Thursday, July 31, 2008

Arrest Made In Zapata Killing

According to KUSA-TV, the waste of DNA who killed Angie Zapata has been found.

They are reporting that 32 year old Allen Ray Andrade, was arrested in Thornton on Tuesday and faces second-degree murder and aggravated motor vehicle theft charges.

He was on a date with Angie and when the suspect discovered she was was a transwoman, he killed her.

Andrade admits to police in an arrest affadavit obtained by KUSA-TV to killing Angie Zapata, who was found beaten to death in a Greeley apartment in the 2000 block of 4th Street on July 17. According to authorities Zapata had suffered fatal wounds to her head and face.

The affidavit says Andrade met Zapata on a social networking site, Mocospace, and the two arranged to meet July 15.

Zapata picked Andrade up in Thornton where he lived and the pair returned to Zapata's Greeley apartment together. Andrade told police Zapata performed a sexual act on him.

The following day, the affidavit explains, Andrade started to look at photos in the apartment and questioned Zapata's sex. That night, Andrade questioned Zapata directly, according to the affidavit, and Andrade says Zapata responded, "I'm all woman."

Andrade told police he grabbed Zapata in her genital area and felt a penis. He became angry and hit Zapata with his fist before grabbing a fire extinguisher and hitting her in the head twice, according to the affidavit.

Andrade explained to police that he thought he "killed it," referring to Zapata but when she made gurgling noises and started to sit up, he hit her with the extinguisher again.

He also admitted to police that he stole Zapata's car and drove away.

On the 17th, Zapata's sister, Monica Murguia, called police saying she had not heard from Zapata. She also went to her apartment where she found Zapata's body on the ground covered with a blanket.

Wednesday morning at around 1:45 a.m. Thornton Police responded to a noise complaint at Sierra Vista Apartment Homes in Thornton. There they contacted Andrade and linked him to the stolen car. He was arrested on outstanding warrants.

Andrade has a lengthy record that includes attempt to commit first-degree criminal trespass, attempt to commit theft from a person, possession of a contraband, attempted escape and attempt to commit theft by receiving. He served time for each of the convictions.

The Greeley Police Department is expected to hold a news conference at 2 PM MDT with additional information.

Can you smell the 'trans panic' defense Andrade's defense attorney will be cooking up?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Another Historic Denver DNC Convention

When the Democratic National Convention kicks off in Denver on August 25, African-Americans will make up a large portion of the delegates attending it. One of those delegates will be the first African-American transgender one.

We take it almost for granted these days that the Democratic Party has been the party of civil rights. Because of their role since the mid 60's as agents of change, it is the one we African-Americans have cast our political lot with.

But one hundred years ago when the first Democratic National Convention was held in Denver, the political script was flipped. The Republicans were the 'Party of Lincoln', the emancipators that African-Ameircnas enthusiastically supported in the wake of our 1865 post-Civil War emancipation from slavery. The Democratic Party, as the political home of the slave owners, had at the time attitudes and prejudices more akin to today's racist Republicans.

But in an eerily similar deja vu moment, there was a rising tide of anger building in the African-American community because many Blacks felt that the Republican Party was 'taking us for granted'.

Yo, Democratic leadership and fellow Dems, pay attention to the rest of this post so you don't repeat history. Moni's about to take y'all to school thanks to a major assist from Naomi Zeveloff and the Colorado Independent.

As I discovered in 1988 when I lived in Denver for a month to do some corporate training when I worked for CAL, Denver and the state of Colorado has an African-American community with deep historical roots. I didn't get the chance while I was there to visit the Black American West Museum that documents some of that history.

The Denver African-American community played a major role in some of that history, including laying the groundwork for our political shift from the Republican to the Democratic Party.

Like now, as the Democrats began to gather in Denver for the July 7-10 convention that put the young city on the national map, there was a spirited debate going on in the African-American community at the time about whether to cut our ties with the 'Party of Lincoln' or attempt to forge a relationship with the Democratic Party.

That disenchantment was fuelled by the Teddy Roosevelt administration's mishandling of the 1906 Brownsville Incident. Even though the Republicans had a small African-American civil rights plank in their 1908 party platform, there was major anger in the African-American community over the way this incident was handled. African-Americans were also perturbed about the way national Black leaders such as Booker T. Washington were dissed by the Teddy Roosevelt administration.

The African-American community blamed William Howard Taft, Roosevelt's Secretary of War and the 1908 Republican presidential nominee for the unjust treatment of the 170 African-American soldiers dishonorably discharged on trumped up charges.

The disenchantment levels with the Republican Party in the African-American community, combined with a growing perception that we had to be the agents for our own liberation and couldn't rely on the Republicans to do the right thing, had many Blacks seriously considering backing Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan. Bryan's professed populist broad approach to equality got the attention of some African-Americans while Republican loyalists in the community remained skeptical of it.

The spirited national debate was also heating up in Denver's Five Points neighborhood as well. One Bryan supporter who spoke up at a community meeting was prominent local physician and drugstore owner Dr. Joseph Peter Henry Westbrook. He'd risked his life by joining the Ku Klux Klan in order to gain intelligence on its activities.

Denver was also home to the National Negro Anti-Taft League, which sought to deny Taft the presidency and simultaneously persuade Bryan to live up to his soaring oratory and include African-Americans in his platform.

Colorado Statesman editor Joseph D.D. Rivers was a Hampton Institute classmate of Booker T. Washington and harbored no illusions that the early 20th century Democratic Party was friendly to African-Americans. He penned this July 18, 1908 pro-Bryan editorial in his paper called 'Signs Of Redemption'

"It is, of course, useless to expect that the Democratic party, as a whole, will so commit itself as to profess a sincere and wholesome regard for the welfare of the Negro citizen," the editors declared, "but the fact that the progressive element in the party has reached the point where it does not hesitate to make a general and impartial declaration upon the equal rights of all citizens of the United States, 'at home or abroad,' to enjoy the equal protection of law, must be regarded as a long step toward the elimination of racial controversies in politics when all parties interested are citizens of the United States."

