Friday, December 29, 2006

Battlestar Galactica-Frakking Awesome

During my junior year of high school the original Battlestar Galactica debuted on ABC in 1978. I quickly fell in love with the show and was dismayed when it was cancelled after only a year. Over the years I hoped that the original show would be revived and kept up with news of the various attempts of Richard 'Apollo' Hatch to do just that.

In 2003 a 'reimagined' version written by veteran Star Trek writer Ron Moore debuted as a miniseries. It had some radical changes to the basic story. The Thousand Year War between the Cylons and humans was shortened to 40 years. The robot Cylons were now creations of humanity that rebelled and nearly destroyed their masters, not an alien race. To throw another curve ball into the mix the Cylons not only have 12 humanoid models, they don't die. Their consciousnesses are downloaded and they wake up in somewhere else in a resurrection chamber.

The Galactica was about to be decommissioned and serve as a museum. Even some familiar characters like Colonel Tigh, Commander Adama, Starbuck and Boomer changed race and in some cases gender. In Boomer's case, she was revealed to be a Cylon sleeper agent. They also gave all those characters first names.

When the Pegasus appeared in this version of Battlestar it was commanded by Admiral Helena Cain. Even Baltar's character underwent changes. Instead of crassly selling out the human race for his own personal gain and getting double crossed by the Cylons, Gaius Baltar is a scientific genius who couldn't keep his pants on. He lets his girlfriend poke around the Colonial Fleet mainframe and submits a command navigation program she wrote to the fleet. Unfortunately for humanity Baltar's girlfriend (Number 6)is a Cylon. The algorithm program she wrote contains a backdoor that the Cylons use to cripple Colonial defenses for the surprise Cylon nuclear attack on the Colonies and the Fleet.

New characters are introduced such as Laura Roslin, the Secretary of Education 43rd in the Colonial line of succession. She becomes president of the Colonies in the aftermath of the attack. She discovered just before leaving Caprica City for Galactica's decommissioning ceremony that she has terminal breast cancer. We're introduced to Chief Galen Tyrol, Lt. Felix Gaeta, Laura Roslin's aide Billy Keikeya, Tom Zarek, the Cylon Number Six and Chief Petty Officer Anastasia 'Dee' Dualla.

When the new 'reimagined' show debuted I was still pissed about the fact that the highest ranking character that looked like me was Chief Petty Officer Anastasia Dualla and boycotted it. On the original BSG Booomer and Colonel Tigh were African-Americans and were respectively the third in command of Galactica's best fighter squadron and the XO of the ship. I also had to wrap my mind around a female Starbuck named Kara Thrace.

When they repeated it the next year in preparation for the first season I decided that my love of Edward James Olmos as an actor outweighed my anger over some of my fave characters from the old show being played by new actors. Curiosity also got me to tune in. I wanted to see Edward James Olmos play Commander William Adama. I'm glad I did.

One of the things I constantly complain about besides my outright hatred and refusal to watch 'reality shows' is the lack of good writing in the non-reality TV shows that are currently being broadcast.

This version of Battlestar delivers the goods. I fell in love with it. The writing is first rate and they always keep you guessing in terms of the plot. The various episodes cover issues that seem as though they were ripped fresh from the headlines. It's fascinating to see a world similar to ours in which they have this space travel technology far in excess of our own, but yet haven't found a cure for cancer. It's interesting that they use projectile weapons and guns instead of lasers to fight battles.

This Battlestar is one of the highest rated show on Sci-Fi and has garnered several awards over the past two seasons. There have been rumors over the years since Richard Hatch joined the cast to play Tom Zarek that other original BSG actors would either be doing the same or come onboard to do guest appearances.

One interesting guest actor on this show is Lucy Lawless of Xena fame. She's currently playing Cylon Deanna Biers. They even addressed one of my issues with it when Dualla was promoted to lieutenant and second in command of the Pegasus under Lee 'Apollo' Adama at the end of Season 2. Unfortunately the Pegasus got destroyed in the escape from New Caprica.

Season 3 picks up where it left off January 21. I'll be tuned in. Until then I'll be watching my collection of Battlestar DVD's trying to figure out what the Cylon Plan is.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Old School Christmas

Me and a friend in the days leading up to the Festival of Conspicuous Consumption were talking about how Christmas was growing up for both of us as children in the 70's. We had some similar memories despite living almost 1000 miles apart.

Before my family purchased the current artificial green Christmas tree we still use, we had an artificial silver one with silver foil looking attachments to it that dated back to the 60's. The silver foil tree was backlit with a rotating lightbulb thingy that bathed it in three different colors of red, orange and green light at regular intervals.

We actually bought a real tree one year at Mom's insistence. The additional maintenance and upkeep required to have it stay fresh, the extra precautions we had to observe in order for the tree not to become a fire hazard and the annoyance of vacuuming the carpet almost every day because of fallen needles caused us to go right back to the artificial one the next year.

The radio stations would play classic Christmas music from Thanksgiving until Christmas Day. I loved hearing the variety of soulful Christmas songs that ranged from Nat King Cole to Charles Brown's blues flavored Merry Christmas, Baby.

Stores wouldn't put up Christmas decorations until AFTER Thanksgiving Day. You looked forward to watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, The Grinch That Stole Christmas and the other various Rankin-Bass animated Christmas shows.

The other aspect of it was a lot of the toys we received made us use our imaginations or physically do something. Hula hoops. Easy Bake Ovens. Etch a Sketches. Legos. Lincoln Logs. Light Brites. Sporting equipment. Bicycles.

Playing electronic football games back in the day involved setting up 22 plastic men, a felt football and a electrically charged metal football field, not a video game console. Boxing was the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots. One Christmas I got a foosball table and even a hockey game. I developed a wicked spin shot that I still confound my foosball opponents with. I generate speed with it just by flicking my wrists.

