Friday, August 31, 2007

Syimone, Syimone, Syimone....

TransGriot Note- This was going to be my September 2007 newspaper column. The column wasn't printed due to threats of legal action.

To Syimone (And Every Black Female Illusionist Who Thinks Like Her)

“I’m not offended by Shirley Q. Liquor because my sexuality is more important to my sense of who I am that my skin color is, and I don’t see the so called Black community out there in the streets protesting for my right to love and fuck and marry who I want.”

That was a quote from Syimone, one of The Connection’s female impersonators. It was originally printed in a June Rolling Stone article about Chuck’s jacked-up minstrel show persona and was recently reprinted in the July 18 issue of the LEO. (the Louisville Eccentric Observer, a local alternative newspaper.)

While we African-Americans aren’t monolithic in thought and she has a constitutional right to her opinion, this comment is just begging for me to expound on it.

News flash for you, Syimone. Race overrides everything in the USA. The color line and the attitudes that accompany it predate the founding of our country by 150 years. So check that birth certificate of yours. It definitely doesn’t have a box to check for gay or straight on it.

There are also African-Americans working for the marriage equality you yearn for. Check out the website of an organization called the National Black Justice Coalition at

One of the things I’ve observed and disliked about the African-American illusionist community over the last twenty-five years is some of its members egocentric selfishness combined with Clarence Thomasesque hatred of their ethnic background.

Syimone, since you’re so quick to denigrate the African-American community about what they haven’t done for you, I’d like to ask what you have done FOR the African-American community?

That’s what I thought.

But let’s examine your comment that your sexuality is more important than your ethnic background. Since that’s what you claim (and I think it’s bull feces), where were you when the Fairness laws were under attack in 2004? Didn’t see you at Metro City Hall that night confronting the Reichers. Have you lobbied our legislators in Frankfort or Washington DC for the marriage equality you say is so important to you?

This hatred of your Blackness is not the only issue about you and some of your female illusionist sisters that irritates me and the African-American transpeeps who ARE doing thangs in the community. We get annoyed when we see y’all sit on your silicone-enhanced asses and constantly complain about what peeps aren’t doing for you, but y’all won’t step out of your show world cocoons to be informed or give a damn about issues that matter to the ENTIRE African-American community gay and straight.

So as the old saying goes, if you ain’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

Syimone, I vehemently disagree with your misguided statement that your sexuality overrides your ethnicity. You may believe that fairy tale, but in the real world our dealings with white-dominated orgs such as HRC and GLAAD make a mockery of that. If sexuality overrides ethnicity, then why are there over twenty Black pride events scattered all over our country and around the world?

You chose Chuck over your people and you look like a Condoleezza Rice clone in the process. If you said that because you’re angry at the African-American community or were misquoted, then please contact me and I’ll give you the chance in a future TransGriot column to explain yourself.

But Syimone, if this is the prevailing sentiment of you and your female illusionist sisters, then y’all are as clueless as Chuck and it’s past time for all of y’all to check the alarm clock and wake up.

The DNC Is Ready To Embrace Us

Guest column by Monica F. Helms

I recently spent three informative and productive days in Las Vegas with the hierarchy of the Democratic National Committee. Kathy Padilla from Philadelphia, PA was also there. I’m happy she came because she is a very knowledgeable person in the political arena. We were visible, we were vocal and we were active.

The structure of the weekend was such that on the first day, Thursday, they had the “Women’s Leadership Summit Agenda,” then an Issues Briefing with Q & A after lunch. During the Issues Briefing, two people had a presentation on the issues facing the DNC and the country. They used a Power Point slide that listed the various areas of the population the DNC include. On the list I saw the words “sexual orientation,” but I didn’t see “gender identity and gender expression.”

When they asked for questions, I got up and stated the DNC needs to start including those words, because “sexual orientation” doesn’t cover transgender people. If they don’t use them, they will be leaving out 3 million Transgender Americans. Kathy also got up and asked if all the vendors at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver had non-discrimination in their EEO policies that covered all GLBT people. Apparently, one didn’t.

On Friday, we had what was called “Constituency Sessions,” where the various constituency groups held all-day workshops that pertained to their specific issues. Besides the LGBT group, there was one for the Asian and Pacific Island Americans, African Americans and Hispanic Americans (which is how it was listed in the manual.) Some people checked out different workshops in different groups to get a feel of what the various groups were talking about, while others, like myself, stayed with one group all day.