After some heated editorial battles between the two Denver-based African-American newspapers and oratorical jousting amongst various influential people in the community, combined with Bryan's refusal to add an equal rights plank to his platform, both Denver African-American community papers endorsed Taft.

The Democratic Party missed a golden opportunity in 1908. African-Americans were primed and ready to make that seismic shift of support, but the Democratic Party didn't have enough courage to pull the trigger and do the one thing necessary that would make it happen.

It took another 60 years and the administrations of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, thanks to their increasingly aggressive stances on civil rights and pushing major legislation to achieve that progress, before the decisive shift of African-American allegiance away from the Republicans and to the Democratic Party that is part our current early 21st century political reality happened.

It seems fitting that one hundred years later, Sen. Barack Obama, the first African-American nominee for president will accept the Democratic Party's nomination here in Denver, the city that jumpstarted the process and played a major role in the national debate that eventually led to the African-American community's political migration from the Republicans to the Democratic Party.

If Denver's 1908 African-American population were around today, they would not only be astounded at the possible election of Sen. Obama to the presidency, they would be astounded at the numbers of African-Americans involved in this particular DNC convention in Denver.

They would also be pleased and proud to see that what they passionately debated during the summer and fall of 1908 has become a reality.

It's My Life, Not A 'Lifestyle'

One thing I hear from our opponents and people struggling to grapple with transgender issues as they come into contact with us is erroneously saddling us with the 'lifestyle' tag.

The recent comments of Greeley Police Sgt. Joseph Tymkowych, stating that Angie's murder was 'provoked by her lifestyle' are what triggered this post. Like Andres Duque at Blabbeando, I was bothered not only by Sgt. Tymkowych's comment, but by how the word 'lifestyle' was used.

In the context it was used, and especially in right-wing circles, they spin 'lifestyle' to imply by their use of the word that I or any transgender person chooses to be transgender. The only 'choice' in being transgender is choosing when you start your inevitable transition from your birth gender to your true gender.

You choose your friends, choose what clothes you're going to wear, choose what political party you support or even what church you're going to attend.

Contrary to what the scientifically ignorant Reichers tell you, you don't choose to be transgender. You just are.

I get tired of hearing that being transgender is a 'lifestyle'. Too many times in the GLBT community we help buttress that conservaspin in our own writings, conversations, and media interviews as a shorthand code for talking about being GLBT.

I have a suggestion. Instead of using 'lifestyle', try using the more accurate word 'life' to describe our reality.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Final Four Olympic Bid Cities

While much of the world waits for the August 8 opening ceremonies for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and Londoners are anxiously counting down to the August 29, 2012 start date of their Games, October 2, 2009 is a date circled in red on next year's calendar by the mayors of four cities.

On that date the International Olympic Committee will announce who will get the Games of the XXXI Olympiad.

The final four cities in the running to get the 2016 Olympic Games are Chicago, Illinois, USA, Tokyo, Japan, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Madrid, Spain.

Rio's chances are enhanced by the fact that a Summer Olympics has never taken place on the South American continent and they hosted the 2006 Pan Am Games. They basically ran it as if their chances to host the Games depended on it, which wasn't too far from the truth. While the Pan Am Games exposed some issues that are being rectified, the Brazilian Olympic Committee still chose Rio over Sao Paulo as their candidate city.

Tokyo was the host city in 1964. It's a national capital and got high IOC marks for the technical aspect of their bid and the compactness of their venue plan. However, with this year's Games being held in Beijing, the IOC may not be looking to return to Asia so quickly.

Madrid has the same problem. It's similar to Tokyo in that it's a national capital. Although Barcelona was the host in 1992, the 2012 Games will be in London. The likelihood of the Games being on the European continent only a mere four years after London hosted them is remote.

Chicago's chances not only look good, some IOC insiders and knowledgeable people about the Olympic bid process consider Chicago the frontrunning city to land the 2016 Games.

The last time the Games were hosted in the United States was in 1996 in Atlanta. It's been a while since the Summer Games have been in the Western Hemisphere (12 years and counting), and people have raved about Chicago's game plan for a compact, traveler friendly Olympics with venues only 15 km from the Olympic Village. The IOC peeps like international cities with ample cultural attractions, and Chicago has that in abundance as well.

This isn't Chicago's first time as an IOC finalist city. Chicago actually won the bid for the 1904 Olympic Games by a unanimous IOC vote, but since the World's Fair was being held in St. Louis, the Games were moved there. Chicago was a finalist for the 1952 Games which were awarded to Helsinki and the 1956 Games which ended up in Melbourne.

Don't forget NBC's big bucks Olympic agreement runs through 2012 as well. The IOC is acutely aware that the North American based TV networks would pay major bucks for a TV friendly Games (Central Time Zone) in which they can show far more live events.
TV cash is one of the reasons that since 1992 the Summer and Winter Games no longer occur in the same year.

If Chicago is chosen, the Games would take place from July 22 to August 7. For purely selfish reasons, I'd love for Chicago to get the Games. I'd not only have a place to stay thanks to relatives and a few friends living there, I'd be only a five hour drive from the action, assuming I'm still living in Da Ville in 2016.

Chicago's stiffest competition will be Rio. IOC President Jacques Rogge has stated that he would like to see an Olympics staged on the South American and African continents, the only two that have never held them.

