: Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.

If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Transgender Heaven

A short story by Monica Roberts
Dedicated to all of the people who have fallen victim to anti-transgender violence.

“Monica, hope you’re feeling better. Girl, take something for that cough.”
“As soon as I get home Aletha, I’ll will.
“Gee, this dream is so realistic. These lights are so bright I can barely make out those gates over there.”
“You mean the Pearly Gates? “
“Who said that?” I asked as a six foot one sister dressed in white from head to toe stepped out of the light and into my field of vision.
“Phyllis Hyman?”
“In the flesh, so to speak.”
“If that’s really you standing in front of me, then I must be…..”
“Deceased? Not yet.”
“To what do I owe this honor?”
“Your grandmother is tied up in a meeting with Dr. King, so she asked me to escort you around Heaven. She thought you’d get a kick out of me showing you around.”
"She’s right.”
“Besides, this is my off night from The Club and I didn’t have anything planned for today except hanging out around the house.”
”The Club?”
“Yep. We have shows every night. Luther’s singing tonight. Duke and Ella ask me to sing with them when they perform.”
“Hmm, that’s a show I’d love to see.”
“You’ll get that chance if you decide to stay.”
“I might. I’m so tired of the crap that’s going on back in the United States.”
“I’ve heard. Your grandmother Tama told me. We’ve become pretty tight since she arrived.“
“So where are we going?”
“I need to make a hair appointment first before I show you around.”
“Still the diva, huh?”
“And what sistah doesn’t have a little diva in her?”
“True that.“

We walked past well-manicured homes and apartment buildings until we came to a beauty shop on the corner of Heavenly Peace Lane and Holy Boulevard. She opened the door and I almost fainted when I saw that the hairdresser was Tyra Hunter. The client that was sitting in the chair getting her hair done also looked vaguely familiar.
“Hey Phyllis, what’s going on?”
“Hey Tyra, what’s happening?”
“Busy as usual. Who’s your friend?”
"Tyra, this is Monica. Monica, Tyra.”
“Nice to meet you. I’ve seen the stories about you and Dawn on HNN. Love what y’all are doing for the sistahs.”
“I need to make an appointment, Tyra. When can you hook me up?”
“Would you excuse me for a moment, Chanelle? I need to check my appointment book.”
“Sure,” she said as Tyra walked over to the ornate desk to check it.
“How about tomorrow at eleven?”
“No good. Got a brunch with Dorothy Dandridge. Is three o’clock open?”
“Yes it is.”
“Okay. I’ll see you then,” she said as the door swung open and Ukea Davis and Stephanie Thomas walked in.
“Hey, Sister Tyra, Miss Phyllis,” said Ukea.
“Hey ladies.”
“Sister Tyra, can you fit us in to get our hair done? We’re going to the Mahalia concert tonight and my hair needs to be tight for that,” said Stephanie.
“I can hook both of y’all up as soon as I’m done with Chanelle. Aaliyah had to cancel her appointment at the last minute.“
“Have you seen Gwen lately?” asked Ukea.
“She came in here with Chareka Keys yesterday,” said Tyra.
“Next time you see her tell her I need to talk to her.”
“Who’s your friend, Miss Phyllis?”
“Stephanie, just call me Phyllis. You’re making me feel old.”
“Yes ma’am.”
“This is Monica. I’m showing her around.”
“The lady they talk about on HNN who's the transgender activist back on Earth?”
“In the flesh,” I replied.
“Congratulations on winning that Trinity. You sure lit a fire under those girls when you told them in your speech to reclaim and proclaim their Christianity,” said Ukea
"Thanks ladies.”
“Are you planning on staying?”
”I’m leaning toward it, Stephanie. I’d love to be around my grandmother again.”
“Yeah, that’s the best part about being here. Being reunited with a lot of people and meeting interesting new ones every day.”

Phyllis’ cell phone rang as we were chatting and she picked it up as I continued talking to the various patrons of the shop. Phyllis finished her conversation with the person on the other end of the line, then hung up her phone.
“Who was that?”
“The Boss. He says your work on Earth isn’t finished yet and you need to return ASAP.”
"Doggone it. I was hoping to see my grandmother.”
”Sorry Monica, It’s gonna have to wait for another time.”
The shop patrons and I said our good-byes and I reluctantly headed back to the Pearly Gates with Phyllis.