I had plastic soldiers like most kids my age and a GI Joe but would've rather had a Barbie. Of course there was always the box that contained clothes and an occasional book or two for me since my parents friends and my family knew I loved to read.

As I got older I was drafted into the Santa's Helpers Corps. I had to help keep my sister's presents safely hidden from their prying, nosey eyes until Christmas Day. I also learned as a member of the SHC the three most deadly words of the Christmas season: Some Assembly Required.

I ended up discovering the joys and frustrations of putting together various Barbie houses, a miniature doll house and two bikes.

Every time I hear those classic back in the day Black Christmas songs during the holidays my mind drifts to those relatively carefree days when as Stevie Wonder sang in I Wish, then my only worry was for Christmas what would be my toy.

These days I have far more to worry about than I did in the 70's.

My Comments-Miss USA Controversy

As you probably guessed, I have some thoughts about the Miss USA controversy and they are rooted in what happened to Vanessa L. Williams.

I realize this is The Donald's pageant. As the owner of it he can make whatever decision he chooses to make concerning the status of Tara Conner. But I still have to wonder what would have happened if it was Tamiko Nash running buck wild in New York. Based on what happened to Vanessa Williams, my highly skeptical answer would have been no.

Let's flip da script for a moment. Let's assume that Tamiko Nash is wearing the MIss USA crown instead of Tara Conner. If Tamiko Nash had been hanging out with gangsta rappers, caught drinking while underage, running around with various Manhattan playa-playas and was headed to rehab for an alleged coke addiction, I have to question whether US public opinion or the media would have allowed a sistah to screw up on that massive scale with little or no media attention when there was a Caucasian first runner-up available to replace her.

Now let's take our alternate history scenario further and assume that The Donald did cut his wayward African-American queen some slack and offered her the same deal that he gave Tara Conner. I can see the right wingers screaming on Faux News and right-wing talk radio that he was caving in to the Black community. They'd be railing about his 'keeping a woman of questionable morals' in that spot to represent the USA at the Miss Universe Pageant and taking every opportunity to use the incident to attack African-Americans in general.

Let's exit our alternate universe and slide back to reality. In terms of how most African-Americans perceive our culture, young White people get multiple chances to screw up, young Blacks and other minorities do not.

Whether that's an accurate perception or not, the differing results as to what happened to Vanessa Williams in 1984 and Tara Conner in 2006 only confirm the suspicions of African-Americans that there IS one.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Double Standard

Trump Blasted for Keeping `Party Girl' Miss USA While Black Runner-Up Waits In Wings

Wednesday, December 20, 2006
By: Monica Lewis,

Let the conspiracy theories begin.

Despite developing a "party girl" reputation and even breaking the law by engaging in underage drinking, Miss USA Tara Conner will keep her crown, knocking down any chance of first runner-up Tamiko Nash taking over the title.

In a press conference Tuesday, Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe organization, said he would not dethrone Conner, whose alleged behavior has come under serious scrutiny in recent days. The former Miss Kentucky has reportedly been caught drinking in numerous New York nightclubs, engaging in an open mouth kiss with the reigning Miss Teen USA and been involved in flings with some of Manhattan's most eligible bachelors.

But Conner, who is white, stood by Trump's side as he publicly issued a vote of confidence, calling his wayward beauty queen "a good person." Had Trump pulled the trigger and sent Conner packing, Nash would have stepped in becoming the fifth black woman to hold the Miss USA title. Instead, Nash remains in her current role while Conner keeps the crown -- and enters rehab for drinking and after allegedly testing positive for cocaine.

"I've always been a believer in second chances," Trump, who owns the Miss Universe Organization, said at a podium inside the atrium of Trump Tower along New York's famed Fifth Avenue. "Tara is a good person. Tara has tried hard. Tara is going to be given a second chance."

According to reports, Trump was prepared to dethrone Conner, who just turned 21 Monday, before meeting with her prior to the scheduled press conference. However, he chalked up Conner's behavior to what happens to many small-town women who come to New York, the city that never sleeps.

In 2002, Miss Russia Oxana Fedorova won the Miss Universe pageant but was stripped of her title after violating her contract. Trump said Fedorova didn't show up for some photo shoots and charity events. It was the first time a titleholder had been ousted in the contest's more than 50-year history. Fedorova denied she was fired and said she gave up the title voluntarily.

In Nash's home state of California, many people have been talking about the controversy and the apparent blind eye given to Conner.
Paula Kimber, publisher of the California Advocate, a Black newspaper, said she disagrees with Trump's choice.

"The general feeling here is that if the races were the other way around, it wouldn't be the same result," Kimber told "I couldn't imagine (Nash) keeping the title if it had been her who did all of this stuff."

This turn of events has many looking back to the mid-1980s when Vanessa Williams was forced to relinquish her crown when nude pictures of her, taken before she became the first Black Miss America, surfaced. Williams, who went on to have a professional
acting and singing career that could be envied by other beauty queens who served out the duration of their reigns, was thought unfit to represent a title that makes its holders an instant role model.

Melissa Lacewell Harris, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, said the situation speaks volumes about white privilege in America.

"Giving her a second chance is indicative of how White America works.
It's true for everyone from white fraternity boys to even people like George Bush, who can have mediocre grades and a failing international war and still be given a second chance," Lacewell Harris told

"Over and over again, the mistakes young white people make are not held against them," Lacewell Harris said, adding that, if true, Conner's behavior don't seem to flow with the family values that a person in her position should display. "But when young Blacks make mistakes, it more than likely limits their opportunities forever.