Timezone wise, Rio is only an hour ahead of Eastern time, so you'd have many events occurring live at a Rio based Games as well. The scenic backdrops would also be breathtaking as well, so if Chicago didn't win, it would be the next most favorable locale to the North American TV networks. While I agree with Jacques Rogge's sentiment, I have to admit that having an Olympics only five hours driving time away from moi appeals to me.

Whether Chicago gets the Games could hinge on the US presidential election in three months. There are a few IOC members who are not too happy about how Junior and his minions have treated the world during his presidency, and don't think that they won't factor that into their votes next year.

They might be more favorably disposed to vote for Chicago if a first term President Obama is sitting in the White House next year, and assuming Chicago gets them, was completing his second term at the time those Games were scheduled to kick off.

You can bet that the Final Four candidate cities will not only have representatives on hand in Copenhagen, Denmark a year from now making presentations and furiously lobbying for their respective cities, they will be on pins and needles until that announcement is made making them members of an elite group.

An Olympic host city.

Monday, July 28, 2008

WNBA Olympic Break

The Beijing Games motto is One World, One Dream. With the Games starting on August 8, a few players are closer to their dream of wearing an Olympic gold medal around their neck.

Others whose dreams were dashed will pick themselves up, refocus and aim toward the 2012 London games.

During Olympiads the WNBA not only doesn't conduct an All-Star game, they take a month long break to allow the league's players to join their various national Olympic teams for the Games.

While attention in the US will be focused on Team USA and its quest to win a fourth consecutive gold medal, other WNBA players will be working just as hard during the break to claim the basketball gold for their country.

Hamchetou Maiga-Ba will be headed from the Houston Comets to Mali to attempt to make her national team. Kelly Santos and Erika DeSouza will be headed home to Brazil to do the same thing.

In some cases a few players will be wearing some surprising uniforms as they do so. FIBA and Olympic rules allow you to play internationally for another country other than your birth one if you've never represented your birth country in any international competition.

Because Team USA is so deep talent wise, Becky Hammond, Kelly Miller and Deanna Nolan headed to Russia where they play during the winter in order to try to win Olympic gold. Only Becky Hammond made the squad, which includes former WNBA players Svetlana Abrosimova and Maria Stepanova

That's probably going to add a little fuel to the USA-Russia rivalry because the Russians knocked off Team USA in the semis of the FIBA tournament two years ago and gave them a major scare during the 2004 Athens Games as well.

The FIBA World Champion and 2004 silver medallist Aussies are the team many see as a major threat to Team USA standing on the top step of the Beijing victory platform. The Opals kept many of their best players at home training, but Opals Tully Bevilacqua and team captain Lauren Jackson opted to make the trip from Down Under to play this season in the WNBA.

Speaking of the WNBA, the biggest surprise to the so called experts is that the LA Sparks aren't running away with the Western Conference regular season title even with WNBA Rookie of the Year candidate and Olympian Candace Parker in the lineup.

It's the San Antonio Silver Stars who are sitting atop the WNBA Western Conference with the league's best record at 18-9, with the Seattle Storm a half game out at 17-9. The Sparks find themselves tied for third with the surging Sacramento Monarchs at 15-12 with my Comets hot on both teams heels at 14-12. While these three teams are jockeying for the 3rd and 4th Western Conference playoff spots, the defending WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury find themselves in the Western Conference basement right now at 12-15. The Minnesota Lynx are at 13-13 and still in the running for a playoff spot in the always tough WNBA Western Conference.

The Sparks are also going to have the problem along with the Detroit Shock of holding on while various players serve the rolling suspensions issued by the league office in the wake of the brawl that happened in Detroit last week.

Speaking of Detroit, they are at 16-11 and trailing the Eastern Conference leading Connecticut Sun (16-10) by a half game. The New York Liberty is also in the mix for the Eastern Conference regular season title at 15-10 and also a half game out as well. The Indiana Fever are sitting on the last Eastern Conference playoff spot, albeit at this juncture with a sub .500 12-14 record. The expansion Atlanta Dream has won 3 games after starting the season 0-16. The Chicago Sky, last year's expansion babies are 8-17, but had Big Syl out of the lineup for a few weeks due to an injury and the need to rest her for the Olympics. The Washington Mystics are 10-16 and only 2 games out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Soi when the WNBA resumes on August 28 after being put on pause for the Games, there will be a lot of exciting basketball left, especially for this Comets fan who's still patiently waiting for the Drive For Five to be completed.

My girls have caught fire after a slow start and have won their last five games in a row going into the Olympic break, and I and other Comets fans hope that trend continues.

In the meantime I'll be rooting for both Team USA's to bring home Beijing gold.

Oh, Hell No! 'Girlfriends' Cancelled

My Girlfriends, there through thick and thin. My Girlfriends, there for anything.
My Girlfriends.

After eight seasons and numerous award nominations, we won't be hearing Angie Stone sing that theme song on Sunday nights any longer because Girlfriends has been cancelled.

One thing that is bothering many fans of the show is the knowledge that once again, Hollywood is following the trifling formula for building startup television networks that NBC used to rebuild its viewership when it was slipping in the 80's, Fox used to build itself from scratch in the 90's, and now UPN/the CW.

What is that formula you ask?

Put together a bunch of well written, sophisticated shows with an ensemble cast of African-American actors that we will watch. That ensemble cast can either have a well known actor or two or fresh faces. Once those shows have built ratings, name recognition, buzz, award nominations and enough ad revenue for your network to turn a profit and the network's survival is assured, then you cancel the African-American oriented shows and start putting shows that cater to white viewers in those time slots.

Now sadly, Girlfriends is being kicked to the curb. Other bloggers have commented on it, now it's my turn.