I arrived a few moments later and started to frown as I prepared to walk back through the gates. Phyllis hugged me as she said, “Cheer up. When it's time for you to come home we’ll be waiting for you. Just continue helping your fellow transpeople and remember that all of us will be watching over you.”
“When you get back I’ll have a front row table reserved for you at The Club.”
“Monica’s waking up…”
Is that Dawn’s voice? “Where am I?” I said groggily as I awoke to beeping machinery and a group of anxious people gathered around my bed. It dawned on me seconds later that I was in the hospital.
“At Baptist East. That bad cough you had was pneumonia. Nearly took you out of here,” said Aletha.
“Yeah, the machine flat lined for a moment but they brought you back to us,” said AC.
Just then the nurse walked in. “Sorry folks, visiting hours are over. She needs to get some rest.”
"Monica, on the nightstand next to the bed is your CD player. Grabbed a few CD’s and stacked them next to you.”
“Thanks, AC.”
“You’re welcome. Get some sleep, kid. We’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Okay,” I said as everyone left. After the nurse checked my vital signs and marked them off on a chart she left my room. I reached over for the CD’s to see which ones AC brought for me to listen to. In addition to my usual 70’s and 80’s R&B and jazz favorites there was one more:

Phyllis Hyman’s ‘Prime of My Life.'

Happy 10th Anniversary WNBA!

This year marks a special anniversary for me. What anniversary you ask? It's the tenth anniversary season for the WNBA.

The league was born in the afterglow of the 1996 US women's Olympic basketball team's unbeaten march to the gold medal in Atlanta. I was overjoyed to learn that my hometown would get one of the inaugural eight franchises along with the New York Liberty, Los Angeles Sparks, Cleveland Rockers, Charlotte Sting, Utah Starzz, Phoenix Mercury and Sacramento Monarchs. The Original Eight were later joined by the Detroit Shock and Washington Mystics in 1998, the Minnesota Lynx and Orlando Miracle in 1999, and the Indiana Fever, Portland Fire, Seattle Storm, and Miami Sol in 2000. The Cleveland, Portland and Miami teams folded. The Utah and Orlando teams eventually moved to San Antonio and Uncasville, CT and became the San Antonio Silver Stars and Connecticut Sun.

I didn't realize that I would get to witness sports history beyond the fact that another women's pro league was cranking up in the summer of 1997. The Comets endured a rough start. Sheryl Swoopes, our franchise player was pregnant and would miss most of the 1997 season. The Comets lemon quickly turned to lemonade. To compensate for it the league assigned us international star Cynthia Cooper. They ended up with the number one pick via lottery and selected Tina Thompson from USC with it. They selected Janeth Arcain in the international draft. Van Chancellor from the University of Mississippi was hired as head coach. Little did we know at the time a dynasty was about to be born. The Comets not only won the inaugural championship game at home against the Liberty but ended up winning four straight championships before the streak came to an end with a first round loss against the hated LA Sparks in the 2001 WNBA playoffs.

So why am I talking about the WNBA on a transgender blog?

Well, one of the worst kept secrets in the league before Sheryl came out this winter was that some of the players were lesbian. In addition it was estimated that 10% of the WNBA fan base was GLBT. I remember one Comets season ticket drive starting in Montrose outside a lesbian bar called Chances.

The start of the WNBA is also special to me because it happened about two years into my transition. I was still working through a hangup about my 6'2" height. I couldn't whine about it after seeing Tina Thompson on the court along with some of the women in the league who are even taller than me. I also couldn't complain about my size 12 pumps after reading that Chamique Holdsclaw wears a size 14 and some of the other fashion plates in the league also wear double digit shoe sizes.

WNBA games were some of the first events I went to post transition. I loved them so much I bought Comets season tickets before the 1999 season and held on to them until I moved. Even though I'm 1000 miles from home, my love for the Comets hasn't diminshed. I make a one hour drive to Indianapolis every summer to watch my girls play at Conseco Fieldhouse.

I was also part of the most fearsome home court advantage in the early years of the WNBA, the Sea of Red. (sorry, Phoenix X-Factor) We kept Compaq sold out, loud and rocking. It reminded me of the types of crowds we had for Rockets games in the mid 80's until the average fan got priced out of NBA games. Until the 2000 WNBA season I never attended a home playoff game loss until the miracle three quarter court heave by Teresa Weatherspoon of the New York Liberty delayed our celebration of Championship Number Four for 24 hours.

This season is going to be interesting. The game format is changing from two 20 minute halves to four ten minute quarters to more closely align it with the international game and FIBA rules. The Chicago Sky, a new expansion team joins the league. The Women's World Basketball championships will happen this September in Brazil after the WNBA champion is crowned.

I hope this tenth anniversary season ends the same way the inaugural season ended, with Tina Thompson and Sheryl Swoopes holding aloft the WNBA Championship trophy. The only differences will be that it would happen at Toyota Center instead of Compaq Center and the WNBA president handing out the trophy will be Donna Orender instead of Val Ackerman.

