Monday, August 11, 2008

My Peeps Transgender Ignorance

I continue to be amazed and appalled at the breathtaking levels of ignorance that have been leveled at transpeople by some of my fellow African-Americans.

That ignorance takes many forms. Sometimes it's people spouting anti-transgender comments steeped in bigoted stereotypes across the Net. Sometimes it's bloggers writing endless posts speculating on whether celebrities such as Ciara or Wendy Williams are transwomen because they have physical, emotional or behavioral traits that some people perceive as not belonging to their gender.

Sometimes it's hurling the 'tranny' epithet at women they don't like. Sometimes it's disrespectfully and cattily calling a transwoman who is unmistakably feminine on the outside and lives her life that way for decades a 'man'.

As I and every other African-American transperson will unfailingly remind our people, just because we transitioned doesn't mean we forfeited our Blackness as well.

It pains us African-American transpeople who deeply love and respect our people when the love and respect we show you isn't reciprocated.

It's irritating to African-American transwomen like myself that a man in drag who plays a semi-cartoonish caricature of a Black woman in a movie role is given more authenticity, respect, cachet and consideration by some of our biosisters.

At the same time, someone who has spent the time, money and exerted major effort to permanently morph their body to match that gender role, is daily living the life of one and wishes to be the best she can be at doing so is dogged out and disrespected.

Much of the ignorance on transgender issues in the community is because some of my peeps don't know about gender issues, don't wanna know, and want to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that transgender people don't exist.

Some of them not only don't want to educate themselves on these issues, but want to pontificate, quote Bible verses out of context and pass judgment on our lives as if they do.

We transpeople are sick and tired of the increasing transphobia and our fellow African-Americans sitting silently on the sidelines as our civil rights not only get attacked by the Forces of Intolerance, but in many cases some of them are the facilitators of those attacks on our civil rights.

We are tired of some of you feeling you have the right to terminate, judge or jack with our lives to make your insecure behinds feel more like a 'man' or a 'woman'.

The point is, whether you want to believe it or not, gender is not an either/or proposition. Nothing in nature is, and you can ask our intersex friends about that if you think I'm kidding.

The fact that gender research keeps getting published that emphasizes what I and other transgender people talk about anecdotally and we're at least 3% of the population will ensure that we'll be garnering headlines for quite a while.

So get used to the fact that transgender people aren't going away, nor are we going back into the closet to make you feel better. Our existence causes you to exercise your brain cells and question every assumption ever made about gender identity and it's time for the African-American community to do, to paraphrase Dr. King, some hard solid thinking on the subject.

Ignorance is not bliss in this situation. We are part of the African-American family, and its past time that you treat us as such. We have far more in common than not and we would rather spend that time working together to solve what ails the African-American community rather than wasting time in a debate about our humanity.


Jackie said...

Monica, I agree that many Black folk don't know or wanna know or "think" they already know about gender isssues. Yet, it doesn't stop them from judging and disrespecting Trans people. They lump every gender variance including entertainment characters, into one lump. No, Rupaul and Medea are not Transgendered.
Now for me, I like Medea. Not because Tyler Perry is a guy, I just like the character and would know matter who played her. I also like Medea's brother, also played by Perry. It puzzles me how anyone can equate some character who begins and ends on the pages of a script and is designed to make you laugh, with a Transwoman or man.
Black folks need to wise up and catch up and embrace our Transgendered family members. Not doing so makes us all lose.

Laverne said...

I just discovered your blog for the first time. I'm so moved by you words and point of view. It totally echoes the way I've felt for years. I also really appreciate the shout out about me on the Diddy show. There's never been someone like me doing what I do on the show and interacting the way I do on the show ever before on television that I know of. You should definitely check it out.

I hope you don't mind but I'm planning to post a link to your blog on my site. You've already quoted me so I'm going to assume it's ok. ha ha. Keep up the good work.

Stay in the love,

Lavene Cox

Monica Roberts said...

By all means. I'll be putting a link to your blog here as well.

And don't be a stranger around here. I'd love to hear your thoughts from time to time on a few issues, assuming Diddy doesn't snap you up first ;)

Best of luck on the show.

Smokie said...

Geez - is it that serious? Can't you just LIVE YOUR LIFE? Does everyone have to understand/agree/accept/sympathize/CARE?

I am a woman and I will do WHATEVER I want to do and I don't give two shits about someone's opinion of my choices -- or if they accept me or not. Who cares? Life is too short to worry or explain ANYthing regarding your choices in life.

When I lived life as a lesbian female, I was living MY life... and I really couldn't care about what anyone had to say about how I looked or any choices that I made.

Free yourself, Sista. Free yourself. Just LIVE. There will always be ppl like me who think this transgender thing is a joke. That's just life... You can't please all the people all the time. Just please YOU and YOURS.

Monica Roberts said...

Neither do I Smokie. I'm living my life. Transsition liberated it and for over a decade I've been doing what I can to ensure that all transgender people are free to comfortably live their lives and helping uplift the race at the same time.

You take it as a joke, I don't. There are over 200 documented names on the Remembering our Dead list and four more just got added to it this year.

We transpeople have to deal with the repercussions of people who don't see us as human beings or as you admitted, see it as a joke. said...

Hey there Monica!

The ignorance of the trans community among black people is completely intentional!

I don't find many resources online that DIRECTLY pertain to research on black transwomen or black transmen though... if you will point me to credible resources, I will add them to the post at my blog. I can do a google search but JUST because something is on a website does not make it credible with the trans community.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!

Monica Roberts said...

Only problem is that there isn't much research specifically geared toward African-American transpeople.

It's either being compiled now, or it's limited to needs assesssments like the 2000 Washington DC one that only takes snapshots of a small segment of our community.

It's an area that our HBCU's should be picking up the slack on.