Saturday, April 26, 2008

Note To World- Black Transpeople Exist




"I never considered it to be a disadvantage to be a Black woman. I never wanted to be anything else. We have brains. We are beautiful. We can be anything we set our minds to." Diana Ross, ESSENCE magazine, October 1989


One of the reasons I don't like many radical feminists, and I'm saying it in the spirit of Kingian love and understanding, is because of the anti-transgender sentiments that were injected into the movement back in the 70's and early 80's by Janice Raymond, Germaine Greer and their acolytes.

In addition to that, most feminist theorizing doesn't take into account the way and the conditions that Black women and other women of color interact with the parent society.

So I wasn't surprised nor shocked when some feminist made the devoid of logic assumptions about Black transwomen or presumed that all we did was sex work for a living. Anybody who's read TransGriot or just opens their eyes can tell you otherwise. Even my transbrothers are beginning to get their well-deserved face time as well in print and film.



News flash: transpeople don't just come in vanilla only. They also come in chocolate, caramel and other flavors as well. And if you didn't notice, this blog is a FUBU production of an out and proud phenomenal African-American transwoman.


While we discuss and hear far more frequently about transpeople in Europe, Asia, Oceania and the Americas, it's illogical to ignore the reality that transpeople inhabit the second largest continent on this planet or aren't represented in the African Diaspora. In many parts of the African continent, unless they live in South Africa, transpeople struggle mightily just to have their basic human rights respected before they can even get to the point where they can deal with their gender identity issues.

Yes, Punk and 'errbody' else that doesn't get the point by now, Black transpeople do exist. You don't see us because for the most part we don't get the media face time that our white counterparts do. When we do get it, most of the time it beats to death the tired story of transwomen of color and prostitution.

Most of my transsisters are not only gainfully employed, but if fundamentalists weren't pushing their jacked up 'hate the trannies' agenda, in my opinion even more of us would be out and proud. Because of the negativity that we get even in our own community, and increasingly some of that negativity is coming from Black megachurches that have been infected with white fundamentalist 'christian' doctrine, many of my sisters and brothers are stealth.

For those of us who do come out and try to change the situation by speaking out, writing about the issues we face, working within the political system and the GLBT movement to pass laws so that it's easier for my transsistahs and transbrothers to live authentic lives and make legit paper, our efforts are belittled, our intelligence is denigrated and our voices ignored. If we express ideas or opinions that don't neatly line up with 'mainstream' thought, we are derided as 'racist'.

But to be honest, I can't be too mad at people like Punk. Some of this perception gap is our fault as well. Many Black transpeople look at the situation I described in the previous paragraph and say, 'why bother getting involved?'.

That attitude is even more prevalent among my peeps that have 'good jobs'. For my brothers and sisters who are working jobs paying close to minimum wage, you have to work far more hours at it just to pay the bills. It doesn't leave much time for non-reality based BS, activism, or doing as Dr. King called it, 'hard, solid thinking' about our situations.

But by opting out and going stealth, it leads to a perception vacuum that too easily lends itself to our opponents and ignorance defining us.

If we don't speak up for ourselves, tell the world that we Black transpeople not only exist, but are beautiful, intelligent, creative, talented, proud, successful, have a history, and give the world a wide palette of images and people to judge us by, then who will?



TransGriot Note: the transsistah in the photo is Valerie Spencer. She's speaking at the Los Angeles Transgender Day of Remembrance ceremony. The YouTube clip is of a film called Still Black-A Portrait of Black Transmen

4 comments:

Cass said...

I'm a transwoman, but not of color, but I've noticed this, too. Since I've gotten more active with the T-community, I've met both men and women of all colors and backgrounds. Never had seen a positive media image of any T-WOC, not once.

And some people might wonder why that's important or relevant; I saw why. When the entire world's portraying you as either not existing and not being worthy of being acknowledged as a person or as a prostitute... it's hard to fight back against the images they send. It crushes your spirit, keeps you down and it can kill.

I've had to hold the hands of a beautiful T-girl, who was fighting against the world in her own mind; she knew she wasn't a prostitute, she was educated, worked a good job with a progressive company.. but in her mind, she had that nagging question of if people would see her as something lower because that's just how media portrays T-Women of Color. She was wondering if everything was worth the work, and I was trying to talk her down from suicidal thoughts.

And it's sad, because I haven't met the woman of color, trans or cis, who isn't beautiful to me, both outside and in.

Monica Roberts said...

Cass,
It's why I fight hard every day to be a positive, vocal representative of my community.

If that transsistah needs to talk to others like herself, direct her to the Transistahs-Transbrotahs list on Yahoo. I have a link to it from this blog. I'm also willing to chat with her as well.

Lisa Harney said...

Ouch. I'm guilty of that, too. In trying to make sure that people aren't forgotten or erased, it's way too easy to overemphasize stereotypes. But good intentions don't count, just results.

I'm sorry for contributing to that, Monica. :(

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