Many of us remember the famous 1984 Nike commercial in which Charles Barkley stated that 'he wasn't a role model'. It saddens me when I hear stories about transwomen who decline opportunities to act as mentors for young tranpeople.
Well, just as Charles clarified it later in the commercial by stating that parents and teachers are role models, that's true. But role models also extend to ministers, neighbors, people who have qualities that you admire and people who have demonstrated a commitment to being the best they can be while helping others.
One of the things I constantly talk about is the period in the early 80's when I was trying to transition. I sought out a mentor only to be rebuffed, ignored or dissed. The other problem was that in Montrose the girls I observed were either doing the drag thang, the drug thang or working the streets, and I wanted better for my life since I was in school at the time. The other sistahs who transitioned at the time were living stealth lives. That left a gaping positivity gap as AIDS devastated Houston. I swore to myself that if I ever got in the position to mentor someone, they would have my help if they asked. I created the Transistahs-Transbrothers discussion list in 2004 as part of my mentoring efforts.
It's funny, but one of the things I discovered is that mentoring is a two way street. Just as I became a role model for some transpeople, some dear friends have also become role models for me as well. There are various qualities my role models have such as their political savvy, sense of style, intelligence, emphasis on getting and keeping the financial house in order, outspokenness, deep faith in God, determination, willingness to move in search of a better life, musical talents, relentless pursuit of dreams, and surviving challenging life circumstances and thriving.
Those are qualities that I can look up to and incorporate into my own daily life in order to make me a better person.
I AM a role model. It's not like I eagerly sought out that position, it just evolved over time. My big mouth was the one on a 100,000 watt FM radio station talking about transgender and other issues. Since I was one of the few Black trans folks lobbying on Capitol Hill, I became the de facto representative of the African-American transgender community when I did that. I am thought of as a role model and diligently try to conduct myself in that manner, so now I must live up to it.
I must be on point in terms of my personal behavior, sense of style, and integrity. I not only represent myself, I represent all of you. I must be well read and well versed on many subjects because our enemies, the general public and other transpeople discount our intelligence. Some of them think that all we want to do is party, screw, and expose ourselves on shemalewhaever.com. We're far more complex than that simplistic box they try to put us in.
Keep sleeping on me, a Phenomenal Transwoman. A proud card carrying member of the Transgender Talented Tenth. I and every other transsistah and transbrotha is a living embodiment of the power of what is possible in our community, and I relish the challenge of making positive thangs happen.
Hope you do, too.