Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What Do You Mean Black Transwomen Are Ugly?

One thing my biosisters have told me over the years is that we transwomen and they have far more in common with each other than the things that separate us. In many ways, we share the same trials and tribulations they do.

One of those things as I pointed out in a previous post is the dissing of African-American beauty. I got another taste of it as I was recently visiting a transgender dating website.

While I was lurking, there was a discussion thread in which the guys started talking about the ethnicity of the transwomen they were attracted to, liked to date and the qualities they thought made them attractive.

When one of the guys noted in his post that he liked African-American transwomen, one person posted a derisive comment about it which he punctuated with the words, 'they're ugly and look like men!'

Excuse me?

After a few transsisters who were members of this particular online community blasted him for his ignorance, I signed out and started pondering what would make this person say that.

One of the factors is that beauty has been defined for centuries in a Eurocentric context. We saw an example just last week when Maxim magazine published their list of what they considered the 100 most beautiful women. Only six Black women made that list, and none of them were in the Top Ten. (FYI they were 14 Beyonce, 15 Rihanna, 37 Ashanti, 42 Zoe Saldana, 63 Selita Ebanks, 72 Gabrielle Union, 77 Alicia Keys)

No Meagan Good, no Halle Berry, no Tyra Banks, not even Miss USA 2008 Crystle get the picture.

Maybe if Mr. Black Transwoman Beauty Critic stepped away from his computer and quit surfing the adult websites, he'd get a little 'ejumacation' in terms of the varied beauty of my transsistahs. I have homegirls who if I didn't know their status, would have never guessed they were born boys. They would take great offense as I do to this person's ignorant characterization of us as 'ugly' and 'looking like men'.

It would also be a great surprise for this person and his friends who may harbor the same negative stereotypes to discover that transwomen don't have to come from Thailand, Brazil, the Philippines, Mexico or assorted European countries to be considered beautiful. As an FYI to Mr. Black Transwoman Hater, the Brazilian transwomen you think are so 'exotic' looking have the same African bloodlines that I and my African-American sisters do.

If this person has the time to roll up to Chicago on Labor Day weekend, I'd suggest that he check out the latest edition of the Miss Continental Pageant that nine sistahs have won over its twenty plus year history. I'd like to point out that sistahs have won the last three titles in a row.

I haven't even touched on the other pageant systems that Black transwomen are competitive in, much less the ballroom community that's a showcase for our beauty, creativity and talent. Some of my sisters went from walking ballroom runways to fashion runways as well.

One of the reasons we have Black run ones such as the Miss Black Universe, Duval and the other Black transgender pageant systems is because the negative African-American beauty perceptions that were espoused by this person are sadly part of the dominant culture. The end result is a perception in our GLBT subset of it that results in Black transwomen not getting fair shakes in judging when they compete in predominately white GLBT pageants.

Far from being 'ugly' or 'looking like men', my sisters and I run the gamut in skin tones from vanilla creme to the deepest darkest ebony hue. We vary in height from a petite 5 foot 1 to a statuesque 6 foot 2 and up. We have luscious and dangerous curves over every square inch of our bodies. We can wear any fabric from silk to leather and it looks sexy on us. When we do our hair in the various lengths and styles to complement what Mama, nature and hormones gave us, you pause while out come the claws from the insecure women that don't measure up.

Yes, my sisters and I are smart, talented, beautiful and strong women. Maybe the reason this person uttered that statement is because he wasn't man enough to step to us with the class and dignity it's going to take to capture our hearts.

There are a lot of words you can use to describe me and my transsisters. But 'ugly' ain't one of them.

TransGriot Note: Women in photos are Tracy Africa, actress Meagan Good, Stasha Sanchez


delux said...

I've spent a lot of time talking with other Black women about how we are so often categorized as 'masculine', especially when we have natural hair or dark skin, by outsiders-- the Khadejah Farmer incident is an excellent example.

Natasha Yar-Routh said...

One thing leaped out at me on the slide show, cheek bones! I have a round English washer woman's face, how I envy the sisters bone structure.

Oh and the poster on the dating site was obviously brain dead.

praenomenal said...

Just an honest question. Why is he not entitled to his opinion? Why does this make him inferior in some way?

Monica Roberts said...

Not fun when the pump is on the other foot is it?

He's entitled to his opinion.

But not when that opinion is based on stereotypes of African women dating back to slavery and beyond

praenomenal said...

Monica, pump is on the other foot? In what way? I think you may assume too much.

You cannot say he is entitled to his opinion in one line then discount that entitlement in the next. That is double talk.

You are too entitled to your opinion. I am merely wondering why it even matters. I happen to think that many types of people are ugly, and many beautiful. No one is going to share exactly the same views I do.

Maybe I was miss reading something but I do not remember from the quote you posted, anything about slavery being mentioned. Or stereotypes for that matter. To do that is to put words in ones mouth, unless he stated that his opinion was formed in such a way to assume such is not fair and much the same as you are attempting to decry.