I've watched Girlfriends since it started back in 2000. I was on vacation and flipping channels one Monday night when I first stumbled across it. I noted that Mara Brock Akil was producing it and Tracee Ellis Ross, the daughter of legendary singer Diana Ross was one of the actors on this show along with cast members Reggie Hayes, Persia White, Golden Brooks, and my fellow Texan (from Dallas) Jill Marie Jones.

I tuned in and fell in love with Joan Clayton, Maya Wilkes, Toni Childs, Lynn Searcy and 'honorary Girlfriend' William Dent as gainfully employed professional people who shared my ethnic heritage discussed life, love, work, sex and relationships while weaving in social commentary about being Black in America. It was also cool to see the parade of guest stars that ranged from Jill Scott to Jenifer Lewis hilariously playing (what else) Toni's mother.

I'd been starving for that type of television show since A Different World and Living Single went off the air and didn't want to miss a minute of it. As a writer I love TV shows which not only realistically reflect my culture and the reality I deal with, I love intelligently written realistic dialogue and characters. I started taping the show since I was working Monday nights at the time.

Since I know as a writer that television shows on some level sometimes reflect the reality of the people that create them, I also looked at it as a transwoman as an entertaining opportunity to get a glimpse of how biowomen interact with each other, since I was in the process of looking for and building my own similar circle of girlfriends.

I love Girlfriends so much that I buy the DVD releases almost as fast as they become available. I even started watching The Game not only because it's a spinoff of Girlfriends and it's also produced by Mara Brock Akil, but it has Tia Mowry and Wendy Raquel Robinson as cast members.

I've always loved Tia Mowry, her twin sister Tamera and Wendy Raquel Robinson in their various shows and projects. Tia's The Game character Melanie Barnett was introduced on Girlfriends as Joan's cousin.

The CW had already irritated many African-American viewers when it cancelled Half and Half, the second highest rated African-American show behind Girlfriends amongst African-American viewers in the wake of the UPN/CW merger.

But the thing that I and many Girlfriends fans are upset about is that we're not going to get a proper farewell show because the CW is disrespectfully citing costs as a reason they aren't doing it.

Okay, this show helped make the UPN/CW millions thanks to 172 quality episodes. It built a loyal predominately African-American viewership and was the Number 1 rated show amongst African-Americans. It garnered numerous NAACP Image Award nominations, but you can't break down and spend the cash to do a farewell show.

If it stays on that long, I doubt the CW will cite the same fiscal concerns when it comes to a show like One Tree Hill or leave its fans hanging when they cancel it.

As I mentioned earlier in the post, Girlfriends was on for eight years. It deserved a farewell show.

Well, I'll have The Game and the Girlfriends DVD's to look at. But I'll still wonder if Joan and Toni will finally settle their differences and get their longtime friendship back on track. Did Lynn get out of her recording contract or resolve her creative differences and eventually start making hits? What was the gender of the child William and Monica finally had? Did Maya finally get her writing career back on track? Did she and Darnell survive shepherding Jabari through his teen years and are they going to have or adopt another child?

But the $64,000 question all Girlfriends fans want to know is did Aaron not only survive his deployment to Iraq, but did he and Joan finally get married?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Went Off...Got Quoted...And Got Results

There's a quote from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich that states 'well-behaved women seldom make history'. You can probably edit that to cover well-behaved transwomen as well.

Now there are times and many situations as we go through life in which decorum and civility is not only needed, but required.

Then there are those times when you need to go straight the hell off to make your voice heard.

One of those times was in referring to the disrespectful way that Angie Zapata was depicted in a recent story about her murder despite having AP Stylebook guidelines in place since 2001 describing how to cover transgender people in media stories.

I have watched, written about and complained about repeated violations of these AP guidelines in blog postings over the last few years and they continued. But after reading the third story in succession this year that disrespected a transperson, (Saneshia Stewart, Duanna Johnson, Ebony Whitaker) I'd had enough.

My policy on TransGriot is to rewrite an offending transgender story using the AP Stylebook guidelines. I also follow the rules of giving full credit to the person and publication in which it appears when rewriting original source material.

So after composing this post, I was amazed to see this update forwarded to me by one of my TransGriot regular commenters Veronique.

The story was also picked up by Latino blogger Andres Duque at Blabbeando, who found the link to the local TV news footage of Angie's funeral service that has since been uploaded to YouTube.

Andres also has a followup piece on this story on Blabbeando as well discussing ABC News headline change on their blog post discussing the murder.

But let's ponder this for a moment. I've gotten some private communications from people that don't share my ethnic heritage implying that this blog is 'angry'. I have over 900 plus posts on various subjects from WNBA basketball to celebrating the 90th birthday of Nelson Mandela to short stories and poetry, but it's ludicrously considered an 'angry' or has an 'angry tone'.

It's also repeating the same borderline racist shade that has been thrown at me by some people because I dare speak out about injustice no matter where it comes from.

So ask yourself this question. If I hadn't wrote the post on Tuesday, would the story actually be getting legs in the media or the blogosphere, much less the mea culpa story in the Greeley Tribune later that day?

And to ask another question, would Angie be getting this type of respectful positive coverage instead of the initial negative spin if I hadn't complained about it on this blog and gave people the information and the impetus to call and complain to the Greeley Tribune and the writer about it?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

In Transgender Circles, Silicone Is A Risky Shot At Womanhood

By Malcolm Venable
The Virginian-Pilot
© July 27, 2008

One Saturday evening in spring, female impersonators strutted, sashayed and lip-synched to R&B and gospel songs at a Norfolk banquet hall while guests showered them with dollar bills. People feasted on a down-home spread of green beans, fried chicken and macaroni, on tables sprinkled with confetti.