Happy 10th Anniversary, WNBA!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Jayne Kennedy

Another installment in my ongoing series of articles on transgender and non-transgender women who have qualities that I admire.

When I was struggling with my gender issues in the late 70's. I was lamenting the last minute teen growth spurt that pushed my height over six feet. I was mumbling to myself that 'real women aren't this tall.'

Enter 5 foot 10 inch Jayne Kennedy. She was the first sistah to win the Miss Ohio title in 1970. In the Miss USA Pageant that year she was one of the ten semifinalists for the crown. She was a Jet Beauty pinup and made a few movies with her then-hubby Leon Isaac Kennedy before landing the job that would change the way that NFL pregame shows were done.

Not long after she was hired to do CBS NFL pregame show 'The NFL Today' in 1978, we had the honor of having Jayne visit my high school during my senior year in February 1980. I was already a big fan of hers prior to this trip and her performance on the NFL Today not only opened doors for her but for a host of other women sportscasters such as Robin Roberts and Pam Oliver at FOX.

Jayne has since gotten remarried, become a born again Christian and is a devoted mother. She's still as gorgeous as ever. She's one of the women that helped me see the point that Dr. Collier Cole drove home to me when I was first beginning my transition.

Women come in all shapes and sizes.

Monday, May 08, 2006

10 Most Damaging Myths about Transmen and FTMs

These came from the 1999 True Spirit Conference. Since True Spirit is a predominately Caucasian FTM gathering I decided to ask one of my transbrothers whether these myths apply to African-American transmen. Thanks Kori. His comments are in bold type.

1. Transmen are really just butch lesbians who change sex to justify same-sex relationships or to avoid harassment.

*buzzer sound* Most transmen are "born" into the lesbian cmty because we didn't know what to call ourselves until we found out about transsexualism. So since we're attracted to women, it would be natural for us to initially think we're lesbians! Duh!

2. Historically, all women only chose to live as men to pursue careers that were otherwise unattainable to them, to seek economic opportunities, or to justify lesbian relationships.

While this is true, we don't need to become men to be in any industry these days. Hell, even heterosexual feminine women are in construction, law enforcement, and the list goes on.

3. All FTMs want genital reconstruction as the driving force of their transition. (not necessarily the social aspects that go along with masculinity)

I for one do not want anyone messing around with my stuff. Technology hasn't made the male genitalia yet that is acceptable for me.

4. Taking testosterone makes Female-to-Male transsexuals much more aggressive and angry than they were before taking hormones.

We're not as bad as women that are PMSing ... however, it is true that T, or the mixing of hormones can make one a little irritable at times. As for the anger part, I actually feel more balanced since I've been on T.

5. All transmen exhibit stereotypically male behavior and want to be as macho as possible.

Yes, I've always exhibited male behavior, but that's because that's of who I AM, NOT because I just want to be macho. When I was a kid until my thirties, I was still thought of as a tomboy. My maleness has ALWAYS been instinctual.

6. Transmen seek to live as and be recognized as male in order to obtain male privilege and economic advantages.

Really? Maybe for the white transmen, but as a black transman I have been "lumped" up with the rest of the black male population. I certainly won't get any special favors now... my special favors came when I was a black woman because they are the minority.

7. Female-to-Males are far rarer than Male-to-Female transsexuals.

Not sure about this. I just feel that FTMs might be more private concerning their transition. I personally know of a few transmen that refuse to acknowledge they were ever a woman, and won't ID as trans in the "real world". An anonymous census would have to be done to test the validity of this statement.

8. FTMs did not exist until after World War II, with the advent of hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery.

Not true. FTMs date back to the 1930's.

9. Transsexualism/transgenderism can be "cured" by psychotherapy. Transsexual men are really just lesbians.

Lesbians/butches do not feel that they are men. For the most part, they are happy with just being a masculine woman. The distinct difference between an FTM and a butch is that FTMs feel, with everything in them, that they were born the wrong sex/gender and donot identify with anything female, while most lesbians/butches have no problem with their gender or id'ing as a woman.

10. All FTMs come from the lesbian community, and after transition are heterosexual. (that is, attracted to women)

No, no, no... MOST FTMs came/come from the lesbian community, but there are those that never id'd as a lesbian, and they went for straight women....I know many bisexual, pansexual transmen.. and guess what? that's their business. I personally don't get down like that, but I've come to respect the differences. I am a straight male and I am attracted to women, well, one woman in particular

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Singing The Gospel Of Transcendence

From The San Francisco Chronicle

Nation's first all-transgender gospel choir raises its voices to praise God and lift their own feelings of self-love and dignity

Rona Marech, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, April 18, 2004

At first, Bobbi Jean Baker, a big-voiced, loud-clapping, ex-convict Tennesseean with deep roots in the Baptist Church, was skeptical of the new gospel choir at San Francisco's City of Refuge United Church of Christ. Who's to say they could sing?