Monica Roberts said...

It's my honest opinion. If this person you're defending praenomenal is expressing an opinion based on more than a few centuries of negativity toward the beauty of black women, then I have the same right to take a nuanced approach to it.

Because I called him on it doesn't make it a 'double standard'.

One of the things I noticed when we get into these debates is that some Whites are quick to holler 'double standard' when they're being called out on stereotypical behavior in order to deflect attention from the subject being criticized.

The subject being discussed in this post is why are Black transwomen, and black women in general, being tarred and feathered with the 'ugly' label when it comes to their beauty vis-a-vis the Eurocentric standard of beauty.

praenomenal said...

Thats just it Monica. First off, I am not defending anything, just looking at it thru different glasses. I do not like anyone calling anyone else ugly. However, to assume a Eurocentric view is the root of the thought is very limiting and in my opinion unfair.

Even in the event of it being a wholly Eurocentric view that does not mean that it is "stereotypical behavior" that assumption is on par with the assumption that African-American women are not attractive. They are both prejudices.

That IS a double standard. Not always a bad one, but one none the less.

When talking about "beauty" there is no way to make it anything other than what it is, an opinion. Often one we do not like, but one none the less. Many people would call me an ugly fatty. They are neither right nor wrong in this assessment. Only I can make that judgment about myself for myself. To do otherwise is to give the person with the opinion far more power over me than I would like. The key there is that it is ME giving the power to another, by caring about what I feel is their less than enlightened opinion.

You are correct in your pointing out what the topic of the post is, but that is the whole thing. It is not African-American women or transwomen who are tarred and feathered with that view but all women from all the world by all people. Draw it out and it is less about Black, White or Blue and more about our innate disdain for one and another as human beings.

Monica Roberts said...

The Eurocentric standard of beauty IS part of the problem.

What's unfair about pointing out that when you have a standard of beauty that glorifies pale white skin, blonde hair, blue eyes, petite height and slim to skinny builds?

Who is that skewed toward? Damn sure isn't a woman with African heritage or an Asian one either.

The point is that this blog looks at transition issues and things from an Afrocentric perspective.

It gives voice to things that we African-Americans talk about amongst ourselves and things you may not hear us talkabout in racially mixed company.

That perspective is not always going to neatly line up with majority cultural groupthink.

I can think of one British transwoman who didn't have the 'English washerwomans face' as you put it, Caroline Cossey.

Maybe it had something to do with starting hormones in her teens.

Not only does this happen far too often, let a sistah be full figured, have broad shoulders and be taller than 5'8".

How many times have Venus and Serena Williams had 'masculine' or 'tranny' hurled at them by their detractors?

praenomenal said...

Monica, don't you see that what you are saying is roughly the same thing as you are decrying? You accuse the broad swath of having a eurocentric bias. But that is just as much a prejudice as HAVING a eurocentric bias.

Not everyone does. Not even most people do.

Prejudice is prejudice no matter where it comes from.

Monica Roberts said...

The Eurocentric beauty bias is a fact. I don't have to speculate about it. I've seen it my whole life.

How do you explain last year's fall runway shows in New York that were devoid of Black models, but full of Eastern European glamazons?

It's not prejudice as you call it to point out that the Eurocentric beauty standard caused (and still causes) major headaches for people that it's not designed to fit.

Did you not pay attention to Delux's comment?

If you think it isn't a problem, I challenge you to go to your nearest Borders, Barnes and Noble or even Walgreens magazine rack and find a traditionally white-oriented women's beauty magazine that has an African-American woman gracing its cover NOT named ESSENCE or Sophisticate's Black Hair.

Mercedes said...

See, and I've just never understood that. I'm quite often awed by beautiful women who happen to be Black, Latin, Asian, Native (then again, I'm Metis), I just don't see beauty as limited by race. Then again, I don't see it as bounded by gender, either, being bisexual.

I have, however, observed what you have, and it always makes me scratch my head. I'll say of someone, "wow, she's got gorgeous skin," and someone in my company will give me the wierdest look, because he or she can't see past the skin colour.

Of course, I realize I'm different (just a little!) :) and so some of it can be chalked up to personal taste. I think I saw a survey about how in the GLBT community, people still tend to be attracted within racial lines, rather than across them. That part may be human nature.

That's all fine, until someone decides to get ignorant about it. It's absolutely not necessary. Opinion is one thing -- deliberate insult is entirely another.

Oxette said...

A super intelligent and graceful response to a comment that was highly undeserving. What a tool.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad a friend sent me the URL to this blog. I'm enjoying doing some catch-up reading.

I've seen photos you've published of yourself and other African-American trans women. I should be so lucky!

As for non-trans African-American women, both my spouse (she is staying with me) and I would put Beyoncé at or near the top of our lists, and many others too.