I found the discussions interesting. The six different workshops/panel discussions in the LGBT Constituency Sessions were broken up into different subjects, with people on the panel who have had experience in that subject matter. Kathy was on the “Diversity in 2008 and Beyond” panel, which talked about diversity in the LGBT community. In that session, a very frank and heated discussion broke out on the issue of racism that is so prevalent in the LGBT community today.

On one panel, a lesbian from the Gill Action group presented us with various polls with American people that have been taken on LGBT subjects. Not surprising, most of the issues excluded anything having to do with transgender people. However, even when she was making generic statements, she used only “gay and lesbian.” I held up my hands and formed a “T” with my index fingers. She asked me if I had a question and I said, “No. I’m making a ‘T’ with my fingers so you won’t forget it.” From then on, she started saying, “gay, lesbian and transgender,” still leaving out the bisexuals.

Dennis Kucinich was there. I came up to him and thanked him for including transgender people all along. He told me it was the right thing to do and gave me a big hug. Another time, Gov. Howard Dean stopped in the room where the LGBT panels took place and gave a little speech. After that, he asked for any questions and I asked, “In 2004, transgender people were left out of the Platform. Will we be included in it this time?” He said a quick and strong, “Yes.” He then followed it by saying that he didn’t have complete control of that and reminded us that he was the only candidate that included transgender people in 2004 and couldn’t understand why others have a difficult time even saying the word. I’m hoping he has a little control over the Platform language in 2008 to ensure we are there. Of course, one of us needs to be ON the Platform Committee.

What I have also found out during that weekend was that all of the candidates support including us in federal legislation that has language for “sexual orientation.” The candidates should have updated their websites to have fully inclusive language. If anyone has a problem with their websites, they should contact the web masters of those sites and bring it up with them. Keep in mind, the one issue where we are not included and where we shouldn’t make a fuss about is Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Yes, it affects us, but the language doesn’t include us, so we just support the repeal of this law.

You have to keep in mind that the people who attended the summit were the heart and soul of the DNC. These were District Coordinators, National Caucus Chairs, DNC Officers, State Chairs, State Diversity Officers and many ground troops that will run the DNC’s “50 State Strategy.” These people are the ones who will have control over the Platform language. They will help and train others to work with the party and get the people out to vote. The DNC wants to focus on one state at a time, one county at a time and one neighborhood at a time, all done by thousands of people at the same time.

These were also the people who set the goals for their state to ensure that the 2008 Delegates look like the face of America. This includes us. Some of the people there are the ones running the various state and local Stonewall Democrats chapters. One person from the Colorado Stonewall Democrats stated that they are working with the Convention Planning Committee to set up “family restrooms,” so women with small children or anyone else who wants privacy can use them. They thought of us.

One thing that bothered me was when they discussed the way each Republican candidates make a case for themselves and what we needed to do to focus on making a case against them. When they put up Rudy Giuliani, they showed a picture of him wearing a dress and makeup. Many people in the audience laughed, but I was angry. Before I could say something, a gay man got up and said that he was a member of the LGBT Caucus and the picture highly offended him. He pointed out that by using that picture it says that people can make fun of the transgender community. I shook his hand. They got the message and apologized for using the picture, saying they would not do it again.

I walked away from that weekend completely convinced that the DNC heard Kathy and I. Everywhere I went (except in the general population,) I wore my “2004 Transgender Delegate” button and one that said, “Trans and Proud.” I now know in my heart and soul that WE WILL NOT BE LEFT OUT THIS TIME. I’m sure several people won’t even believe it if they saw the language in the Platform, but it is true.

So, now what? If any transgender person wants to get involved in getting the “T” out to vote, contact me at I have a plan on what we need to do in regards to the DNC this time. We need to drive home one simple message. “One Percent.”

Why “One Percent?” Over the last 5 years there have been various independent surveys/studies/researches done that when combined, we get a picture that one percent of the American population falls under the transgender umbrella. We don’t need to get into details on whether some no longer identify as being transgender or never were. For the sake of politics, if anyone has crossed the gender lines, even temporarily, they are in that One Percent. Hell, non-trans people are confused enough as it is, so let’s not make it worse for them.

We can easily use this “One Percent” to our advantage by constantly reminding the DNC on how many elections that took place in the past where a Democrat lost by less than one percent. In 2000, Al Gore lost by 537 votes in Florida. That comes to .003% of the population of Florida, according to the 2000 Census. If Al Gore carried just one more percent of the population in Florida, he would have won by over 158,000 votes. In 2004, John Kerry lost Ohio by 136,000 votes, which is slightly over one percent of the population in Ohio, but he lost Iowa by only .4% and New Mexico by .3%. We are no longer a voting block they can afford to ignore.