"For the privileged people, whether it is white or the wealthy, they don't have to live perfect lives to have equal opportunities," Lacewell Harris continued. "They're allowed to make mistakes and even fail. Yet with (blacks), any moral misstep or miscalculation can lead to a lifetime of pain."

While some may feel as if debating whether or not Conner should keep her crown is a trivial matter, Lacewell Harris said, this latest turn of events could address some larger, more compelling issues plaguing society.

"This type of scenario is a litmus test and sets the stage for what's possible, not only on the cultural front but in a political sense," she told

"In a certain way, the way Barack Obama is playing with the idea of running for president leaves us in the position where we need to asking are we ready for Black leaders," she added. "If there's a sense of discomfort of going to a Black girl when there's a problematic white girl holding the crown, maybe Barack should wait."

Friday, December 22, 2006

On Transgender Human Rights Issues in Africa

From Fahamu (Oxford)
Visit their site:

December 7, 2006
Posted to the web December 7, 2006

by Juliet Victor Mukasa

In most African states, homosexuality is illegal. Juliet Victor Mukasa writes that in Africa, transgender people are punished and ostracised for being who they are. "While still with my parents, I was always beaten by my father for "behaving" like a boy. In school, the same story. While peeing one day my neighbour's daughter found me peeing while squatting and she screamed like she had seen a monster."

As a transgender person who is attracted physically and emotionally to other women, issues that African women and trangenders face are of particular concern to me. The one thing that all transgender people have in common is that we do not fit into traditional gender categories.

We're taught that that a human being must behave, present themselves, dress and so on in only two ways...male or female. There are rules that govern genders, unfortunately. Such gender rules include:

-How a man should dress in order to appear masculine;

-What types of jobs are fitting for a woman

-That a woman must only be in a relationship with another man, not with a woman

These rules to govern our behaviour are socially constructed, meaning that they are not "natural". They are rules made up by people, sometimes with horrible punishments for not following them.

In Africa, transgender people are seriously punished for being who they are. While still with my parents, I was always beaten by my father for "behaving" like a boy. In school, the same story. While peeing one day my neighbour's daughter found me peeing while squatting and she screamed like she had seen a monster. I became the laughing stock of the village and I expelled myself because of the humiliation. I could speak the whole day about the discomforts I have suffered in life more because I am a transgender person.

All trans-people that I have interacted with mention such, or even worse, moments in their lives. It can be a very deep violation of our being to be forced to perform our gender differently to who we feel it for ourselves.

Some people, like myself, are born with a sense of ourselves as male in some ways, even though we are biologically female.

As a transgender person, it is constantly demanded of me to explain and justify why I do not fit into other people's ideas of what a woman or a man should be.

As a Human Rights defender, I am working to protect a space for people to exist freely without facing harassment, threats, or violence for not fitting into traditional gender categories.

I can give specific examples of human rights abuses and violations of transgender people in Africa:

- Raped to prove that you are really a woman

- At school and public assembly - humiliation and beatings

- Thrown out of the family home

- Thrown out of subsequent homes by landlords

- Losing jobs because of feeling violated wearing a skirt

- Psychological Effects of Abuse: Depression, Anger, Drinking, Suicide

- Holding a full bladder for 12-18 hours daily

- Being undressed and humiliated

- Being abused by government when trying to get a passport

- In church - I was once stripped naked before a multitude of people. The pastor 'saw' the spirit of a young man inside me and they burnt my clothes and shoes in order to kill the male spirit.

- By Police: humiliation, mocking, mistreatment

However, transgender people have also been successful in overcoming these abuses.

In Uganda there is tremendous energy and anger on the part of activists. Many LGBTs are ready to rise up. For example, some transgender men are dressing up in drag and declaring that they have had enough.

Another victory is the establishment of the first specifically Transgender organization on the continent: Gender DynamiX, located in Cape Town, South Africa.

We are now claiming language and claiming spaces. Sometimes it is even difficult for us to understand ourselves because the world has been constructed to make us completely invisible. But now we are finding words to use for ourselves such as He She Che.

As an illustration of why we need your support, I would like to highlight the work of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). SMUG is an organization made up of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Human Rights Defenders. Many of us in leadership in this organization are women and several of us are transgender. We face many challenges such as in Uganda, on a weekly basis, gay men are arrested and face detention if they do not pay a bribe to be released. This has become a business from which the police benefit. The basic Human Rights of LGBT people are completely disregarded in this process as the police abuse our rights.

Many of us do not receive protection from the police when we face violations of our rights by the surrounding community. One of SMUG's primary emphases in our workplan for this year is sensitising the police and creating a better working relationship with them.

By having the support, awareness, and protection of international Human Rights bodies, we will be much more effective in this endeavour. Through our work, we aim to help people realise the ways in which we are all connected, whether straight or LGBT, the societal rules governing what a woman has to be like and what a man has to be like hurt us all.

However, we still have many needs. We are an invisible population when it comes to protection. There is almost NO research to understand transgender people's lives in Africa.We have an undocumented history and are still invisible.

The secrecy and covert nature of our work in Africa also makes us invisible to the larger gender and human rights sector, and to each other. There is almost NO action in this area to protect people who do not fit into traditional gender categories. At the same time we are highly visible and therefore highly vulnerable to discrimination.

Transgender people have the potential to radically challenge discriminatory practices in a way that helps to free all people from sexism. People who cross gender boundaries make transformation of society more possible, and make gender transgressions more acceptable and enable societal gender transformation. We - the transgender community - have the right to tell our stories and have them heard, and to have our lives protected.

Mainstream Human Rights organizations, for the most part, are not accepting or protecting us on any level. As people from all over the world who are concerned about human rights and gender injustice, we need to work together to protect our most vulnerable Human Rights Defenders.