But a friend dragged her to a rehearsal, and sitting in the audience, she thought, "Mmmm -- they got a little beat about themselves." The next time she stopped by, she found herself singing along when a member motioned to her, saying, "Oh, precious, you need to come up here."

So Baker, who used to only set out in female clothing after dark, quit hiding and began raising her voice. For the last two years, she has been a loud and proud member of Transcendence Gospel Choir, the very first all- transgender choir in the nation.

"I'm human and guess what? I want to lift up the name of Jesus. And if I want to sing, I have that right," said Baker, who was born male but has lived as a woman for the last three years. "I always knew God loved me, but I always had trouble with the lifestyle: How can I say I worship Him and have this lifestyle? Until I come to find out that you can have your spirituality and your lifestyle altogether.

"God said, 'whosoever,' " she said. "That means transgender people."

Transcendence Gospel Choir follows in the footsteps of gay and lesbian choirs around the country, which -- for 25 years -- have been using music to gain acceptance and visibility, express pride and offer hope to the hopeless. In just three years, the transgender choir has grown from a ragtag assemblage unsure of how to use their voices into a gospel powerhouse with fans and concerts and a walloping sound.

"If any message of any song I sing helps someone get out of their inner locked-up cage, that's what I'm for," Baker said, "because it took me a while to get free."

Last year, after the group recorded its first CD, "Whosoever Believes," Zwazzi Sowo, a fellow member of City of Refuge, bought nearly a dozen copies to give as gifts to family members -- straight and gay alike. When Sowo's brother died, she brought a CD to his grieving widow, a religious African Methodist. The music will heal your heart, said Sowo, never explaining the "trans" part of "transcendence." Her conservative sister-in-law learned every song on the CD and later asked Sowo to thank the singers from her church. Sowo had to smile.

"For them to take a stance and just to claim who they are in song is so powerful," Sowo said. "When you're hurt or marginalized, a lot of times what you do is shrink and try not to be seen so you don't hurt so much. But their music is about expansion and stepping into it. It's about growth. ... It's here to heal the world."

Putting together gospel music and transgender people -- anyone whose gender identity is different from the one assigned at birth -- might not seem like the most obvious route to world healing. Founder and co-director Ashley Moore, 37, a respected local record producer and musician, was racked with doubt when "God burst this thing in my mind."

"Where will we sing?" she recounted asking herself. "Would people stop laughing long enough to listen?

"You know how the queer community is. They don't want to hear anybody talking about God. They have too many wounds from Bible abuse and queer bashing," Moore said. "And then the Christians who have bought in to the whole mistranslation of the Bible think, 'What is this? Queers are singing gospel?' "

Well, yes.

Moore, who has wide blue eyes and is always perfectly made up, said shame about her identity had led her to years of substance abuse and depression, and she was determined to use music to spread the word that it was possible to be transgender and self-loving and a person of faith.

She asked Yvonne Evans, who had grown up in the church and is known to be a strict and devoted choir leader, to be the director. Evans understood little about transgender people -- at the time, she thought they were all "showgirls" -- but she agreed anyway. So early in 2001, Moore hung up flyers advertising the first rehearsal. Six people showed up.

"Six people who really couldn't sing. I'm going to be honest with you. They came from everywhere. From the street. They were homeless, prostitutes," Evans said.

"They all wanted to do falsetto -- badly,'' Moore said.

"Real bad," said Evans.

Members of the choir are in various stages of transition from one gender to the other, which means some have gone through hormonal or surgical changes; some voices have changed because of hormone treatment. Moore and Evans just wanted singers to use their natural voices -- even if the register was higher or lower than typical male or female voices. Moore repeated advice she had once gotten: "Just sing from your heart and let your spirit speak."

Eventually, some new members joined and others were given a gentle nudge out. The choir -- a diverse group of mostly African Americans, some Latinos and a couple whites -- has now grown to 18 people. They pray in a huddle before every performance, then go on stage and rock the house. When the spirit so moves them -- and it frequently does -- they clap and bow, throw back their heads and raise their hands up high.

"The Holy Spirit comes through us," Moore said.

Kathleen McGuire, the conductor of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, recalled the first time she saw the choir perform. "The sound this small number of people produced was just amazing," she said. "Most of all, what struck me was the personal conviction on their faces."

The choir performed at events from the grand opening of the LGBT Community Center in San Francisco to a 2003 LGBT interfaith conference in Philadelphia.

In 2003, the choir sang in Minneapolis at the general senate meeting of the United Church of Christ. Although the church is not predominantly gay and lesbian, it is a "predominantly justice" church, said the Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder, the City of Refuge pastor. Following the performance, the senate voted to expand its ministries to transgender communities.

