Transgriot Note: My friend Joshua asked me to compose a statement for a workshop he's presenting on African-American transpeople at a local conference tomorrow. Here's what I wrote.
I’m Monica Roberts, and I am a forty-something African-American transwoman.
It took me a while to get to the point that I’m comfortable in saying that. I didn’t transition until my early thirties in 1993 and did so in the middle of an international airline terminal in which 30,000 passengers a day passed through it.
So what can I say about being a woman who had to work much harder than her genetic sisters to get there and what does it mean to be an African-American transwoman?
I’m deliriously happy to finally be on the correct side of the gender fence. While I consider it a gift from God to be able to experience life from both sides of the gender continuum, I love looking in the mirror and seeing a woman’s face and a woman’s body staring back at me in the mirror. I like having the peace of mind of knowing that my mind and body are in harmony with one another. If I have any regrets about transition they continue to be that I didn’t do this sooner.
It’s still a challenge sometimes interacting with biowomen who don’t get it, don’t want to get it or don’t realize that I am their most powerful ally in helping them decipher the male ego. They also don’t realize how deeply I wish to bond with them, but I’m prayerfully trying to be patient with my sisters.
As far as my friendships go, the people I have in my life are either folks I’ve known before transition or have become part of it since then. I don’t have any doubts about their loyalty or love for me. It's a comforting feeling to know that.
So what does it mean to be an African-American transwoman? It’s not about finding a ‘husband’, looking or ‘trade’ or carrying yourself in less than anything but a ladylike manner but about growing spiritually and emotionally. It’s about being the best that I can be. It’s constant self-examination to ensure that I am living up to the charge that all African-American women have to keep in terms of uplifting our race. It’s about carrying yourself with class and dignity because I represent not only myself but also the entire African-American community.