1. Research and understand the complex self-identification of transgender people in Africa.

2. More effectively monitor human rights situations abuses and violations against Transgender People (such as systematic rape, intimidation, forced undressing, and economic exclusion).

3. Educate the UN bodies and its partners about transgender concerns.

4. Provide training, support, and protection to transgender Human Rights Defenders and allies.

5. Put pressure on local governments, donors, economic powers and human rights institutions toprovide protection for those who do not fit into traditional gender categories and to recognize the way in which transgender people add to the freedom of expression and quality of life of all people.

• This paper was presented at the World International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) PANEL AT 2ND UNCHR SESSION. Juliet Victor Mukasa is the Chairperson of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). Mukasa is also in the ILGA Board of Representatives

Pumping Up-Beauty To Die For

TransGriot Note: Transwoman J. Middleton testifying in a 2002 pretrial hearing related to Miami's Vera Lawrence case

One thing that has concerned me over the last few years is silicone pumping parties and the rising number of deaths that have been occurring in various parts of the country as a result of them.

It's not a new phenomenon to me, but I recall being introduced to a young transwoman at a Transgender Initiative meeting a year after I arrived in Louisville. The first question she asked me after the introductions and noting my prominent cheekbones and C-cup breasts was, "Did you get pumped?"

Some of my young sistahs that wish to transition either don't have the funds or don't want to give hormone replacement therapy the time required to make them look 'fishy'. In order to achieve that feminine look they will have (they hope) medical grade silicone injected into their lips, buttocks, cheeks and breasts in order to enlarge them and give them that feminine appearance.

Pumping is also popular among the pageant girls seeking a quick and inexpensive way to enlarge their breasts, hips, and cheeks without resorting to surgery. An underground network of unlicensed providers has sprung up in various parts of the country to provide those services at 'pumping parties'. At these parties groups of people gather at a central location to get injected or share at prices ranging from $250 to $1000 a shot.

But as the 2003 Vera Lawrence case pointed out, it's not just transgender women who are doing it. Genetic women are also going to pumping parties to enhance their looks. But that desire can have fatal consequences.

Vera Lawrence died after having 12,000 cc of industrial grade silicone injected into each of her buttocks at a Miami area pump party. The case garnered media attention because the person accused of administering the fatal injections was transgender. In July 2003 Mark Hawkins was sentenced to 30 years and Viva Hendrix to 5 years for their roles in Ms. Lawrence's death, but Hawkins' conviction was overturned.

The FDA has never approved the marketing of injectable liquid silicone for any cosmetic purpose, including the treatment of facial defects or wrinkles, or enlarging the breasts. Besides the risk of death, the adverse effects of liquid silicone injections have included movement of the silicone to other parts of the body, inflammation and discoloration of surrounding tissues, and the formation of granulomas (nodules of granulated, inflamed tissue).

One of the other risks from pumping is the possibility of acquiring HIV. If one of the participants is infected and shares a needle with another person, then that infected person will spread the virus with everyone who shared a silicone shot with her.

I'm not a fan of pumping parties. My advice is to use hormones to get the desired look. It took your mothers, aunts and sisters about 10 years to get their curves, breasts and hips, so why rush the process? I do understand the overwhelming desire to look as realistic as possible, but long-term health problems or death as a result of a short term desire to look 'fish' is a losing proposition.

But to all the transwomen (and genetic ones) reading this, if you insist on doing so after all the warnings that myself and medical professionals have given about the dangers of loose silicone roaming through your body, then that's on you.

I want to look my best, too. Using loose silicone to accomplish that isn't part of my game plan and never will be. Beauty is not worth dying over.

New Game Plan

Another guest column I wrote that was published by THE LETTER in August 2003
New Game Plan
By Monica Roberts
Copyright 2003, THE LETTER

During the summer of 2002 I wrote an article directed at the
Caucasian male to female transsexuals in the community. I stated to
them that they are now considered whether they like it or not,
minorities, and the old rules of white male privilege that they are
used to operating under don't apply. Some of my own people have hard
heads too, so I'm now going to turn my attention to African-American
transgendered peeps.

I've been observing the Black GLBT community since the early 80's, and
I've been considered one of the trail blazing leaders in the national
trans community since 1998. One of the things that I admire about the
Caucasian trans community is that there is far more discussion and
information sharing concerning the process of transition than among
my own people.

And why is that happening? I believe that too much time is spent in
the African-American trans community focusing on having sex and
partying instead of intelligently discussing the process that leads
to us becoming recognized in the eyes of mainstream society as a
female. I witnessed too many Black T-girls who allow their lives to
get wrapped up in the short term pleasures of having a 'husband' or
finding 'trade' to sleep with for the night. There is much more to
being a woman than swallowing estrogen, developing a feminine body,
and spreading your legs or bending over to screw everything that
moves. That short-sighted thinking is dangerous, and has probably put
the entire African-American community at risk.
When studies like the 2000 Washington DC Transgender Needs Assessment
show that 32% of our sisters are HIV-positive out of a sample group
of 250 people, it's time to consider a new game plan.

Another is the fact that those T-girls who have acquired the
knowledge on how to transition jealously guard it like the secret
recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken. The persons who've already
transitioned want to cut out the potential competition. I remember
bumping into that problem when I was trying to find out how to get
the process started back in 1981. Most of the girls I asked were
tight-lipped on where they got their hormones, who did their hair,
or the other points of Transition 101. They ignored me instead
of seeing me as another human being who wanted to get to the place
where they were. They had forgotten the cardinal rule of the African-
American community: Each one, teach one. The spread of the
Internet has largely eliminated this problem, since much of the
information that I was seeking at that time is readily available

Just once I'd like to see discussions for example, on what's
happening with T-sistas in various parts of the country. I'd like to
see us form our own organizations so that we can openly discuss
what's on our minds, and try to bridge the gaps between the
professional T-girls, the club T-girls, and the street T-girls.