Last year, Moore -- who has worked on CDs by performers from singer Rhiannon to rockers Third Eye Blind -- donated her studio and about $20,000 worth of her time to produce and engineer the choir's CD. So far, they have sold 900 of the 1,000 copies they made.

Transcendence Gospel Choir is part of what some consider a movement.

The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, one of the country's first gay choruses, made its first public appearance the day that Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated in 1978. They had been scheduled to rehearse, but instead, the chorus went to City Hall and sang a hastily prepared hymn.

"Here was a group of people that felt marginalized, that was looking for a way that they could stand up and be visible as a group in a way that was safe," McGuire said.

Twenty-five years later, as the transgender community goes through some of the same battles for recognition and acceptance, Transcendence has stepped up as pioneers and "cultural warriors," she said. She was so inspired by the choir that she organized a program of gospel, spirituals and Motown music and invited Transcendence to join her choir in concerts Saturday night and tonight at Mission High School.

For many singers in Transcendence, the choir is "family."

"I feel more complete than I had before in my life," said Jerimyah D'Luv. "Now I feel I'm a part of, instead of feeling like an outsider."

Bobbi Jean Baker, a former crack addict who completed a 23-year sentence for robbery and second-degree murder in 2000, said that after joining the choir, "I went from being a nobody to being a somebody."

On the CD, Baker is the soloist on the song "I Almost Let Go," which she sees as a personal anthem.

"I felt like I just couldn't take life anymore," the lyrics go. "But God held me close/so I wouldn't let go."

"Transcendence opened my eyes to a whole new gamut of life," Baker said. "I saw people, and some looked just like me. They had similar experiences, and they were living as to who they are."

Becoming more spiritual helped Baker, who has nine brothers and six sisters, reconnect with her family. Most of her siblings bought the CD. Her oldest sister refused to speak to her after her gender transition, but recently, they started talking, and she invited Baker to her daughter's wedding.

"I'm going," Baker said, "as who I am."

For more information about Transcendence visit their website at:

Friday, May 05, 2006

TSTBC Conference Manifesto

To all prospective TSTBC conference attendees and trans-allies everywhere:

In every struggle, there are as many paths to civil liberty and justice as there are opinions. From the initial formation of our conference in 2005, there have been many voices that have been opposed to our own. There are some who believe that our efforts are about self-aggrandizement and motivated solely by ego. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many of us have experienced classism and other such “isms” that have kept us apart and separate.

As transpeople of color, we are doubly aware of how these “isms” can render people powerless and deny access to people and systems that would empower us. We have stated from the outset that we are not calling for separation from our White transbrothers and sisters or from any other trans-population of color – nor even from our lesbian sisters, gay brothers, bisexual and intersexed persons.

The TSTB Conference is a channel for empowerment for all transcommunites of color, in the hope that we might be able to enjoy the fraternity and sorority that others have enjoyed just by virtue of being who they are. TSTBC does not claim to have all the answers nor do we make any claim to extraordinary cosmic insight to end injustice of all kinds. Our conference and all its activities are just a forum to begin a dialogue so that such an understanding may be forthcoming.

We welcome anyone who comes to the TSTB conference with an open mind, heart and a genuine thirst for justice and fairness for all people. If your opinion is different than our own, as long as it is framed in a respectful manner, we welcome it and humbly invite you to present it. However, we do not believe that backbiting, rumors, hate-mongering, jealousy or envy provide the means for a qualitative discussion for social justice, equality and empowerment. We ask only that all of us come to the table with what we have to offer in order to empower all of us and to hear the many voices that either been silent or ignored for far too long.

Only by hearing all the voices can we truly strive for that American ideal – “E pluribus unum,” out of many, one.

Thank you for your attention and we hope that you accept our invitation to travel our path to justice for all transpeople.

TSTBC Conference Manifesto written by A. Dionne Stallworth
Philadelphia, PA
April 2006

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Happy Cuatro De Mayo!

It's my birthday today! I'm celebrating Cuatro De Mayo. ;)

Birthdays and the week leading up to it have always been an opportunity for me to take an introspective look at my life and the direction it's going. I'm also happy that I've lived to celebrate another one.

I've led a pretty interesting life and its gotten more so since my transition. It's a much happier one since I finally made body and mind match up in 1993.

I do have my moments when I lament about not experiencing my entire life as a female and wish I'd been born one when I emerged into the world at 10:45 PM several decades ago. It's taken me some time over the years to grow, accept and embrace my transwomanhood as the blessing it is.

I have the unique insights of living on both sides of the gender fence. It sets me apart from a natal woman who has no inkling what men go through on a day to day basis or the type of gender indoctrination they have to endure. Then again, women get a different indoctrination program that's just as restrictive.