Presiding over it all in a crimson evening gown was Vega Perry, who played the part of the regal, occasionally bawdy hostess. She threw the party to thank supporters of her business, Miss Models Inc., which puts on pageants for local members of the transgender community.

"Please be aware," she said with sugary aplomb, stepping gingerly over the microphone's cord, "that there is no alcohol to be consumed on the premises. Please do not embarrass me by violating this policy. I thank you so much. Up next we have... "

Vega, of Norfolk, is a pro at this. She's managed hundreds of pageants and balls for "gender illusionists" up and down the East Coast.

It wasn't long ago, though, that she was onstage herself, agonizing over the right wig and eyelashes to create a flawless routine. But to look like a beautiful woman instead of the man she was at birth, she played a decade-long, dangerous game of medical roulette.

Around 2002, she lost.

Vega paid a friend to shoot liquid silicone directly into her legs and hips to make them rounder, more feminine. The procedure is called pumping, and it's well-known among members of the local transgender community.

Pumping is illegal and risky, but it's a cheap alternative to the extensive cosmetic surgery required to turn a man into a woman. Often, people who pump experience no immediate adverse side effects. Yet things can go horribly awry. Vega barely escaped death and is reminded every day of that close call by discolorations along her legs that ended her competition days.

"The type of showgirl I am now," she said, "I don't wear anything too revealing because I couldn't compete in a portion where I would have to show hip. I would be so self-conscious."

To win pageants like the ones Vega hosts, a padded bra won't cut it. Contestants need to look as much like ladies as possible.

The rewards can be great. Many drag pageants are surprisingly professional, sometimes lavish affairs with all the stuff you'd see at Miss America: talent competitions, swimwear, midfinals and finals. Bigger pageants award prizes in the tens of thousands of dollars; one gives cash, a new car and a per diem for all-expenses-paid cross-country appearances.

And so, in order to seize that tiara and all its glory, Vega, 38, and many others like her on the pageant circuit have gladly taken a needle or two.

The legal method of getting silicone is through a physician, and in the form of implants, which keep the substance safely encased in pouches. But with pumping, a friend or "doctor" met through word of mouth injects the stuff directly under a customer's skin.

Like street drugs, silicone can be pure or cut with something else, such as baby oil. "Sil doctors," as they're called, can use medical-quality material or the sealant you buy at an auto parts or hardware store.

The liquid can migrate to other parts of the body. It can harden and form clumps. Tissue can become infected and fill with pus. Cases in which people died, sometimes within hours of an injection, have made the national news.

Many times, though, nothing bad happens. For a few hundred dollars, someone who has spent his entire life feeling as if he was born the wrong gender can do something about it.

Vega grew up in a stable, loving, two-parent home in Newport News, with a family who supported her when she was a feminine gay boy.

By 19, she was performing in pageants in Hampton Roads and along the East Coast. But after a while she was ready to change, ready to live as a woman all the time. So on a summer day in 1992, she went to a friend's house in the Lynnhaven section of Virginia Beach to get silicone in her face, to round out her cheekbones.

"I wasn't nervous," Vega said. "I just wanted it so bad. I wanted to look as convincing as possible and wanted to soften up my look. I reserved in the back of my mind that, 'If you really want the silicone, Vega, you have to lay there and accept the pain.' "

The house was clean and well-decorated, she remembered.

The "doctor" was a transsexual named Michelle, in town from Florida. In exchange for hosting Michelle and allowing her to inject other people, the Virginia Beach friend received a commission - free injections, cash or both.

Michelle had access to high-quality silicone, and she was known for good work. Over the course of a weekend, Vega said, as many as 50 transgender women would see Michelle. She wouldn't even come to Hampton Roads unless she knew there'd be at least $10,000 waiting for her.

When Vega arrived, five others were waiting; it was what's called a "pumping party." Those getting major work - adjustments of the hips, buttocks and thighs - went first because Michelle didn't want to run out of silicone for clients spending the most.

When it was her turn, Vega went into her friend's bedroom and saw a hospital bed, which Michelle had rented. That made Vega feel safe.

Tools were laid out on white towels on a dresser. Michelle was adamant about not using a needle twice; she liked for you to see a fresh needle coming out of a pack, Vega said, and after she was done she would drop it into a biomedical waste container. She even changed the sheets after each customer.

"She wanted you to feel like you were coming into a doctor's office," Vega said.

Michelle numbed Vega with Novocain and, for $150, shot silicone into her face, starting at her temples and working down the side, with special emphasis on the fleshy area of the cheeks nicknamed the "apple."

"The girls would be waiting for you to come out," Vega said, "and they'd say, 'Ooh, girl, that is flawless' or, 'I love it,' "

State law makes it illegal to perform such procedures without a license. But it's a healthy little industry in Hampton Roads, according to local transgender people, medical workers and a statewide transgender health survey.

The survey, conducted two years ago by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University for the Virginia Department of Health, found that the eastern region of Virginia, including Hampton Roads, had the highest number of respondents in the state who admitted to getting silicone injections.

Three transgender people interviewed for this story - Vega and two others who did not want to be named because they still get pumped - said there are two to four practitioners in Hampton Roads, each with a thriving customer base.

Last August, a transgender woman named Frances White was arrested in Suffolk for injecting people with silicone in the lips, cheeks and breasts. She pleaded guilty in December and was sentenced to five years of supervised probation.

"If there is any humor in it," said De Sube, a Norfolk transgender woman and activist for the Hampton Roads gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans community, "it's that she was charged with 'practicing medicine without a license.' What she was doing isn't medicine."

Peggy Meder, a registered nurse who runs Skin, a Norfolk medical spa specializing in cosmetic injections, has been so concerned about pumping locally that she's extended discounts to transgender people, so they'd have an alternative.

