Wednesday, May 14, 2008

E-Mail From Fredrikka

TransGriot note: It's nice to hear from people who not only appreciate your writing (a gentle hint for you TransGriot readers to leave comments from time to time), they take the time out of their busy schedules to tell you.

I deeply appreciate that. It's also a wake-up call as to just how much of a role model and inspiration others consider me, even if I don't feel like I am most days.

Fredrikka Maxwell, who's a TransGriot guest poster from time to time sent me this e-mail. Someone on the Dignity list (for GLBT Catholics) she's on sent her a link to my Destruction of the Black Transwoman Image post I wrote a few days ago that I crossposted to the Bilerico Project as well. It also underscores the point I was making that I'm not the only African-American transwoman who's beyond sick and tired of being saddled with the 'all Black transwomen are hookers' stereotype.


Monica Roberts is someone I have met, have high regard for, and count among my friends.

She has a clear insight into the black community and knows firsthand what it's like to be black and trans. And she's one of those women who have come through that drama and trauma and still holds her head high and walks tall like the regal daughter of kings of the Motherland.

Monica founded a thriving Yahoo list for black trans people, their friends, families, and allies, called Transsistahs-Transbrothas. And when she first thought of starting her list, then called Transsistahs, I was one of the charter members.

Monica is on target with her post. There is, among the mainstream media, the perception that all black transwomen are sex workers. Now I don't deny that some black transwomen may have taken to prostitution. It's not something I've ever encouraged. Here's my take on that.

I know from bitter firsthand experience that a lot of trans people are currently under or flat out unemployed. When you go to hunt for employment on the web, for example, you will usually find on most applications, a space for or a question about whether you've worked under another name. In a perfect world it would be OK to say yes to that. Bu in the real world that can out you and cause you to lose the job you thought you were going to be hired for.

Does the name Peter Oiler mean anything to you? Oiler was a truck driver for the Winn-Dixie grocery chain. They found out somehow that, away from work he was a cross dresser and fired him. He sued. He lost. The court seemed to think it was OK for the company to fire him even if the wasn't doing anything gender variant on company time. Now Oiler wasn't black. He was like mos of you, a white dude.

My reason for bringing him up is that black trans people have gone through that.

Does the name Susan Stanton mean anything to you? Just a person who worked for her city for 14 distinguished years only to get fired because it was learned she was beginning to transition.

There are thousands of black trans people who have gone though that. And what do some of them do since they can't find jobs anywhere? Some take to the streets in more ways than one. Some actually LIVE on the damn street.

And even if you have a decent job, your health insurance may have a specific exclusion for anything related to Gender Reassignment Surgery. That means hormones, or Facial Feminization Surgery, or finding a qualified gender therapist. And your therapists and endocrinologists, electrologist, and your surgeons all have one thing in common. THEY ALL WANT YOUR FREAKING MONEY.

So I'm not going to pass judgment on those who take to the streets. I just say a prayer of thanksgiving and realize that, there, but for the grace of God go I.

But I'm not now, never have, and never will encourage anyone to hit the streets. But I'm telling you that I understand how some people can feel like that's an option.

But, having said that, ALL BLACK TRANSWOMEN ARE NOT WHORES. Thank you. That's the truth from somebody who knows transwomen who run call centers, who are classical musicians, who are nurses, police officers, writers, and motivational speakers and even a minister or two. And that's just the transWOMEN, who include regal souls like my friend Monica Roberts.


TC said...

a gentle hint for you TransGriot readers to leave comments from time to time

I admit it - I'm guilty of reading and not commenting. I hate to just say "yes! yes! what you said!", because it's like I'm just filling up space without contributing to the conversation.

So instead I'll say "yes! yes! what Fredrikka said!"

Monica Roberts said...

Hey, whether it's a yes! yes!, a ditto or a few paragraphs, jsut do it and comment.

E said...

People tend to crave the unusual and sensational, so the media seek out entertainment that meets those criteria.

When I was growing up, the only images of transsexual women were show girls, prostitutes and models and the more eccentric and wild the personality, the more they were featured.

Years later, having transitioned and all that, the other transsexual women I know are nurses, engineers, restaurant managers, computer programmers & analysts, recruitment consultants, bookkeepers, beauticians, truck drivers, doctors and so on. We have friends and family and fill our time with the most mundane things.

We all have unremarkable lives, apart from that one small problem. In fact, we are actually rather boring and we do not make good entertainment. No one wants to hear about someone who is just like themselves.

Monica Roberts said...

True, but we haven't had any problem with the media featuring run of the mill WHITE transwomen who are college professors, airline pilots, et cetera.

All I and any other transperson of color is asking for is balance.

TC said...

There's a related problem when it comes to coverage of transwomen outside the US. Many hijra in India, and many kathoey in Thailand, are sex workers because, like Frederikka says, it's hard for them to find other work. Anything you write about these trans communities is going to have to deal with the economic realities.

A careless reporter can easily turn "prostitution is the only source of income for these women" into "transwomen are just a specialized kind of prostitute." And a lot of careless reporters do.

(BTW, I love "Malika's Indian Transgender Blog as a source of good articles that don't get picked up anywhere else. I just wish she updated it more often! And despite the name, she also covers the rest of Asia and the Pacific Islands.)

The US is far from perfect, but transwomen of color have so many more opportunities here, and make so much of them - why can't the media representation reflect that?

Monica Roberts said...

It's one of the reasons I try to post news of transwomen of color like our sisters in Thailand, the African diaspora, the Caribbean, the Aravani population in India (their preferred term now), Our Asian Pacific sisters and the African continent when I can find it.

Transsisters, because of being born here in the United States are by default considered the wealthiest people of African-descent in the world. We are looked up to by our brothers and sisters in the African diaspora and need to step up to that level of leadership they expect of us.

Ainslie Podulke van der Stam said...

I read your blog with thanks many days that there is someone as prolific as you whose perspective can enrich my thinking!

And thanks a million for educating a few of those Tranny Wreck listeners! I get so frustrated after discovering TG empowerment and my own coming out as androgyne that the community has entrenched racial and class bs when I thought for a minute there it was utopia!


TC said...

the Aravani population in India (their preferred term now)

My impression was that the word Arvani is more used in the southern part of India, since activists like Laxmi Narayan Tripathi and Revathi use "hijra", and they're both from farther north. (Hijra is a Hindi word, and I think Arvani is Tamil.)

But there's been a lot of change lately as the community organizes and works for acceptance, so I wouldn't be surprised if a different term is coming to be preferred. All the more reason for me to keep up and keep listening.

Monica Roberts said...

TC I'll doublecheck it, but I did read in one Indian website that Aravani is becoming a preferred term among India's transgender population as they push for mainstream acceptance as well.