I'd love to see T-sistas show up in significant numbers one
September at Southern Comfort in Atlanta or have our own.
I'd love to have conversations with them about aspects of the
transition process that are working their nerves. I've love to be
able to network with other T-sisters to build a foundation for a
nationwide support apparatus. I'd like to see African-American T-
sisters write about their feelings, how they grew up,
what drama they dealt with, what age they started the change, and
have them published in gay and straight media.

Most of all, I'd love to see the professional T-girls come out, if
possible,and become role models for the next generation of T-kids.
I'm in contact with many African-American T-girls who are college
educated. Some are holding advanced degrees. They are working in
various professional fields, and a few I know are wives and mothers
successfully raising children.
It's sad that unlike Caucasian T-kids, many of our T-kids have never
been exposed to a successful professional T- person who looks like
them. That's critically important in building our T-kids self esteem
and showing those kids that there is another path besides sex work
to a better life.

Finally, we need to impress upon people that transition is a slow
time-consuming process, and a major life altering decision. There
are no shortcuts, so put the silicone away. Your mother and your
sisters had years to learn everything about Femininity 101, and their
bodies developed over time. In my case, I started transitioning at
age 27, so I not only had to learn everything about femininity (and
I'm still learning at age 40), but at that moment I needed to have
the level of knowledge appropriate for a 27 year old Black woman.
The rub was that I didn't have 27 years to learn it.

How I did it was asking questions of my genetic female sisterfriends,
accepting the advice that they gave me, and observing their behavior
in various social situations To paraphrase the old joke about
getting to Carnegie Hall, the best way to become a woman when you
weren't immersed in femininity at birth is practice, practice,
practice. Much of my early progress in assimilating into Black
womanhood happened because of the help I received, and still get to
this day.

We Black T-girls have a lot to live up to. Black women are the
mothers of civilization, and we have a long, proud history of
achievement and success despite tremendous odds. I look at it as an
honor and a privilege to finally become part of that sacred circle
after being on the outside looking in for so long.

Anybody else care to join me?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Recruiting Visit

A short story by Monica Roberts

Dedicated to all the GLBT peeps either deployed in Iraq or serving in the military.

Paula Morgan was in the bathroom applying her favorite shade of lipstick when the doorbell rang. She put on a final coat and checked her appearance in the mirror before heading over to answer the front door.
“Good evening ma’am. Sorry to disturb you. Is Tracy home?”
“Yes, but we’re leaving in 30 minutes. Who are you?”
“I’m Sergeant McGill from the Armed Forces Career Center. I would like to talk to him about possible career options in the military.”
“I know he was thinking about that during his freshman year. Come on in.”
“Thank you ma’am. Since y’all have somewhere to go I’ll be brief.”
“Would you like something to drink?”
“Water would be just fine for me, Ms. Morgan.”

Paula returned with two glasses of water as Sergeant McGill took a look around the modestly decorated living room of the Morgan home. In one corner were several large trophies in addition to the academic awards that Tracy had earned. He also took a look at the family photos perched upon a bookshelf. In addition to pictures of Tracy at various ages he noticed several pictures of an attractive young woman who resembled a younger version of the curvaceous lady sitting next to him. There was a large one of the same young woman wearing a cap and gown. But as he recalled his earlier conversations with Tracy he never remembered him mentioning that he had a sister.

“You must be very proud of Tracy.”
“Yes, I am. My baby’s graduating with honors.”
“Yes ma’am. We noticed that he had excellent scores on his SAT and ACT tests. He also scored very high on the Military Aptitude Test.”
“Tracy’s always been a smart child. Couldn’t understand why he wanted to join the military.”
“It’ll give him an opportunity to travel the world and develop his leadership skills “
“That is true. Tracy’s grandfather was in the Marines.”
“Montford Point Marine. He fought at Iwo Jima.”

Paula checked her watch. They'd been sitting there talking for fifteen minutes and Tracy still hadn’t appeared yet. “Baby, we need to be leaving soon. What’s taking you so long?”
“Just packing the rest of my stuff, Mom.”
Paula returned her attention to the handsome recruiter sitting on her couch as he asked,” So you two are leaving on a trip?”
“Actually, it’s for a competition here in town.”
“A competition?”
At that moment Tracy yelled from the bedroom, “Mom, I can’t find my black pumps.”
“Oh, I’m sorry baby, I borrowed them for my date last night. Check my closet”
“And hurry up. You know you need to be checked in for the pageant by 7.”
“Pageant?” stammered Sergeant McGill. He took another look at the graduation photo and realized the young woman he was looking at was Tracy.
“Yes, Tracy’s so talented. Does a killer Patti LaBelle impersonation and is building quite a reputation in the femme queen ranks in the ball community. Those are his trophies in the corner.

Sergeant McGill tried to digest the news as she continued. “I always knew there was something different about him when he was growing up. Not long after he took that military test I caught him dressed in my clothes. When I asked him why, he confessed to me that he was unhappy as a boy and wanted to be a girl."
Paula took another sip of her water as she continued. "All that matters to me is my child's happiness. If that means he becomes my daughter, so be it. The only reason that Tracy was considering joining the military was that he thought it would make a man out of him.”
“Ms. Morgan, no one needs to know that Tracy's transgendered. Just looking at that graduation photo I couldn't tell. It would still be a wonderful...”
“Spare me the sales pitch, Sergeant. I’m not allowing my only child to join the military for that superficial reason so he can be shot at in Iraq. If this so-called War on Terror isn’t important enough for rich folks kids to fight in it, then I’m not sending my child over there, either.”

