Wednesday, January 16, 2008
On A Quest
Black History Month is rapidly approaching. Because this year is a leap year, we get 29 days to explore our history.
But for me, every day, every week, every month and every year is one that I revel in my history. One of my New Year's resolutions for this blog was to document and unearth more transgender history and tidbits in which African-American transgender people are major players.
Thanks to Dr. Susan Stryker I found out about the 1965 Dewey's Lunch Counter Sit-in protest in Philadelphia, which was not only the first organized protest involving GLBT people, it was a FUBU production.
I was recently made aware thanks to an interview I did with ColorLines magazine's Daisy Hernandez that one of the first people to have SRS at the now closed Johns Hopkins Gender Program was an African-American transwoman named Avon Wilson in 1966.
When I moved to Louisville I first began to hear Dawn and other people tell stories and ancedotes about Lexington's legendary transperson James 'Sweet Evening Breeze' Herndon.
I've posted about Chicago's legendary Finnie's Ball, which was such a huge and anticipated event on the South Side that Ebony Magazine once covered it.
I've also talked about the connections that New York's ballroom community has with the Harlem Renaissance drag balls.
Thanks to Frank Leon Roberts, I discovered another slice of our history when he posted about an exhibit of GLBT themed photographs that includes the work of Pittsburgh Courier photographer Charles 'Teenie' Harris. The photos document African-American GLBT life in Pittsburgh in the 50's.
African-American transpeople not only helped found NTAC, GenderPac and several support groups still in existence, they also had and continue to have major leadership roles in the transgender community.
Those are just some of the appetizers leading up to the historical buffet that awaits us. This will also be an interactive project as well. If you run across any information involving African-American transpeople or are an African-American transgender elder who wishes to tell your story, I'd definitely like to hear from you.
I think it's vitally important that we get the stories our our African-American transgender predecessors like Miss Major down for posterity. I saw first hand what lack of historical knowledge can do when we in Houston lost major chunks of GLBT history thanks to the early devastating effect of the AIDS virus.
I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Major at the 2005 TSTBC. If I'd been thinking at the time I should have pulled her aside, grabbed a recorder and interviewed her on the spot. She had some health challenges a few months ago that she's overcome, but they has given me a new sense of urgency in getting her story written down.
I believe that if African-American transpeople knew their history, were aware of some of their predecessors struggles and accomplishments, it would help those of us who are a little self-esteem challenged to stand a little taller and instill pride in who we are. That's true whether we're standing on a pageant stage, a college lecture hall rostrum, in a smoky nightclub or just living our lives interacting with the world around us.