Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Time To Elevate Our Game

This is a post I wrote for Angelica's blog;


Back in 1979 an African-American transwoman by the name of Justina Williams graced the pages of Jet magazine.

With classy elegance, despite the trials she was facing at the time, she expressed her hopes for the future on the pages of one of our community's iconic magazines. She helped destroy the myth in the African-American community that transition was just a 'white thang'.

Almost 40 years later Justina has accomplished many of the goals that she'd set for herself, but in terms of the African-American transgender community at large it has been a mixed bag of success and failure.

We have successful transsistahs (and increasingly) transbrothas doing positive things to uplift our community. Unfortunately we don't hear about many of these success stories because they have chosen to live stealth lives. The lack of media coverage of African-American transwomen who are succeeding in other arenas besides the pageant world has led to a skewed impression among our transkids that the only thing they can do or become is an entertainer or an escort.

While the stealth transpeeps are in isolation to avoid the violence directed at transpeople not only in our community but America at large, it is a contributing factor to the skewed impression I talked about in the previous paragragh.

When I was growing up in the 70's how I would have loved to have seen African-American transgender role models like the ones we have now. People such as Jordana, DJ Miss Honey Dijon, Lorrainne Sade Baskerville, Dr. Marisa Richmond, Kylar Broadus, Dawn Wilson, Valerie Spencer, Jada Tracy O'Brien, Dioone Stallworth, Rev. Joshua Holiday, Tracee McDaniel and Angelica Love Ross are emerging as positive role models for our community along with some of our pageant superstars. (okay, I'll toot my own Trinity Award winning horn as well.)

But our work is far from over. While we have more people coming out at earlier ages, we still have to grapple with the old problems of fragmentation and separation based on where we live and what segment of the transgender community we occupy. I can't forget about the violence we face across the African diaspora, whether it's here in the States, Jamaica or the rest of the African continent. 70% percent of the names on the Remembering our Dead list are people of color.

As Public Enemy once rapped, 'It's playoff time.' We must as transpeople of African descent do what our ancestors have always done, tackle problems in our community head on with prayerful contemplation, far sighted vision and maximum effort. We have to do it not only for ourselves but our transkids and our brothers and sisters in the rest of the Diaspora as well. Nobody's gonna care about us but us.

I would like to see African-American transpeople one day successfully running for public office, running businesses and taking more active roles in securing our civil rights. Better yet, if necessary to accomplish our goals as a community, if we encounter resistance from so-called allies, let's cut out the middleman and do it our damned selves.

Those dreams will become realities if we stand up, take pride in ourselves, embrace our proud heritage, our spirituality and boldly step forth to claim our God-given place in society.


Kari Sullivan said...

I really appreciate the stories you share. I can't help wonder though if you believe that the experiences of African-American trans people are really that different from trans people of other colors.

I don't presume to know the answer, but I just thought I'd ask as respectfully as I know how. I hope I haven't stepped on any toes. You're such a beautiful and courageous woman!

On a different note, I saw a program on LOGO the other day that featured an African American transwoman who got in touch with a stepsister or cousin. I think the show is "Be Real" or "Get Real" or something like that. I believe it's a series on LOGO.

I thought it was a well done show and the woman was so incredible. Even when she was a kid, her face was incredibly feminine.

Peace out,

Monica Roberts said...

Yes, they are. There are some parts of the journey that are similar, but you do have to take cultural differences inro account.

Here's just one example of the difference. African-American transwomen, in addition to Latina and Asian ones don't have an adjustment period to minority status like white male to females do.

That LOGO show you''re talking about involves Angelica. I have a link to her blog.