I realize when I talk to the transmen on TSTB just how close I came to getting my fondest wish and how razor thin the physical differences are between men and women. A little less testosterone in vitro and my life would've been on a totally different path.

But how much more different than the current one?

I would definitely have been a much happier child growing up. I would've allowed myself to dream more often. I would've had the fun of attending my prom in a fab dress and not a powder blue tux. I would've gone into college with a much clearer sense of purpose. I would've had a better idea what career I wanted and exerted a more determined effort to make it happen instead of worrying about my unresolved gender issue. I'd have a better relationship with my family and I wouldn't have been afraid to fall in love.

I spent a lot of time pushing people away from me because I didn't want to hurt them when the gender issue that was raging like a ticking time bomb would eventually blow up. I feared it would cause pain not only for me but whatever natal female chose to love my 'twin brother'. In terms of the family, subconsciously I may have kept a distance from them because I knew that once I revealed that I was trans, there was a possibility I'd lose them forever and maybe I was trying to insulate myself from that pain.

The bottom line is that there's no way for me to accurately assess how different my life would be so I'll quit griping about it. I'm going to rededicate my focus toward becoming the Phenomenal Transwoman I'm evolving into and know that I am.

In order to do that I had to begin to love myself first before I could even hope to love someone else. The initial step in accomplishing that was dealing with the gender issue once and for all.

And that's the best birthday present I could ever give myself.

Feliz Compleanos, Monica.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

May 2006 TransGriot Column

I'll Always Love My Mama
Copyright 2006, THE LETTER

There’s a classic 1973 Intruders song that expresses how I feel about my mother back in H-Town. The chorus goes:

I’ll always love my mama
She’s my favorite girl.
I’ll always love my mama
She brought me in this world

Yep, Mable Roberts did a fantastic job of raising me and my brothers and sisters. She did it while juggling a teaching career, service to her church and to her sorority. I deeply appreciated the times she had to play mom and dad to us when my father was out of town. I was the one she used to roust out of bed on Saturday mornings to play chauffeur to various shopping malls.

Truth is, I enjoyed those trips as much as she and my grandmothers because of the quality time I got to spend with them.

One of the many things that I admire about my mother is her intelligence. She graduated cum laude with a degree in history while caring for a husband, a two year old toddler (the future TransGriot) and my newborn brother. When she started working on her masters she was pregnant with my sister. Mom is an even-tempered woman who instilled in my siblings and me our love of books, history, education and politics and is to this day a voracious reader with wide ranging tastes.

I marvel at Mom’s sense of style and how she did it on a budget. I jokingly call her ‘Imelda Marcos’ because of her sizable shoe collection. My sister Latoya gleefully gets to take advantage of it because they wear the same size. Speaking of sizes, she still cuts a shapely figure in a size 8 dress. (I’m jealous since I wear a size 16) She downplays her beauty, but I remember one Parent-Teacher conference day in fifth grade when she visited my classroom. My fifth grade teacher was a stunning looking sistah herself, but all the fellas said to me after she left “Your mama is finer than Ms. Ware.”

While mom and I are fairly close because I was her first born child, there are days when I wish I could’ve been her daughter from birth. I would’ve rather been in my sister’s position. While she was in college Latoya joined my mother’s sorority and Mom got the opportunity to pin her when she went over. I had to settle for the frustration while I was at UH of enviously watching the smartly dressed pledges walk around campus in skirted suits and heels in the sorority’s colors or being on the periphery when I DJed her sorority chapter’s Christmas party.

My Aunt Gwen along with a host of other relatives always told me that temperament wise I was more like her. That’s become more pronounced as I’ve gotten older. I inherited Mom’s sense of style and sense of humor. I can wield sarcasm with Ninja like precision just like her. In 1997 I ate Christmas dinner with the family for the first time since I transitioned. When I walked into the door of my grandmother’s house with my then roommate Vanity, mom quipped as she hugged me, “People always said when you were growing up that you looked like me. Now you REALLY look like me.” But don’t sleep on her. She’s tough as nails when she has to be. People that tried to take her kindness for weakness found out quickly that she wasn’t to be played with.

I have been living as a woman for over a decade now and I hope and pray that I am living up to the sterling example of African-American womanhood my mother embodies.

I love you Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


Guest Article by Akilah al-Khaliq
Photo by Mariette Pathy Allen

Many of us face issues daily, some sort of issue regardless what it may be!

I have found that as transgendered individuals (whether mtf or ftm), we are often railroaded and bombarded with expectations of others! We have been caught in the same lapse that others have put us in!