There was silence for a few moments before Paula checked her watch and said in an urgent tone, “Tracy, let’s go.”
“I still can’t find my black Nine West pumps.”
“Then get my J. Renee’s. But make sure those thieving queens don’t get their paws on them while you’re onstage.”
“Yes ma’am.”
Sergeant McGill turned to Paula and said,” Ms. Morgan, thank you for your hospitality, but I need to go.”
“Yes, you do. Goodbye, sergeant.”

Sergeant McGill rose to leave. Just before he opened the front door Tracy emerged into the living room carrying a hanging bag. Tracy’s face was perfectly made up and she was wearing a short Baby Phat top with jeans that hugged her unmistakably feminine curves. Tracy's shoulder length black hair was bone straight and nails were freshly done in a French manicure.
The sergeant pivoted to leave, closed the front door of the Morgan home and walked to his car.
“Damn, looks like I won’t be making my quota this month, either." he muttered to himself as he got behind the wheel of the car and slammed the door shut.

My Favorite Things

I was playing Christmas music the other day and Luther's version of the song 'My Favorite Things' popped up in my random MP3 rotation. While listening to him croon (God, I miss Luther) I recalled a post that IQ had written on TSTB that asked people to list their favorite things Oprah style.

Well, here are my Top Ten Favorite Things

1-Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

Everytime I eat Blue Bell ice cream it brings back fond memories. Blue Bell is just the bomb ice cream wise. It's not just me bragging about something Texan, people in the industry have said the same things. Since there are no local Blue Bell distributors in the Da Ville yet, the only places that I can get it are at Carrabas and Ruby Tuesday restaurants. They serve it as their dessert ice cream.

2-Texas high school football

Kentucky high school football is about a predictable as a George W. Bush press conference. Either one or a combination of three Louisville area schools (Trinity, St. Xavier or Male) will be involved in the 4A championship game and win it. Every now and then a Lexington area school or a Cinderella team from another part of the state crashes the party.

In The Lone Star State we have dominant teams, but they aren't guaranteed almost every year to play in the championship game, especially if they play in Region III (southeast Texas). Texas high school football history is chock full of stories of teams that made Cinderella runs to the championship. They either did it with star players that eventually went on to college and NFL glory in their various classes or made deep playoff runs before getting knocked off. Like Indiana and Kentucky basketball it's an ingrained part of Texas culture.

3-An Eric Jerome Dickey or Kayla Perrin novel

I've loved Eric's books ever since I read 'Friends and Lovers' and haven't missed one since. I discovered Kayla by accident. I was browsing a bookstore one day, saw 'If You Want Me' on the shelf and picked it up. I'm glad I did. I now have seven of her novels.

4-R&B and Jazz CD's

Growing up as the child of a disc jockey that programmed an R&B station it's no surprise that I love R&B music. Being that Houston is a jazz hotbed I used to attend a lot of live jazz performances. I got to see Kirk Whalum perform more than a few times at Midtown Live before he hit it big along with HSPVA alum Everette Harp.

5-A sistah that has it together from head to toe

I love seeing a sistah that has her hair and nails freshly done, wearing a fly suit or dress that accentuates her curves, shoes and the purse to match and entering a place like she's the Queen of Sheba. Whether she's light skinned or dark skinned, full figured or slim build, genetic or transwoman, young or senior citizen, I just love seeing a together, confident woman.

6-A brotha that has it together from head to toe

Ditto for the brothas. Nothing like a handsome Black man in a suit or just wearing the hell out of some jeans and a sweatshirt.

7-Any spare moment I get to write

Nothing calms me down and centers me more than sitting down at my computer and spending a few hours writing, whether it's my TransGriot column, my novels, a short story, poetry, or posting to various Yahoo lists.

8-Fresh seafood

One of the things I miss most about Houston next to HS football. We're only 55 miles from the Gulf of Mexico so I always had access to fresh seafood. In some cases I'd make the 30 minute drive to Galveston to go get it. Usually it involved a trip to a neighborhood fish market.

9-A road trip

I've always loved doing long drives. Whether it was trips to New Orleans, Dallas or Jackson, MS or the long ones I've done to LA, Washington DC, Atlanta or Phllly, I just relish the opportunity to get on the road, enjoy our nation's beautiful scenery, the conversation with friends or if I'm solo play some of my massive collection of 500 CD's and just drive until I arrive at my destination.

10-Intelligent conversation

I love to talk with people who have interesting jobs and lives. I like to discuss current events, politics, sports, and whatever subject du jour that piques my interest. I love diverse viewpoints that allow me to expand my own mental horizons.

There's a lot of other things that I love such as chocolate, fly clothes, movies, barbecue, Frenchy's chicken and history. But when you have to choose only ten, something gets left out.

Then again, I can always write a separate post about them. ;)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Zimbabwean Drag Queen Reveals All

By Lucy Fleming
BBC News website
Originally posted August 10. 2006

Looming over the audience on high heels and batting enormous eyelashes, voluptuous Zimbabwean drag performer - the Queen of Africa - demands attention.

"I'm gay; I'm a drag queen; I love sleeping with men; I love having fun and I was born gay," says Kudah Samuriwo, cooling himself with a fan after a performance in a hot and sticky London theatre.

During the 1990s, Kudah courted controversy in Zimbabwe, where homosexuality is illegal, when he became the first black drag queen to win the Jacaranda Queen beauty contest - a crown usually worn by coloured (mixed-race) transvestites.

At more than 1.8m (six feet) tall, he models himself on African pop divas such as Brenda Fassie and Yvonne Chaka Chaka, whose name he used as his original stage name.

"To me a drag queen is something outrageous, more than a woman. I'm proud to be a man. I'm a drag queen because I'm different."