If any of you get asked about the hard numbers and where the One Percent comes from, a friend of mine, Jessica Xavier, told me to say something to the affect, “The intensity of the social stigma of transgenderism and things like violence, discrimination, harassment and multiple barriers to access of health care, drives most of us into secrecy, out of a need to survive an intolerant culture.”

I realize that not all Transgender Americans are registered to vote, or even old enough to vote. I also know that some transgender people vote Republican. (Yes, it’s true.) Many are registered Independent. When Transgender Americans talk to the DNC, they don’t need to get into those details. “One Percent” is all the DNC needs to know.

What I personally would like to see is an increase in registered Democrats in the transgender community and to see an increase in transgender people volunteering with the DNC at a local level. I would also hope to live long enough to see an openly transgender person speak from the podium at the Democratic National Convention and to see an openly transgender person elected to Congress. This is truly the MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION in our lifetimes. It is time for the Democratic Party to fully recognize us a part of their party, on all levels. They appear to be doing that. Now, it’s time for us to help Democrats on all levels of government to win in 2008.

Monica F. Helms is one of the founders and president of TAVA, the Transgender American Veterans Association

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Happy Birthday Houston!

Happy 171st birthday to Houston!

My hometown was founded on August 30, 1836 by New York real estate entrepreneurs John K. and Augustus Allen. They bought 6,642 acres of land on and near the banks of Buffalo Bayou and named the city for Sam Houston, the hero of the April 21, 1836 Battle of San Jacinto that led to Texas independence from Mexico.

The city was incorporated on July 5, 1837 and was the first capital of the Republic of Texas. It's also the county seat of Harris County and has 2.1 million residents inhabiting its 601.7 square miles of territory. It's also the largest city in Texas, not Dallas. Don't get it twisted.

It also has a fascinating history. African-Americans have been involved in the growth and life of the city since its early days. Houston desegregated without the major violence that occurred elsewhere. And I'll spare you (this time) of the long list of Houstonians that have made their marks on the world.

So happy birthday, H-town. You don't look bad for a 171 year old. ;)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cookie LaCook RIP

I was saddened to hear that legendary Houston drag performer and emcee Cookie LaCook, AKA 'The Mouth of the South', passed away on July 27.

The Louisiana born Cookie moved to Houston and became an icon in the Houston SGL community. She was a former 1987 Miss Gay Texas USofA at Large who was always happy to do a benefit show, host an event, visit the sick or attend a funeral for someone whose loved ones had disowned them. She even hosted a Juneteenth event in Dallas. And she always loved her f*****g great audiences.

I got to chat with her numerous times over the years whenever I visited Studio 13/Rascals or happened to occasionally bump into her when I was downtown. The one conversation I had with Cookie that's the most memorable one happened at a short lived GLBT club called Uptown/Downtown in the early 90s. She introduced me to her favorite drink, the amaretto sour while we had a long free ranging conversation over a wide range of subjects. (y'all know how much I love intelligent conversation). After that night anytime I showed up at Rascals and she spotted me in the crowd I was incorporated into her monologue as 'Soul Sister Number 1'.

As someone noted on the Houston Splash website, a f*****g great audience has a f*****g great host. Cookie was all that and three bags of chips. Best of all, she was a first class human being as well.

It's gonna be strange next May if I'm lucky enough to attend Houston Splash and not see Cookie's regal presence keeping things moving and making us laugh.

Rest in peace, Cookie. You've earned it.

Katrina Plus 2

Today is the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's devastating landfall in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Never forget the people who died.

Never forget Bush's indifference to the suffering of fellow Americans.

Never forget the people who simply want to return home but can't.

Never forget the neglect and suffering our Republican controlled government allowed to happen (and continues to allow to happen) to our people in the aftermath of this disaster.

Keep fighting to make sure that the people responsible for this travesty are held accountable for it.

Love Ya Transbrothas

Black Brotha, I love ya, I will never - try to hurt ya
I want ya, to know that, I'm here for you - forever true
Black Brotha, strong brotha, there is no - one above ya
I want ya, to know that, I'm here for you - forever true

Like Angie Stone, I love my brothas. Transbrothas, that is. ;)

What transsistah wouldn't love these smart, handsome, sexy chocolate transmen?