"Are these people medically trained?" she asks. "Do they clean needles? If a person gets an infection, where do they go? There are all kinds of things that can go wrong, from infection to lumps and bumps on their faces to tissue necrosis - which means the face goes dead. And that's permanent. I have seen skin infections lead to death."

White's arrest was unusual locally, because people within the pumping culture don't snitch. There was speculation that a nemesis or disgruntled customer ratted her out.

"I'm probably the only person in Portsmouth law enforcement that knows what it means to be pumped," said Roberta Monell, a sheriff's deputy who transitioned from male to female years ago. She has never been pumped but said she knows many people who have. "The only way it gets found out is if someone is not happy with the result or there's some dispute over money."

Ordinarily, a transgender person like Vega would begin his transformation by meeting regularly with a psychotherapist. Then he would receive female hormones from a physician, in the form of shots, pills, patches or a combination of them.

Then, after maybe a year, the next step would be small procedures, including electrolysis to remove body hair. Only after all this treatment, at a cost of thousands of dollars, would the patient begin full feminization through plastic surgery. That's $20,000 to $150,000 more, typically not covered by insurance.

"Now imagine yourself coming from the projects facing all this," said De Sube.

At one time, transgender people could have turned to a physician for the liquid silicone, but the potential dangers prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1992 - the same year Vega got her first illegal shots - to order doctors to stop offering it.

The FDA approved silicone for fixing detached retinas in 1997, so some doctors have begun using it again, off label, for cosmetics. But it's not recommended.

Many clinics offer other products that are believed to be safer for sculpting the face, but those injections are more expensive than silicone shots offered by unlicensed practitioners, and they're temporary. Silicone is permanent.

In some circles, peer pressure encourages pumping. Especially vulnerable are teens who've been kicked out of their homes after revealing that they want to become women.

These young men are often adopted by a "mother" - another feminine man or transgender woman who heads a tribe. Driven by trauma, low self-esteem and a search for belonging, they turn to pumping as an easy, quick fix. Same for sex workers, for whom appearance is vital. Pumping is a rite of passage. Beauty is just a syringe away.

"They're scared," De Sube said. "They aren't stupid. They understand the negative outcome. But they don't have the medical ability to get it the right way. From their perspective, this is life-giving."

Vega hosts a support group for trans women called TS Ladies Talk. They meet twice a month, talking over issues relevant to their community. Pumping comes up every so often, and although Vega does discourage the practice among her peers, she doesn't sermonize.

"The reality is that it's one of those things that girls are just going to do," she said.

One way of minimizing the practice, the study from VCU and the Virginia Department of Health concluded, is to offer transgender people safer, more affordable medical care.

Park Place Medical Center in Norfolk started a program in April called Transition Your Life Clinic, in part as a response to the study.

The idea is to encourage transgender people to get routine health screenings and to discourage behaviors that could result in HIV infections. The program is modeled after Richmond's Fan Free Clinic, which draws people from all over the state and is known for its transgender outreach program.

For half a day on Fridays, staff members at the cozy Park Place clinic see up to six trans people. Some can get prescriptions for hormones instead of buying them on the black market. The program is being paid for by the Health Department and a donation from the MAC cosmetic company's AIDS fund.

"The basic concept is that if you make people feel good about themselves, the more likely they are to protect themselves and take care of their bodies," said Dr. Subir Vij, a doctor at the clinic. "The reality is that many transgender people do not have doctors. They don't feel comfortable going to other routine providers. We want to create that safe feeling for them and eventually have them adopt Park Place Medical Center as their home."

Specialized medical care has been hard to find locally for transgender people - even those who don't pump. When Tona Brown, a classical violinist living in Norfolk, was transitioning from man to woman in 2003, she had to go to Baltimore to find an endocrinologist.

She knows that there are people who will deem her transgender peers unworthy of sympathy, because, well, shouldn't common sense stop them from getting shots with a used syringe full of silicone from a hardware store?

"People know they're not supposed to have unprotected sex or use drugs, but they still do it," Brown said. "You have to put yourself in their shoes. Be empathetic. What if you had breasts and you didn't want them, and someone said they could remove them for $300?"

That's the thing with pumping: It is so fast and so cheap that it's very tempting. But then, the dream of a better life can quickly become a nightmare. One woman who has been pumped, but asked not to be named, said silicone "doctors" will sometimes half-joke, "Girl, if anything happens, I'm dropping you off in a Dum pster."

Vega knows well what happens when pumping goes wrong, after that night six years ago.

A friend had offered to do the work as a way of advertising her expertise. She gave Vega a discount.

Vega had reservations but went ahead anyway. What could go wrong?

After three injections, she started getting worried.

"I'm more a lady," she said. "I didn't want a gigantic butt and wide hips, but she started pumping me really wider and wider. I said, 'You have to stop.' "

On the fourth shot, she began to bleed uncontrollably. Bleeding is common in pumping, and sometimes to contain it, the "doctor" will dab a bit of household glue on the site. But Vega didn't want glue on an open wound, and anyway, no glue would hold this in - blood was gushing everywhere.

"I was scared," Vega said.

A few hours later, she was wheezing, totally out of breath.

"It was like my lungs were giving out."

She called her friend, who had pumped herself in the breast that same night; she was also feeling bad. At around 5:30 a.m., they went to the emergency room.

"On the way, she was afraid of me pointing at her as the one who did it," Vega said. "I told her I would never tell them who did it, but I did tell her that I would have to let them know I had injections."

She'd gotten a bad grade of silicone, an ER doctor said. The substance had already caused an infection that had begun migrating to her lungs. Doctors gave her antibiotics, and she remained hospitalized for two days. Her friend didn't have insurance and had to be released sooner, but she didn't suffer any lasting harm.

