Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Marvin Zindler 1921-2007

Like many Houstonians all over the planet and people who lived there once upon a time, I was saddened to hear about the death Sunday of one of our iconic personalities in Marvin Zindler.

I had the pleasure of watching him on KTRK-TV from the time he first joined the station in 1973. Marvin was there only a few months when he took on the legendary bordello in LaGrange, TX called 'The Chicken Ranch' and got it shut down.

While Marvin's style was flashy, with his natty suits, trademark blue glasses, silver toupee and multiple plastic surgeries, he got results. He created the consumer fraud division in the Harris County Sheriff's Department prior to joining KTRK-TV at the urging of long-time anchor Dave Ward. He pioneered consumer advocacy reporting. Restaurants in Houston brag about getting Marvin's Clean Kitchen Award. They know that if they make Marvin's Friday Rat and Roach Report their business will suffer.

While Marvin was the son of a wealthy local clothing store owner, he'd experienced prejudice first hand while accompanying his Adrican-American nurse who raised him around town. He was forced to sit in the same 'colored' areas as she was and that experience led him to fight discrimination wherever he found it. He constanly reminded us 'it's hell to be poor' and was a lifetime member of the NAACP.

For 33 years Marvin not only fought 'slime in the ice machine,' he fought real life slime in terms of shady businessmen, uncaring bureaucrats, getting crime ridden areas and neighborhood eyesores cleaned up and fighting for people wronged by the judicial system. Just uttering the words in Houston "I'll call Marvin" was enough sometimes to make these folks quake in their boots.

Through Marvin's Angels he helped people get needed medical treatment as well. There were many times he made forays not only in the Houston area but various places around the world to bring children and others who needed medical treatment to Houston to get it at Texas Medical Center hospitals free of charge.

Marvin had a heart as big as Texas, and loved his job. Even to his death, he was helping people. From his hospital bed he interviewed his doctor about the pancreatic cancer that took his life at age 85.

A one of a kind person has been called home. It's going to be sad the next time I go home, tune it to Channel 13 and not see him or hear his trademark sign off, Marrrrrrrrvin Zindler, Eyeeeeeeeewitness News.

You are definitely going to be missed.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The GOP Hates Science

Sung to the tune of 'She Blinded Me With Science’ by Thomas Dolby’

It's ignorance in motion
The science hating GOP
They’re causing a commotion
Hating peeps that are GLBT
But the GOP hates science
"The GOP hates science!"
Because they failed biology

Stem cell research won’t occur
‘Cause the GOP hates science-science!"


Kissing up to the fundies
"The GOP hates science-science!"


Mmm - but it's ignorance in motion
The science hating GOP
They’re causing a commotion
Hating peeps that are GLBT
The GOP hates science
"The GOP hates science!"
Because they also failed geometry

Global warming’s a myth you see
"The GOP hates science - science!"
Mmm Mmm, Mmm Mmm- Rig voting booth machinery
"The GOP hates science - science!"

It's ignorance in motion
Fox News constantly lies to me
They’re causing a commotion
Messed with our nation’s harmony
The GOP hates science
"The GOP hates science!"
Hate SRS technology

"Good heavens Miss Sakamoto - you're a transsexual!"

Hey -I don't believe it!
They’re on CNN!
Talking that 'intelligent design' BS again!
All the anti-gay research
And junk science books
Based on Biblical contortions

But- It's ignorance in motion
The science hating GOP
They’re causing a commotion
Hating peeps that are GLBT
Oh - but the GOP hates science
"The GOP hates Science!"
The GOP hates -

25 Things I Miss About Houston

I'm approaching six years of living in Kentucky. Moving here was the first time I'd lived more than 50 miles away from the Gulf of Mexico or in a city not on I-10. Even though Louisville and Kentucky has its charms and things I like about it, there are a lot of things I miss about home besides my family.

Fortunately one of the things I missed, Blue Bell ice cream is now sold up here and I have happily gotten reaquainted with it.

So without further ado, the twenty-five things I miss about Houston.

1A-The drive to New Orleans
Before Katrina, New Orleans was THE getaway spot for many Houstonians. It was only a five hour drive or one hour plane ride away. I lived on the West Bank in Marrero for two years as a toddler and my godsister still lives there so it was doubly special to me. I loved driving that scenic stretch of I-10 that cuts through the Atchafalaya Swamp between Lafayette and Baton Rouge.

1-Major league sports
Astros baseball, Texans football, Rockets and Comets basketball. I can drive to Cincinnati, Chicago or St Louis to see the 'Stros, Indianapolis or Chicago to see the Rockets or Comets and Indy to see the Texans. (I refuse to drive to Nashville to go see them while Bud Adams still owns the Tennessee Traitors) While it's fun to cheer my home teams to victory in hostile arenas it's not the same seeing my teams in their road uniforms. While Bats games are enjoyable and the price is right, there's a huge difference between a Triple A game and a MLB one.