Transmen haven't gotten the media coverage that transwomen have gotten over the last fifty years but that's starting to change. Transbrothas have gotten even less, but that hasn't stopped them from increasingly stepping out of the shadows and rightfully stepping up to leadership roles in our community.

Whether its Rev. Joshua Holiday kicking knowledge on faith issues, Kylar Broadus doing it on the board of the National Black Justice Coalition, Zion Johnson's history making turn as the first African-American leader of FTMInternational, the transbrothers are large and in charge.

The transbrothers also have their role models and trailblazing heroes as well. I had the pleasure of meeting the late Alexander John Goodrum at a 1999 Creating Change in Oakland. Yosenio Lewis I worked with during my time on NTAC's board. I never had the opportunity to meet the late Marcelle Cook-Daniels. Imani Henry is a performance artist and activist in the New York area. I had the pleasure of meeting Louis Mitchell at TSTB.

Just as there are stealth transsistahs out there doing thangs to uplift the race, there are stealth transbrothas who are also making a difference in our communities as well.

You go boys. Your transsisters will be definitely be cheering you on as y'all step up your game and contribute your talents to help us build our community.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Twin Has Left The Building

I was perusing Christine Daniels Woman In Progress blog the other day. She has a segment in which she takes some of the questions and comments she receives from readers and answers them.

One of the questions asked by a reader was how she felt about Mike (her name prior to transition). That got my brain churning about the subject as well.

She doesn't miss Mike and I don't miss 'The Twin' (what I call my 'imitation of a male life' phase) either.

The Twin was a smart, nice but painfully shy person up until the point I transitioned in 1993. The Twin had very few close male friends but lots of female friends back in the day. I had two special women during my school years that wanted to be more than that. One I'm still in contact with and we've known each other since junior high, the other I met when I started high school. I had several when I worked at CAL that wanted to be more than friends there as well and I think about them from time to time.

I was spending so much time trying to suppress Monica that it didn't leave myself any time and energy to just focus on doing what I needed to do to make my dreams happen, much less figure out what I wanted to do. I also discovered that the harder I fought to suppress the urge to be her, the stonger that desire to be her became.

I was so painfully shy that early in my time at JJ in the fall of 1977, my father found out about a dance being held at my high school when the sponsors of it called the station and asked him to DJ it. I wasn't planning on going and adamantly told him that. He was going to force me to attend it until my mother intervened.

The other thing that was holding me back romantically was that I had more than a clue by the time high school rolled around that I was dealing with transgender issues. I just hadn't accepted the truth yet and was fighting it, even though I was crossdressing four times a week, adding makeup to my routine, painting red, pink or clear nail polish on my toes and when my class schedule didn't have PE on it would sometimes wear panties and panty hose to school under my jeans just to keep Monica placated. I almost did drag during my senior year for homecoming week and wish I had.

It's also ironic that in my graduation photo I was wearing face powder. The shine from my face was so overpowering to the point where my photographer Juanita Williams pulled her powder compact out of her purse and applied some of it to my face.

The internal tug of war during my teen years over who would control this body was dragging my grades down as well. I had a 3.8 when I left junior high but had slipped to a 3.0 by the time my senior year hit. I still managed to graduate with honors despite that.

Despite all my drama, the low self-esteem days and futile attempts to build a Berlin Wall around my heart, The Twin was still getting attention from biosistahs. That was true at UH and after I left college and started working for CAL.

The time at CAL was a mixed bag as well. I loved my job and the travel perks but it was torture as well. Here was a situation in which I worked at a place on a daily basis surrounded by beautiful, smart, college-educated professional sistahs and Latinas (yes, The Twin got attention from Latinas as well) and all I could think about was how jealous I was because I WASN'T them. Don't even get me started on the beautiful women, female co-workers and celebrities from all over the world that transited my gates during the 14 years I spent at IAH.

When I lost my virginity at 26 I was upset afterwards because I was jealous of the sistah I was intimately pleasing at the time. I was also coming to the realization during the 80's that I didn't want to drag a biosistah into my situation.

But don't think they didn't give it their best shots. ;) Just as the Berlin Wall had ingenious people engineer sucessful escapes past it, I had various women during the 80's and early 90's who attempted to breach the wall around my heart and managed to capture it for a little while as well.