In the following weeks, bruises appeared on Vega's legs. Eventually she had plastic surgeries to correct the work; one doctor cut into her face to scrape out silicone that had solidified. In another, silicone was sucked out of her hips with a medical vacuum. She wore tubes in her hips for four months.

She regrets her bad luck, but not necessarily the pumping.

"There are so many success stories that would outweigh the bad ones," she said. "There are lovely, lovely girls out here that have had silicone done the illegal way and have not had any problems for years.

"It's that instant gratification of seeing the result right there, versus going to the plastic surgeon if you don't have the money. So, honestly, I think I would possibly consider doing it again."

Malcolm Venable, (757) 446-2662,

Friday, July 25, 2008

Barack's Berlin Speech

TransGriot Note: Sen. Obama's speech in Berlin's Tiergarten before 200,000 people.

Hate on GOP haters. Can't help it that we Democrats have produced another great potential president and leader (as usual) and you GOPers have offered up another inarticulate non-intellectual that wants to take this country down the same disastrous path using the same failed Bush conservapolicies.

Here's the text of the speech
'A World That Stands As One'
July 24th, 2008

Thank you to the citizens of Berlin and to the people of Germany. Let me thank Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier for welcoming me earlier today. Thank you Mayor Wowereit, the Berlin Senate, the police, and most of all thank you for this welcome.

I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen – a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.

I know that I don’t look like the Americans who’ve previously spoken in this great city. The journey that led me here is improbable. My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father – my grandfather – was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.

At the height of the Cold War, my father decided, like so many others in the forgotten corners of the world, that his yearning – his dream – required the freedom and opportunity promised by the West. And so he wrote letter after letter to universities all across America until somebody, somewhere answered his prayer for a better life.

That is why I’m here. And you are here because you too know that yearning. This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom. And you know that the only reason we stand here tonight is because men and women from both of our nations came together to work, and struggle, and sacrifice for that better life.

Ours is a partnership that truly began sixty years ago this summer, on the day when the first American plane touched down at Templehof.

On that day, much of this continent still lay in ruins. The rubble of this city had yet to be built into a wall. The Soviet shadow had swept across Eastern Europe, while in the West, America, Britain, and France took stock of their losses, and pondered how the world might be remade.

This is where the two sides met. And on the twenty-fourth of June, 1948, the Communists chose to blockade the western part of the city. They cut off food and supplies to more than two million Germans in an effort to extinguish the last flame of freedom in Berlin.

The size of our forces was no match for the much larger Soviet Army. And yet retreat would have allowed Communism to march across Europe. Where the last war had ended, another World War could have easily begun. All that stood in the way was Berlin.

And that’s when the airlift began – when the largest and most unlikely rescue in history brought food and hope to the people of this city.

The odds were stacked against success. In the winter, a heavy fog filled the sky above, and many planes were forced to turn back without dropping off the needed supplies. The streets where we stand were filled with hungry families who had no comfort from the cold.

But in the darkest hours, the people of Berlin kept the flame of hope burning. The people of Berlin refused to give up. And on one fall day, hundreds of thousands of Berliners came here, to the Tiergarten, and heard the city’s mayor implore the world not to give up on freedom. “There is only one possibility,” he said. “For us to stand together united until this battle is won…The people of Berlin have spoken. We have done our duty, and we will keep on doing our duty. People of the world: now do your duty…People of the world, look at Berlin!”

People of the world – look at Berlin!

Look at Berlin, where Germans and Americans learned to work together and trust each other less than three years after facing each other on the field of battle.

Look at Berlin, where the determination of a people met the generosity of the Marshall Plan and created a German miracle; where a victory over tyranny gave rise to NATO, the greatest alliance ever formed to defend our common security.

Look at Berlin, where the bullet holes in the buildings and the somber stones and pillars near the Brandenburg Gate insist that we never forget our common humanity.

People of the world – look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.

Sixty years after the airlift, we are called upon again. History has led us to a new crossroad, with new promise and new peril. When you, the German people, tore down that wall – a wall that divided East and West; freedom and tyranny; fear and hope – walls came tumbling down around the world. From Kiev to Cape Town, prison camps were closed, and the doors of democracy were opened. Markets opened too, and the spread of information and technology reduced barriers to opportunity and prosperity. While the 20th century taught us that we share a common destiny, the 21st has revealed a world more intertwined than at any time in human history.

The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers – dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean.

The terrorists of September 11th plotted in Hamburg and trained in Kandahar and Karachi before killing thousands from all over the globe on American soil.

As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.

Poorly secured nuclear material in the former Soviet Union, or secrets from a scientist in Pakistan could help build a bomb that detonates in Paris. The poppies in Afghanistan become the heroin in Berlin. The poverty and violence in Somalia breeds the terror of tomorrow. The genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all.

In this new world, such dangerous currents have swept along faster than our efforts to contain them. That is why we cannot afford to be divided. No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone. None of us can deny these threats, or escape responsibility in meeting them. Yet, in the absence of Soviet tanks and a terrible wall, it has become easy to forget this truth. And if we’re honest with each other, we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart, and forgotten our shared destiny.

In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common. In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe’s role in our security and our future. Both views miss the truth – that Europeans today are bearing new burdens and taking more responsibility in critical parts of the world; and that just as American bases built in the last century still help to defend the security of this continent, so does our country still sacrifice greatly for freedom around the globe.

Yes, there have been differences between America and Europe. No doubt, there will be differences in the future. But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more – not less. Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.

That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another. The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.

We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.

So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.

That is why America cannot turn inward. That is why Europe cannot turn inward. America has no better partner than Europe. Now is the time to build new bridges across the globe as strong as the one that bound us across the Atlantic. Now is the time to join together, through constant cooperation, strong institutions, shared sacrifice, and a global commitment to progress, to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It was this spirit that led airlift planes to appear in the sky above our heads, and people to assemble where we stand today. And this is the moment when our nations – and all nations – must summon that spirit anew.