This in-your-face attitude put him on a collision course with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who regards homosexuality as un-African.

Mr Mugabe infamously described gays as "worse than pigs and dogs" at the opening of the Zimbabwe's International Book Fair in 1995.

"That changed the world, just those words," says Kudah, who after subsequent harassment fled into exile to the UK.

Nearly four years on, he is taking a qualification to become a care-worker and is writing his show, Queen of Africa.

It is a work-in-progress - written in collaboration with Nigerian playwright Dipo Agboluaje - and is a funny, provocative and often moving account of his experiences.

"I don't know what Mugabe has against pigs and dogs; he must have had the worst sex ever with them.

"Maybe he's had gays as well that's why he makes comparisons. Experts can be so one-sided," he says during a workshop of the play.

Despite his outspoken performance, Kudah says he grew up a shy man "suppressing what I really wanted to do".

As early as seven years old he was aware that he was different, but as the eldest son of a local chief, coming out in such a conservative society was out of the question.

"I had to be an heir, a man who could go and hunt, so it was difficult hiding behind my mother's skirt," he says.


Kudah lost his virginity at 14 to a distant uncle, the night he returned from the post-independence war against the Ndebele people in the south of the country.

But it was not until he went to live in the capital, Harare, after leaving boarding school that his parents found out that he was gay.

To escape their anger he went to South Africa for several years, only reconciling with his family in his twenties after his father's death.

The play not only charts Kudah's personal story, but the crackdown on the gay community since 1995 when homosexuals have been repeatedly bribed, detained, beaten and sometimes raped by the authorities.

"My experience was very hard, because the policemen were clever. They would take us, arrest us and release us without charge, so we didn't have any proof," he explains.

Events organised by the Association of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Galz), which he helped form, were often infiltrated by government spies.

"I would end up sleeping with them and teaching them about oral sex."

Roll call of death

For Kudah, it has been HIV and Aids that has had the most devastating effect on the gay scene in Zimbabwe, where many cannot afford anti-retroviral drugs.

"Organising and attending funerals took a fair share of my time as one by one friends and relatives answered the roll call of death," he says in the play.

"We knew it wasn't a divine curse to punish us for what we are. Ignorance was killing more people than HIV."

In the end, it was the constant police intimidation - and petrol shortages that had crippled his minibus business - which prompted his departure.

He says he will not return to Zimbabwe until President Mugabe "has left", but he yearns for his former life.

"I had a nice car; I had money; I had friends to talk to in my language; I had a maid.

"I never used to do any washing, I didn't even know how to iron," he says.

Kudah now sees himself as a gay activist and "freedom fighter" and hopes his play will one day go into production so that he can continue "the struggle" and one day return home.

"A queen must protect her subjects even if the president refuses to do so," he says.

I Am A Houston Sistah

An MKR Poem

I am a Houston sistah that’s strong, proud and free
I am a Houston sistah that’s as fly as she can be
I am a Houston sistah cognizant of her history
And striving to live up to that powerful legacy

The ’Yellow Rose of Texas’ song is legendary
Cause Emily Morgan’s beauty changed the course of history
She mesmerized Santa Anna, let the historical record show
Just before the decisive battle at San Jacinto

Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad are the sistahs that we see
In front and behind the cameras doing quality TV
They both have style and grace, shoot they were born that way
They’re homegirls that grew up in the ward that we know as The Tre’

Barbara Jordan has her roots planted in H-town, too
She moved from Wheatley High school to the campus of TSU
Her distinctive speaking voice rang out so eloquently
On a political journey from the Nickel to DC

There’s another sistah that hails from the 7-1-3
Moved on from teaching ‘cause her heart is grounded spiritually
For this statuesque woman it really ain’t no thang
But people sho’ love to hear Yolanda Adams sang

Oops, there’s another sistah that I almost failed to mention
She has Jay-Z’s and many peeps undivided attention
My comments about sistah girl will definitely be non-malicious
Beyonce Knowles is a beauty that puts the booty in bootylicious

To all the Houston transplants, on y’all I’m not gonna hate
Cause some of y’all weren’t blessed to be born inside of Beltway 8
Mad props to our congresssistah who was born in NYC
What up to the Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee

Before I go gotta send some love the Houston Comets way
The first dynasty that dominated the WNBA
Much love to our evacuee sistahs who are moving here to stay
From New Orleans L-O-U-I-S-I-A-N-A

I am a Houston sistah, too that’s strong, proud and free
I am a Houston sistah that’s as fly as she can be
I am a Houston sistah cognizant of her history
And always striving to live up to this powerful legacy

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Red State-Blue State

Every December in the Bluegrass State the Red State-Blue State paradigm takes on a whole 'nother meaning. For one whole week the state gets hyped up over the University of Kentucky-University of Louisville basketball game. Whether it's played in Lexington or Louisville doesn't matter. The rabid basketball fans in the state choose sides and the trash talk begins.

The Cat and Card fans go at each other on the sports talk shows, radio and television airwaves. Family members choose Wildcat blue or Cardinal red to wear and fans spend large amounts of money purchasing the appropriate color game day attire. Newspapers print special game day sections covering every aspect of the game. Talk about the UK-U of L game is front and center on the minds of the blue and red clad legions of fans at water coolers and the sports bars. The coaches of both squads, their strategies and the players are dissected, sliced, diced and subjected to laser-like scrutiny by the fans of both teams.

The feelings are especially intense in Louisville and Lexington. They hate each other. It's basically the rivalry between the two cities playing itself out on the basketball court. If UK and UL were playing tiddlywinks they'd have a sold-out Rupp Arena or Freedom Hall to watch it.