Up until the time I finally had enough, had my two year relationship from Hades end and made the moves to transition, I felt guilt over my perception that I was taking a nice Black 'man' out of circulation. But I eventually realized that if I wasn't comfortable in that role, it wasn't fair to have whatever sistah who was romantically interested in having The Twin as her hubby deal with something she wasn't going to be prepared for either. But one thing I did confess to the women that were interested in me during the 2000 reunion and after I transitioned at CAL was that I should have let them decide whether The Twin was worth their time.

I'm now a happy (about 98% of the time), healthy, contributing member of society ready to do her part and contribute her talents to uplift the race.

The Twin wasn't all bad. I have some wonderful memories growing up. I traveled, found myself in some interesting situations and did a lot of fun things when I wasn't depressed. I hope that the biowomen that did get the opportunity to meet, love and go out with The Twin enjoyed those times. I hope they found The Twin to be an honest, loving, kind, straight-shooter of a person. Those are qualities that I broght with me when I transitioned. I also hope that they considered The Twin to be a gentleman and a loyal friend in a world that doesn't have very many of those.

So do I want to go back to being in The Twin's shoes? Nope, I love the three inch pumps and stylish clothes I'm strutting my stuff in just fine. In fact, if it were possible for me to go back in time I would have transitioned in high school or my early college years.

As I told my family and friends and reiterated a few years ago, The Twin has left the building and ain't coming back.

The Body's The Easy Part

I remember how I felt when I first started taking hormones. There was a peaceful, calming feeling that started to wash over me when my body began its long delayed feminine development phase.

I started checking myself out on a full length mirror and practically got giddy with excitement as I saw curves starting to form on my hips. I remember how tender my nipples were when they started expanding and the breasts started budding and filling out. I was happy when my skin started smoothing out, clearing up and the body hair growth started slowing down. I remember when my hair finally got long enough to where I actually could do my first perm on it.

The initial body morphing, however was the easy part of the transition. Being a woman is more than just having the body. Femininity is more spiritual and mental. It's also an ongoing process. I'm thirteen years down the road and I'm still learning and evolving in terms of being on this journey called womanhood.

One of the mistakes I see some transwomen make is trying to rush the process. It took your mothers, aunts and sisters a decade just to go through the process of having their bodies morph into their adult feminine forms. While they are adjusting to that, they are being socialized into the feminine gender role by all the female members of their families and with the encouragement of society at large.

We transwomen go down a different path. We make that journey in many cases under trying circumstances. We don't have a decade to get comfortable with our bodies, we have to do it on the fly. Our families resist us in terms of trying to force us into a gender role that's incongruent for us. Society fights us tooth and nail since its tendency is to fear what it doesn't understand.

And yet through all of that, to paraphrase Maya Angelou, and still we rise.

Somehow, despite all of that, we manage to get through the trial by fire and become the women that we were born to be. Sometimes I get a little upset about the drama I've gone through (and STILL go through), the insults, the snide remarks and daily slights just to be me. I feel cheated sometimes when I pass by a little girl, a woman with kids in tow or a sistah I'm casting an admiring look at because she's working an outfit. I wonder how different my childhood would have been if I'd been born in the correct body from Day One.

When I talk to my sistah friends, I get brought back to reality. I've been told by them numerous times that I'm the blessed one. One of my sistah friends told me that she'd rather be me because she wouldn't be dealing with cramps and Aunt Flo once a month.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the street, I guess ;)

Monday, August 27, 2007

So Far So Good

I flipped the TV on ESPN last night to watch the FIBA Americas Championship Tournament. I wanted to see how well the number one ranked Team USA was doing in its ongoing mission to return the Olympic gold medal in basketball back to the birthplace of the sport.

The FIBA Americas Tournament started in Las Vegas on August 22 with the top ten teams in the FIBA Americas Zone competing for spots in the Olympics. In addition to Team USA, the defending 2004 Athens Olympic champion Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Venezuela and the US Virgin Islands are also there. The tournament will run through September 2.

The winner and runner-up qualify for the Beijing Games next summer. Third through fifth place get a last chance shot to qualify for Beijing in a July 2008 World Olympic Qualifying Tournament FIBA tournament that will be conducted before the opening of the Games August 8.

Well, so far so good for Team USA. They went 4-0 in Group B play by beating down the Brazilians 113-76. That Brazilian team has Leandro Barbosa of the Phoenix Suns, (this tournament's leading scorer averaging 27 points per game) Carmelo Anthony's Denver Nuggets teammate Nene Hilario, and Marcus De Souza of the New Orleans Hornets on it. Kobe Bryant put the defensive clamps on Barbosa and held him to 4 points on 1 for 7 shooting.