2-TSU and the Ocean of Soul Marching Band
Grew up watching a lot of TSU games in the Astrodome. Spent a lot of time on TSU's campus for various reasons. Listening to the high stepping Ocean of Soul as they did musical battle with the other outstanding bands in the SWAC such as Grambling, Jackson State, Southern and Prairie View was the bomb as well.

3-Texas high school football
Arguably the best in the country. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights there's high quality games going on at stadium complexes all over the area from Class 2A to Class 5A. Houston area teams are usually in the mix for state championships. TV stations in the area have 30 minute shows devoted just to covering it and there's a syndicated show that covers Texas high school football on a weekly basis. One of the sure signs that fall was coming for me is when the latest issue of Dave Campbell's Texas Football hits the stands.

4-Frenchy's chicken
The Scott Street legend located between the TSU and UH campuses that's grown to five locations. Had many nights I rolled by Frenchy's at 3 AM to grab a three piece and those creole seasoned Frenchy fries or chow down on one of their po boys.

5-Katz's deli
Katz's is an Austin institution that opened up a store in Montrose. I went to the Austin location after the 1999 lobby day and fell in love with their sandwiches and the caramel cheesecake. I did the happy dance when they opened up their Houston location in 2000.

6-The nighttime pride parade
Because Houston can get rather toasty in late June, the pride parade became a nighttime event. Attendance and popularity skyrocketed as a result.

7-Hermann Park
The Houston equvalent to Central Park in NYC. The Zoo, the Burke Baker Planetarium, the statue of Houston's namesake Sam Houston, Miller Outdoor Theater and Hippie Hill, the reflecting pool and a mini railroad train that circles a portion of it are all there on its 445 acres. The Museum District and Montrose are nearby, Rice University borders it on the west and the Texas Medical Center to the south.

Houston's eclectic gayborhood that also has St Thomas University, La Colombe d'Or hotel, the Chinese consulate, the Menil Collection and various bed and breakfast places in the area along with some of my fave restaraunts and shops.

9-The Galleria
So many childhood and transition memories there. It's one of my fave malls because of the ice rink, the high end designer shops and its international fame. Did a lot of walking, shopping, eating and window shopping there. My high school prom was at one of the hotels there. I also miss the Harwin Drive discount shopping strip as well.

10-Galveston and fresh seafood
It represented the beach in my youth and my transition in adulthood. My gender clinic is located there. Whether I got my seafood in Galveston, one of the restaurants like Gaido's, Pappas or at one of the local mom and pop seafood joints, it was plentiful and the bomb.

11-The amenities of large city living
It aggravates me when I have to drive to Cincy or Indianapolis to see my favorite acts or have to wait for traveling plays, movies or shows to come here after they do limited engagements in larger cities elsewhere.

12-Marrrrrrrrrvin Zindler, Eyyyyyyeewitness news
Rent the Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. Melvin P. Thorpe is modeled on Marvin Zindler, KTRK-TV's longtime pioneering crusading consumer affairs reporter who unfortunately died Sunday. Marvin's had more plastic surgery than many of the girls who dance at Rick's. The Friday Rat and Roach report of restaurants that failed city health inspections is punctuated by his 'sliiiiiiiiiiime in the ice machine' line.

13-Mattress Mack's Gallery Furniture commercials
Another Houston institution. Mattress Mack ends his commericals by jumping up and down, holding a dollar bill and reciting his tagline 'Gallery Furniture will save you money.'

14-The Ensemble Theater and Black culture
Houston's award winning Black theater company. Houston is also the epicenter of Black history and culture in Texas. If there was a African-American trailblazer in Texas, nine times out of ten they had a Houston address.

15-The downtown Houston skyline
No matter what angle I looked at it, whether it was from the stands at Minute Maid park, from IAH, my south side 'hood or the southwest side, I got to watch our world famous modernistic skyline grow as the city did.

16-Texas barbecue
Whether it was chowing down at Harlon's, Drexler's, Pappas, a street vendor in the parking lot of a nightclub or a neighborhood hole in the wall, it's all good no matter what 'hood I was eating it in.

Eat 'em up, eat 'em up, rah rah rah! I miss walking around campus, checking out Cougar basketball, football and baseball games and reliving some memories from the time I was there.

18-Houston Splash
The Black gay pride weekend that includes a beach party in Galveston and events in Houston that usually happens the first weekend in May.

19-Majic 102
Houston's first R&B FM station that started broadcasting in 1977. Over my teen and young adult years our radios eventually were tuned to it. It's now owned by Cathy Hughes' Radio One.

Houston's amusement park that was opened by Judge Roy Hofheinz in 1968 and later bought by Six Flags. I was horrified to find out Six Flags not only closed it, but tore it down in early 2006. Another place that has fond memories for me.

21-Shipley's Donuts
Krispy Kreme only opened its first Houston location in 2000 and still got their butts kicked by Shipley's. It's a local doughnut chain that also offers stuffed kolaches and fresh coffee. Some of the locations, especially in the 'hood are 24 hour ones.

22-Charlie's Restaurant
When I wasn't feeling Denny's or was crossdressed, I used to roll up in this gay owned gay friendly 24 hour Montrose hangout, enjoy the food and the eclectic crowd that gathered there to boot.