Among MTF transsexuals it's often said, if you use "that" thing, then you aren't a woman and if you are a non-op or don't plan on having surgery then you're not deserving to be called a woman. Which is simply incorrect.

Among FTM's (which I am not but I have talked to one in particular who has hooked me up with a lot of info on transmen), it's often said that if you have no problems with using that "thing" then you can't possibly be a FTM. You're simply a delusional individual trying to not be called a lesbian so you start calling yourself a man. You'll never be a man as long as you use it and not have surgery! This is MOST incorrect!!!

It's most unfortunate that many of us assume that each and every single one of us assume that the other has the same level of discomfort as the next with our bodies! On one hand we have the person who is completely comfortable with the body given to them via genetics and will never take hormones or anything else and will never do any body alterations whatsoever, then you have the one who is completely insecure about their body and will do EVERYTHING to change their body many times not because they want to change their body but because they are trying to live up to a standard that says 'this is what a woman looks like and this is what a man looks like'.

Everyone else fits somewhere in between those two extremes. Somewhere on that line you fit, I fit, and everyone else who is of transgender or non-transgender experience.

In reality, do you know how many natal men and natal women do ALL that they can to CHANGE themselves because they are uncomfortable with what they see in the mirror...they want to change and in a sense feel they HAVE to change!

In retrospect, I look at what I put myself through many times and realize, I've been doing the right thing! I've finally learned to listen to "self" and not listen to what everyone else is telling me!

A friend of mine told me something that is most important to me personally! He told me that I spoke life into everyone I met but refused that same life that I allowed others to partake of! He said in a sense I'm a gatekeeper helping people find their way but my path seems cloudy and unsure! He said to me only thing left to do is LISTEN AND HEED what is being said by me! This is where you find truth, revelation, wisdom, understanding, overstanding, knowledge and love!

This is what I say to all of us today. Let us look deep within self and learn to seek truth, revelation, wisdom, understanding, overstanding, knowledge and love!

So...whatever your path from androgynous to ultra-fem or ultra-masc., BE TRUE TO SELF!!! LISTEN TO YOUR SOUL!!! FIND WHO YOU ARE!!!

People will always have opinions but remember that you are the one who have to live with the opinions of others should YOU choose to live your life through their perception!!!

It's quite tiring hearing from not only the "non-trans" community but also the "trans" community that someone will never be a woman or are not trans
because of these small minor issues! For some reason, both communities are obsessed with genitalia and this mind view is a very narrow mind view!!!

I do agree that there is a responsibility to your sexual partner to let them know what's between your legs before the day comes that you are in the bed together trying to get you some. HOWEVER, this limited view of BEING a man or woman is sickening and poisoning not only to us as transmen and transwomen but to the mainstream population and we wonder why we are not accepted! We have let them define us by their perceptions and have said nothing about it but continue to live up to their perceptions!

Personally, I believe that if I can change one, I've done my part! If I can help ONE person come to a more open worldview of who I am and percieve me and others like me on another level...I've done my part!!!

Am I A Woman Now? HELL YES!!! Without a doubt, I don't have a vagina but a vagina is not what defines me! I DEFINE ME!!! This is the level that we each need to get to! Defining ourselves in lieu of allowing everyone else who has NO idea of what is going on with us doing the defining!!!

Tell me...what is it that makes a woman a woman? Many outside and even within the community will say you must have breasts and a vagina! Well what happens when I am a "real" woman by those standards and I tell a man that I used to have a penis and I get stabbed 21 times in the chest or shot in the head because according to him I used to be a man!?

But society says that being a woman or man is dependent upon either having breasts and a vagina or a penis! This is what society says. So why is there a great number of people who are willing to kill me even though I have those things now?

Or maybe it's having an hour glass shape or a straight up and down body with no curves whatsoever that defines us as a woman or man!? If it is, I know many "men" who are women and many "women" who are men!

Case in's not these outside influences or secondary sexual characteristics..IT IS HOWEVER YOUR POINT OF REFERENCE COMING FROM WITHIN!!!

My authentication comes solely from the inside and that is something that no surgical modification or hormonal modification can change! I also don't believe that someone not having a problem with their genitals and/or function makes that person any less of a man or a woman!!!

As long as you are living up to YOUR will be sweeter as the days go by! Yes we will have to put up with foolishness but under no circumstances will that make us HATE ourselves because we are listening to ourselves and not to outside influences that affect our perception of who we should be!!!

So...being that we are all different, unique and marvelously made in the image of God...let us not attack one another but let us come together, accept the other person's perception of self and love one another all the same! There is enough outside attackers that we ought not put ourselves and sisters and brothers through this and foremost...DON'T PUT YOURSELF THROUGH IT!!! We most assuredly attack ourselves too much and develop hatred of self! This is what I'm fighting against. Let us learn to love self in all of our forms and not hate self which causes too much bitterness and dissension!