They have cruised so far in this tournament. They beat Uruguay 112-69, the US Virgin Islands 123-59 and Canada 113-63. Coach K has Team USA playing suffocating defense, hitting threes, cleaning the glass and playing solid fundamental basketball.

The hitting threes part is especially critical in FIBA play since the three point line is two feet shorter than the 23 foot NBA line. The lack of consistent three point shooting is why we've gotten our butts whipped in international play on the men's side since 2000. It's a major reason why three point gunners extraordinaire Michael Redd and Mike Miller are on the squad.

They start off the quarterfinal round by playing the Nolan Richardson coached Mexican team tomorrow.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Black First-Transgender Second

There's a lot of things over the last thirteen years that have changed about me.

I went from long hair just past my shoulders to the short style I currently wear. I have a wig collection that rivals Kim Fields' Living Single character Regine Hunter. I've gone from wearing predominately red toned lipsticks to neutral colors and plums. I'm more outgoing and happy as a person. My body now matches my gender identity.

But the one common thread through all those various changes is a fundamental one:

I'm still Black.

When you're a transgender person of color it's the one time when being an ethnic minority is an advantage. I say that because people tend to focus on your skin color first before all the other issues that make you the unique individual that you are come into play.

I make no bones about the fact that I am a proud African-American and I'm not going to apologize for that. Neither am I going to allow some sadly misguided elements of the African-American community to stupidly assert that because I'm transgender I'm not a 'real' African-American. The only thing that changed was my body configuration. That doesn't disqualify me or any other African-American transpeeps from our rightful place at the African-American family table.

I've had to call out some of the ignorant peeps here for sarcastically referring to me as 'Monica Black' because my monthly newspaper column in THE LETTER deals with GLBT issues from an African-American perspective like my blog does.

I love ESSENCE, EBONY and Jet magazines and read them faithfully. I love everything about my people's history, our culture and never tire of learning more about it. I love the flavor we live our lives with. I love the sprituality threads that run through our culture.

It's just that for me to truly be the best person I could be and do my part to uplift the race I had to deal with the gender issues once and for all. I submit that the only thing tougher than being a Black woman or a Black man in American society is being emotionally a Black woman or a Black man in a mismatched body.

I'm evolving into my role as an African-American woman with a transgender history. I'm ecstatically happy and proud of that. I thank God for finally infusing me with the courage and faith to step out and make those necessary adjustments in my life.

I've been blessed with the writing skills and the talent to translate my life experiences into flowing prose. I'm working toward publishing some of the novels I've been working on. I want to continue to evolve into a positive role model for the transkids that are sorting out this issue and let them know that your dreams don't have to die because you transition.

But just because I transitioned doesn't mean I escaped the BS that Black people face in this country. I still grew up in the 'hood. All I did was swap one set of gender related issues for another one. I still get followed in upscale department stores. My intelligence is still discounted. I still get called the n-word by the ignorant folks in addition to having the b-word included in the epithets they spew at me. Being transgender adds another layer of drama to the mix as well.

The one thing that would make my life and other African-American transpeople's lives infinitely better is to be unconditionally loved and accepted by our own people. We get enough Hateraid from 'errbody' else and we don't need added drama from our own peeps as well. We've got a lot of work to do just to get to the point in which unconditional love and acceptance automatically happens, but it's something that I pray will happen in my lifetime.

As we work together as a communty to make that a reality, please bear in mind that I STILL am and always will be Black first, transgender second and proud to be both.

Foxxjazell-Rapping Towards Success

"If people are ready for white rappers, then they are ready for me,"

22 year old Keva Jackson, AKA Foxxjazell is determined to prove that people are ready for a transgender rapper. She's part of an emerging GLBT hip-hop scene that has been around since the late 80s, but has only recently appeared on the radar screens of the larger GLBT community thanks to Alex Hinton's 2005 Pick Up The Mic documentary that was broadcast on LOGO last October.

The Birmingham, AL born mocha skinned beauty dreamed of stardom from an early age, but was advised by her hardworking parents to choose a more 'logical' career such as nursing or teaching. After graduating from high school at 17 with honors, she bought a one way bus ticket and headed west with less than $20 in her purse.

After arriving in Hollywood the 5'10" Foxxjazell modeled for a while. She became disenchanted with it and set her sights on achieving her life long dream.