23-Niko Niko's
A Greek place in Montrose that also serves dynamite seafood and burgers.

24-Driving to Austin and Dallas
The state capital was only a two hour drive away and I enjoyed rolling up state highway 71 and seeing the bluebonnets blooming along the highway. Most of my Texas relatives live in Dallas and we used make that four hour drive up I-45 nearly every summer to see them.

25-The Unity Banquet
One of the major events of the Houston transgender community. One of my first community award nominations was for the Dee McKellar in 2001 for what else, the most outspoken person in the community. Lost that one to Kat Rose. ;)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Transgender Talented Tenth

When W.E.B DuBois first envisioned the Talented Tenth in his book The Souls of Black Folk it wasn't intended to be interpreted as being exclusionary or elitist. But that's the connotation that has been placed on the concept by many peeps in the African-American community.

DuBois concept was that the Talented Tenth would be given the mission to uplift the race and help it thrive through a combination of economic and political empowerment with a strong moral center as its core.

I believe that The Talented Tenth concept is one that is sorely needed at this juncture in the African-American transcommunity.

Too many of us have been focused on the party, the quick money and obsessively finding a 'husband' to validate our femininity. Not enough thought or time has been spent on community building, addressing the negative image we've been saddled with, where we fit in with our biowomen sistahs or how we evolve into becoming the Phenomenal Transwomen we were born to be.

That needs to end ASAP because as African-Americans, we African-American transpeeps, like the rest of our people are also judged by the WORST segments of our community, not the best.

I cringe when I hear the word 'elitism' being bandied about. It's been beaten to death in the white transgender community. I'm tired of seeing somebody branded as 'elitist' just because they busted their ass to go to school and get that paper. Should we be chomping Hater Tots and playa hatin' our transsistahs because they are college educated, have high self-esteem, are spiritually grounded, have a good job, wear fly clothes, own a house or have a nice car? Hell, naw.

If we desire the same things we should congratulate them, ask them what they did to get it, then replicate the hard work they put in to get theirs.

The main ones throwing that shade are the drag and street trans elements of our community. They heap scorn on people trying to get 'ejumacated' and legitimately paid. Some of the anti-intellectual strain in the African-American transcommunity is disproportionately concentrated in the drag and street transcommunity as well. While I understand why some of them harbor those resentments toward their more successful sisters, I'm not giving them a pass either. Some of them need to check themselves and start doing what it takes to come up to the next level as productive citizens doing their part to uplift the entire race.

At the same time, we have to make sure that our constructive criticism doesn't degenerate into a negative back and forth no-win dissfest. I have to point out that there are numerous drag artists and female illusionists who are highly educated, involved in the community, are proud of their African heritage and conduct themselves with impeccable decorum and class. The reality is there are others who don't and grouse about what peeps aren't doing for them.

But in order to accomplish our mission as members of the Transgender Talented Tenth those of us who have been blessed with the talents must stay focused. We must be on guard against developing selfish attitudes or arrogantly thinking that we are 'better' than our less fortunate transsistahs.

At the same time the blessed person has to remember that if it's requested, we have an obligation to at least try to lift a transsistah up and act as their mentor while doing so. If they rebuff you or don't want to do the self-examination and necessary work to improve their lives, then you have the right to move on and focus on your own life. You also have the option of continuing to search for the transsistah who is not only willing to listen to you, but sincerely desires to replicate your success in her own life.

So does the Transgender Talented Tenth exist? Yes they do. The peeps that it encompasses are not too dissimilar from the vision of DuBois. I consider the Transgender Talented Tenth to be made up of the educated transpeeps in our midst, the ones who are in leadership positions, be it with an organization or a grassroots activist level, business people, artists, the thinking visionaries and those who by living their lives help break down barriers and foster understanding between our community and the world at large. It's also rooted in the old saying to whom much is given, much is required.

We all want to be judged by the best we can produce and I believe like my ancestors that education holds the key to uplifting our people. African-Americans and the world MUST realize that there ARE transpeeps who are intelligent, care about the community as a whole and can do more than just entertain. We can run your businesses, your city, your county, your state and the country as well.

It is the Transgender Talented Tenth who will be the shock troops leading the charge toward slaying the demons of ignorance and misinformation. We have already started the process of demolishing the negative image of African-American transwomen that has built up over the years.

We are the peeps that through our daily interactions with our fellow African-Americans and others will break down those misconceptions. We will be the ones laying the groundwork for uplifting all transpeeps to our rightful place at the African-American family table and the American family table as well.

Don't Disrespect Me

An MKR Poem

Don't disrespect me
Because you won't see
My evolving femininity
That overrides my transsexuality

Won't let your fear
Label me as queer
I'm a woman, my dear
Hope that's crystal clear

I'm Black and proud
Opinionated and loud
Ain't just a pretty face in a crowd
Praise be to God

My inner diva is finally free
So respect my gender identity
And my humanity
From sea to shining sea

I AM A Role Model

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.