Callin' Y'all Out

The hypocrisy of the Black community concerning its GLBT children has always been a sore spot wth me.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard Reverend Bigbucks from the Humongous Baptist Church and his like-minded clones rail about GLBT peeps from the pulpit, then after that rousing gay-baiting sermon will point to his gay choir director to rock the sanctuary.

The Black community will flock to the theaters to see Tyler Perry in drag but got issues with the transgendered sistah or brotha they see out and about living their lives in the 'hood.

You have the 'hard' wannabe hip-hop thugs who say they hate fags but are doing more things on the down low to their behinds than wiping them with toilet paper.

Case in point. I found it funny that the recent homophobic incident involving Busta Rhymes happened near a gay club.

The genetic sisters who befriend us and give us all kinds of help putting our feminine presentation together until the guys start taking an interest in us, then there's drama. They start sniping at us behind our backs, telling the world our business or spouting that 'you ain't a real woman unless you can drop a baby or bleed once a month' line.

I won't even mention the parents who will toss their GLBT child out on the street without hesitation or withdraw their love from them in some instances.
But let Rashan be a frequent visitor of the court system and he gets more support from the family than we do. Mama will be on the six o'clock news loudly proclaiming her child's innocence to every television camera in sight

The refusal of the larger African-American community to openly embrace us, talk about GLBT issues and have frank discussions about sex has hurt our community. The explosion of HIV/AIDS cases is a symptom of that. It's also depriving the African-American community of our talents at a time when we are sorely needed to help us overcome some vexing problems. This is happening simply because some people can't get beyond their personal prejudices. The bottom line is that we exist and y'all need to deal with it.

We share the same heritage and African roots that you do. We get jacked with for being Black. With a government in power that hates ALL of us it's even more imperative that we band together to come up with strategies and solutions for dealing with the problems in our community and fighting those forces that still oppose our advancement as a people.

The Madness of Queen Derby

It's the first week of May. In addtion to my birthday falling during this week, in Da Ville that means it's time for the annual madness and frivolity that's a lead in to the running of Saturday's Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Derby Week is like Mardi Gras used to be in New Orleans (minus the nudity). Lots of parties, peripheral events such as the Kentucky Derby Festival and a few parades leading up to Kentucky Oaks Day and Derby Day itself. The big one is the Pegasus parade which has native Louisvillian Muhammad Ali as its Grand Marshal this year.

The kickoff for it is Thunder Over Louisville, a massive fireworks and air show that happens along the Ohio River waterfront downtown. The Great Steamboat Race takes place on the Ohio River on a six mile course from the Clark bridge to Six Mile Island and back between the Cincinatti-based paddlewheel boat Delta Queen and the Louisville based Belle of Louisville.

Some of the bigger parties are hosted by former NBA ballers Darrell Grffith, Derek Anderson and the 100 Black Men. Those are the ones that mainly Black Louisvillians and Black celebs attend. There are also other parties hosted by the mayor, the governor of Kentucky, and various organizations in addition to the pageant that selects the Derby Queen and her court.

The younger set used to cruise down Broadway, the east-west main street in Da Ville that crosses the entire city from Shawnee Park in the majority Black West End of Louisville to its intersection with Baxter Avenue near the entrance to Cave Hill Cemetary on the East End which is mostly white. Gridlock and some hooliganism led to LMPD announcing a major crackdown on cruising this year. It has pissed off many of the African-American youth in town that lament that there aren't many Derby events designed with them in mind and they have a vaild point. It's something that seriously needs to be addressed and planned for in the near future with them having a major say in what happens.

The GLBT community has a Saturday Derby benefit party that raises money for the Fairness Campaign and draws GLBT friendly and out GLBT celebs. It's the one I usually get to attend because its affordable and conducive to my work schedule.

One of the big shindigs happens just a mile from where I live, the Barnstable-Brown Party. The Doublemint Gum twins of the 70's Cyb and Trish Barnstable are from Louisville and Trish (the married one) throws a lavish benefit party that brings Hollywood celebs to her massive house on Lexington Road. There are eager autograph seekers waiting outside for a glimpse of their fave celeb.

The Kentucky Oaks is the Friday before Derby Day. It's called 'Ladies Day at the Races' because all the horse races on the program that day have nothing but fillies in them. Just as the winning horse in the Kentucky Derby gets a garland of roses, the winning horse in the Kentucky Oaks receives a garland of lillies. The attendees dress uo for it just like the do for Derby and it has more local peeps in attendance than the mainly international crowd that shows up for the Derby.

Oops, that reminds me, need to go shopping for a good deal on a Derby hat. Later.