Foxxjazell also has her sights set on a much higher goal as well. She wants to become a role model for other people struggling with the transgender issue. She also desires to be a voice for the transgender community.

She told LA Daily News reporter Phillip Zonkel in a February 2007 interview that the decision to be open about her transgender status wasn't an easy one.

"In the beginning, people didn't know what to make of me when I sang at nightclubs," she says. "You're more accepted if you stay in your box, a drag queen who lipsynchs.

"I'm not a drag performer. I rap with my own music."

Foxxjazell's style of blended dance music with hip-hop is increasingly getting her attention. She was recently interviewed on the Tyra Banks Show and has built a following in California. Since the thug-life genre of hip-hop is crashing and burning right now the time may be right for her and other GLBT rappers to push to fill that hip-hop void.

"I want to go mainstream," Foxxjazell says. "I have something strong to say that everyone can relate to - 'Be Yourself.' "

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Original Black Panthers

When people of my generation hear the words 'Black Panthers', images of Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, and Angela Davis come to mind along with brothers and sisters wearing Afros, black leather jackets and black berets.

But there was another group of Black Panthers back in the day that wore army fatigues. They were the men of the 761st Tank Battalion, one of the three all Black tank units (the 758th, and the 784th were the others) formed at Camp Claiborne, LA on April 1, 1942. Many generals, including Third Army commander George S. Patton were opposed to the idea of having African-American troops in tank units.

In addition to battling the racism of the Army, the men of the 761st had to confront Jim Crow segregation since many of the posts they trained at were in the Deep South. One young second ilieutenant ended up facing a court martial because of an incident that began over his refusal of a white bus driver's demand that he sit in the back of a bus.

It escalated into an ugly interaction with military police that led to a trial. Second Lt. Jackie Robinson was acquitted of the charges and honorably discharged in 1944. Just three years later he would integrate major league baseball.

It was a struggle just to get the 761st into battle. But after ferocious pressure was applied on the Army by First Lady (and AKA) Eleanor Roosevelt, prominent Black leaders, the Black press and increasing losses in frontline tank units the 761st was deployed to the European theater.

After doing nearly a year of final intensive training at Fort Hood, TX and being rated superior by Second Army commander Lt. Gen Ben Lear, they landed on Omaha Beach in France on October 10, 1944 in high spirits.

Ironically the reason they were in Europe was because Patton, who was initially opposed to having Black troops in tank units requested that the best available separate tank unit be sent to him. In a pre-battle speech to the 761st on November 2, 1944 at St. Nicholas, France he said,

“Men, you’re the first Negro tankers to ever fight in the American Army. I would never have asked for you if you weren’t good. I have nothing but the best in my Army. I don’t care what color you are.... Everyone has their eyes on you and is expecting great things from you. Most of all, your race is looking forward to you. Don’t let them down, and damn you, don’t let me down!”

And they didn't. From the moment they were committed to combat on November 7, 1944, the Black Panthers would prove they had formidable claws. They joined Patton's army rapidly racing across France and repeatedly tore up the veteran German and Waffen SS troops they faced in the 13th SS Panzer Division and other elite German units..

Over the next 183 days they valiantly fought in France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Germany, and Austria. They played key roles in the Battle of the Bulge, blew a hole though the Siegfried Line that led to the breakout and rapid advance of Patton's 4th Armored Division across Germany, liberated the Buchenwald and Dachau death camps, and met up with a Soviet unit made up of Ukranian troops in Austria at the River Steyr.

In addition to receiving high praise from the War Department a total of almost 400 battle awards were bestowed upon the men of the 761st. Their excellence, along with the Tuskegee Airmen and the heroic exploits of other African-American soldiers led to President Truman desegregating the armed forces in 1947.

Unfortunately racism once again reared its ugly head It took decades for the soldiers of the 761st Tank Battalion to receive the decorations they earned. A recommendation for a Presidential Unit Citation was submitted in 1945 but wasn't awarded until President Jimmy Carter did so in 1978. 761st Platoon Sergeant Ruben Rivers was one of 7 African-American soldiers (6 posthumously) who were awarded Medals of Honor by President Bill Clinton in 1997 after examining their war records.

Much respect and a deep debt of gratitude is owed to the original Black Panthers. They lived up to their motto 'Come Out Fighting'.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Day At The Clinton Presidential Center

As a history junkie I've always loved presidential libraries. The Carter Center is on my must see list next time I drive down to the ATL. Next time I go back home I'm thinking about making the run up to Aggieland and checking out the George HW Bush one on the Texas A&M campus.