This isn't just a basketball game. This is about what some people call here the other state religion. Like their counterparts on the other side of the Ohio River in Indiana, they take their basketball seriously in Kentucky. Having basketball bragging rights on the line only heightens the excitement and hype for the game.

It's always fun for me to watch the activity leading up to The Game because not being born here I can say with a straight face that I'm neutral and root for both teams. I do understand the intensity of the rivalry. I got to watch the Texas-Texas A&M hatefest every year. That still doesn't stop denizens of Cat Nation and Cards Nation from exerting an almost missionary zeal in trying to convert me into a partisan fan for their side.

This year's game didn't go so well for Cards fans. UK spanked them in Freedom Hall 61-49. The UK fans have already started gloating about their victory. U of L fans will retreat to their fallback position of having the superior football team and reminding Cat fans that they are going to a BCS bowl in a few weeks.

Cheer up U of L fans. Only ten more months until the 2007 football season kicks off and a chance for revenge at Commonwealth Stadium.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Y’all Love Madea But Hate on Me

An MKR Poem

Black America, I hate the hypocrisy
Of you loving Madea but hating on me
It’s clear for the whole wide world to see
How you treat your transgender family

Spending the cash to see a drag show
But if your child’s transgender, out the door they go
To a cruel and tragic street way of life
Filled with anguish, torment and strife

Homies riffing on transwomen every day
Then roll into gay nightclubs and wanna play
Desiring the gurls with something extra
And begging and pleading for her to sex ya

Black churchgoers sending love Tyler Perry’s way
How much love would they show him if he were gay?
RuPaul’s already answered your question, silly
Miss Thang’s reception has been quite chilly

You Black gay peeps ain’t off the hook
Time to read y’all like a discount book
We’re not mocking gender roles, boo
Wanna honestly live our lives just like you

Whether you’re butch, femme or SGL
We’re Black, proud and all catching hell
Our enemies think we’re all lower than maggots
And just like you they call me faggot

Taking a moment to shed a tear
For my sistahs that are no longer here
For many reasons they met an untimely demise
My transsistahs be happy, be careful, be wise

We ain’t asking for much, don’t want any pity
Just show us some love in all the chocolate cities
Now run tell this to your daddy and mama
We’re sick and tired of all the ignorance and the drama

Black America, please don’t be so mean
Y’all show Madea much love on the silver screen
Your transgender brothers and sistahs hope and pray
You’ll show us the same level of love someday.

I pray that I live long enough to see
The day y’all love Madea
And unconditionally love me

Monday, December 04, 2006

December 2006 TransGriot Column

A Very Democratic Christmas
Copyright 2006, THE LETTER

Merry Christmas dear readers. I’m so happy I feel like singing.

Dems have got the House and Senate
Fa la la la la la la la la
In Da Ville John Yarmuth wins it
Fa la la la la la la la la
Bring home our troops and heal our nation
Fa la la la la la la la la
Time to conduct investigations
Fa la la la la la la la la la

I am ecstatic about last month’s midterm election. For the first time since I left Houston in 2001 a Democrat will represent me in Congress. Congratulations to John Yarmuth for proving that a vision and ideas trump negative ads and truckloads of cash.

The one thing my late grandmother and other senior citizen African-Americans always told me is that if you want fairness, a good economy and a just society, you’d better vote for Democrats. I poo-poohed that notion during my idealistic college days until I came face to face with GOP vote suppression tactics in my home precinct back in November 1984.

My grandmother Tama was right. One of the things that I’ve noticed over my lifetime is that when Republicans take power, American society gets more mean spirited, materialistic, selfish, and militaristic. The bigots feel more comfortable spreading their hatred and attacking people they don’t like. Civil rights get constricted or rolled back. I also noticed the effect on my wallet. I made more money during the Clinton years than in the two periods of my life covered by GOP administrations.

I have been alarmed about the direction that this country has taken under this administration over the last six years. I’m for the deployment of American military muscle when necessary but ONLY after all reasonable diplomatic options have been exhausted. I’m appalled that a war that started based on a lie has resulted in the deaths of 2,800 brave Americans. I am also sick of the GOP using 9-11 as an excuse to attack our constitutional rights. News flash: you can fight terrorism WITHOUT eviscerating the Bill of Rights. I’m a strong believer in checks and balances.

And finally, I’m sick of pseudo Christian gay bashers enshrining their hatred in state constitutions. I was surprised but happy to see that Arizona defeated an anti- marriage equality amendment. I wasn’t happy to see Ward Connerly’s deceptive anti-affirmative action tactics work in Michigan.

Nancy Pelosi will make history on January 3 when she becomes the first female speaker of the House in our country’s history. For the first time in US history people that share my ethnic heritage will chair important committees. John Conyers (D-MI) will head Judiciary. Charles Rangel (D-NY) gets the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) will head Homeland Security. There is also the possibility that Alcee Hastings (D-FL) may end up as the head of the Intelligence Committee.

The CBC is also pushing to have James Clyburn (D-SC) elected as majority whip, the third highest leadership position in the House. It would be a milestone political accomplishment for an African-American. Speaking of milestone politicians, Deval Patrick became the second African-American elected governor of a US state since Reconstruction when he won in Massachusetts.

But back to Speaker Pelosi (love the sound of that). She has promised in the first 100 hours to pass an increase in the minimum wage, address ‘drain the swamp’ ethics reform on the Hill, promote stem cell research and remove the restrictions that will allow the government to negotiate for cheaper medication prices.

I’d like to see a few other things happen such as restoring the Fairness Doctrine, but I want the Democratic majority in Congress to be around as long as the last one (40 years). It may need that much time to clean up the mess the GOP made while they were misrunning thangs.

I just hope and pray the Dems don’t blow this opportunity. Somehow I don’t think they will.