My grandmother Tama took me and my brother during the summer of 1977 on a bus trip with her church group to see the LBJ Ranch in Stonewall, TX and the LBJ Presidential Library 30 miles to the east in Austin on the University of Texas campus. It was an all day excursion that I enjoyed, especially when the shuttle took us over a hill that gave us an awe inspiring view of the Texas Hill Country. I remember saying to my grandmother at the time, "No wonder LBJ loved this place."

I was even happier when we arrived at the library and I got a chance to check out the memorabilia from the LBJ presidency, take pictures on the museum grounds and see the nearby state capitol dome before we boarded the bus for the two hour run back to Houston.

In November 2006 I drove the 800 plus miles from Da Ville to Dallas so that I could attend my cousin William's November 11 wedding. My route took me through Little Rock and past the Clinton Presidential Center all lit up in its nighttime splendor and I resolved to check it out on the way back.

On the return trip as soon as I crossed the Arkansas-Texas border I stopped at the welcome center just outside of Texarkana. You pick up a red 'William J. Clinton Passport' that you get stamped at the various places you visit on the presidential tour. Three of the locations, his birthplace in Hope, the boyhood and teen home in Hot Springs and the museum in Little Rock were on or close to I-30. Fayetteville, (or as we called it when I was at UH in the old Southwest Conference days 'Fayettenam') was in the upper northwest corner of the state close to the Missouri line and not on the agenda.

Twenty five miles later I was exiting I-30 and heading toward downtown Hope, President Clinton's birthplace. There's an old Missouri Pacific railroad station that has been renovated into a museum. It has some memorabilia from the time he grew up there, the '92 and '96 presidential campaigns and his time as governor of Arkansas. It even has pictures of a concert that Elvis Presley did in Hope before he made it big and a large collection of railroad memorabilia.

After you see a short film on their favorite son's life, you start a self guided driving tour that takes you past his birth home on South Hervey Street, Brookwood Elementary school on South Spruce Street that he attended in 1952-1953, the home he lived in on East 13th Street until his family moved to Hot Springs in 1953 and the Rosehill Cemetery where his mother is buried. I spent an hour and a half taking pictures, spending time at the various tour stops and meandering through Hope before I pointed the car back in the direction of I-30 and headed toward Little Rock. I burned so much time in Hope that in order to get to the museum before it closed at 5 PM I reluctantly had to bypass Hot Springs.

I hit Little Rock around 1:15 PM and after jumping off Exit 140 parked on the large parklike site of the Clinton Presidential Center. It's a three story building right next to the Arkansas River that looks like a futuristic unfinished bridge, a play on the 'Bridge to the 21st Century' theme of his presidency. On the site is a renovated railroad station that serves as the repository for his presidential papers. The gift shop is a free shuttle trolley ride just up President Clinton Avenue in downtown Little Rock.

I noticed when I parked the car there was a convoy of TV trucks in the lot and parked close to the building along with two black limos. I found out why about thirty minutes later. The museum was packed with tour groups. Many of us there that day were still in post-2006 election euphoria. I gave a shout out to a group of my mom and sister's sorors who were touring that day along with other groups of African-Americans.

I spent most of my visit happily perusing the various interactive exhibits, the memorabilia and reflecting on just how jacked up this Bush presidency was compared to the Clinton one. I was on the third floor looking at a temporary exhibit of cowboy movie posters and a hand drawn picture of the 'High Noon' gunfight scene by a young Bill Clinton when a young woman excitedly shouted, "He's here!"
"Who's here?" I asked.
"The president is here!"

That news traveled through the museum with lightning speed and triggered a rush of museum patrons to the lower levels of the building. It was the reason the TV trucks were there. I discovered after I quickly ambled from the third floor of the building to standing outside the Great Hall and talking to one of the museum employees that was having a luncheon event that day (November 13) in which Brother Bill was speaking. I stood outside along with the other museum patrons hoping that we'd get a chance to see him and shake his hand when he was done, but the Secret Service had other ideas.

After hopping the trolley and grabbing some souvenirs at the gift shop I headed back to Louisville. The next time I'm in the area I'm definitely stopping by there again. The museum was definitely worth the $7 I paid to get in and was a positive, uplifting way to spend a day. Many of the conversations I had with folks from all over the country that day expressed our common desire and resolve to bring that type of forward thinking leadership back to the White House and our country.

I can only hope and pray that next year the rest of the country is hungry for that type of leadership as well.