This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it. This threat is real and we cannot shrink from our responsibility to combat it. If we could create NATO to face down the Soviet Union, we can join in a new and global partnership to dismantle the networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York. If we could win a battle of ideas against the communists, we can stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject the extremism that leads to hate instead of hope.

This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets. No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan. But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO’s first mission beyond Europe’s borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now.

This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The two superpowers that faced each other across the wall of this city came too close too often to destroying all we have built and all that we love. With that wall gone, we need not stand idly by and watch the further spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.

This is the moment when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday. In this century, we need a strong European Union that deepens the security and prosperity of this continent, while extending a hand abroad. In this century – in this city of all cities – we must reject the Cold War mind-set of the past, and resolve to work with Russia when we can, to stand up for our values when we must, and to seek a partnership that extends across this entire continent.

This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few, and not the many. Together, we must forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet. This is the moment for trade that is free and fair for all.

This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East. My country must stand with yours and with Europe in sending a direct message to Iran that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions. We must support the Lebanese who have marched and bled for democracy, and the Israelis and Palestinians who seek a secure and lasting peace. And despite past differences, this is the moment when the world should support the millions of Iraqis who seek to rebuild their lives, even as we pass responsibility to the Iraqi government and finally bring this war to a close.

This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands. Let us resolve that all nations – including my own – will act with the same seriousness of purpose as has your nation, and reduce the carbon we send into our atmosphere. This is the moment to give our children back their future. This is the moment to stand as one.

And this is the moment when we must give hope to those left behind in a globalized world. We must remember that the Cold War born in this city was not a battle for land or treasure. Sixty years ago, the planes that flew over Berlin did not drop bombs; instead they delivered food, and coal, and candy to grateful children. And in that show of solidarity, those pilots won more than a military victory. They won hearts and minds; love and loyalty and trust – not just from the people in this city, but from all those who heard the story of what they did here.

Now the world will watch and remember what we do here – what we do with this moment. Will we extend our hand to the people in the forgotten corners of this world who yearn for lives marked by dignity and opportunity; by security and justice? Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time?

Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words “never again” in Darfur?

Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world? Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don’t look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?

People of Berlin – people of the world – this is our moment. This is our time.

I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we’ve struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We’ve made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived – at great cost and great sacrifice – to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom – indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us – what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America’s shores – is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.

These are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. These aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of these aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of these aspirations that all free people – everywhere – became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of these aspirations that a new generation – our generation – must make our mark on the world.

People of Berlin – and people of the world – the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.

Bummed Out

TransGriot readers,
I'd hoped to be chillin' in the ATL getting ready to attend the Blogging While Brown Conference that kicks off tonight with a reception and a full day of seminars tomorrow. Unfortunately work and life intervened.

One of my contracts unexpectedly ended a few days before the registration deadline. When I got reassigned to a new one, my work time not only changed, I was working Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until midnight. The worst part was that I now had non consecutive days off, and I was planning to make that six hour drive to the ATL from Da Ville starting in the early morning so I'd have time to rest from the trip, hook up with SeaMonica and be in diva mode for the reception that night.

So based on that knowledge, I was debating making a stress-filled six hour drive solo at night and early Saturday morning down I-65 through Kentucky, I-24 through central and southeast Tennessee through mountains with twisting 6% grades and down I-75 through north Georgia so I could be there sleep deprived for the seminars.

I've done longer drives to Dallas and Houston solo, so that didn't faze me. But I knew I had to commit one way or the other by paying the conference fee by the 14th. As much as it pained me to do so, I called SeaMonica and let her know I had to cancel.

Just before I left the house for my first day working the new contract, one of my supervisors called and informed me I was now working Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Translation: I now have Fridays (and four consecutive days) off again.


Oh well. Life happens. I'm a little upset and down about the fact I'm missing an opportunity to meet many of my fellow African-American bloggers, including a few I admire. But with my work schedule in flux at the time and based on the information I had available to me to make the decision, I reluctantly had to cancel. I probably would have hit the road early yesterday morning had onsite registration been an available option for this event.

I have no doubt this history making conference is going to be a huge success and they are planning to do it again next year. But this is just one of those things in which life didn't cooperate with my desires to be at an event that I wanted to attend, and I'm a little bummed about it.

For those of you who are there, have a wonderful and successful conference and hope to see y'all next year.

Why Black Transgender Issues Are Black Community Issues

'In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute'.

Justice Thurgood Marshall

As a proud African-American that also happens to be a transwoman, there is no doubt and I make it quite clear on many TransGriot and TBP posts that I love my people.

But some of them don't love me.

African-Americans have a duality when it comes to African-American transpeople. On one hand some of my peeps can be the most accepting, compassionate, articulate and passionately motivated advocates for us.

On the other hand, some of them can also be our cruelest tormentors. Some of our unfortunate sisters who are memorialized on the Remembering Our Dead list (and sadly, this year we are adding three more names so far to that list) were killed by other African-Americans.

I and my transsistahs and transbrothas have noted the reluctance of the NAACP, some African-American politicians, ministers and other mainstream African-American civil rights organizations to get on board with pushing for civil rights coverage for their fellow African-Americans who happen to be transgender. Some of this reticence is driven by misinterpretations of Biblical scripture, misinformation, and in some cases outright hatred, ignorance and transphobic bigotry.

But I want to point out why the issues that Black transgender people deal with are Black community issues as well.

Let's start with the most pressing one, jobs. Many of my transgender brothers and sisters are gainfully employed. Many of us are college educated. But because transpeople aren't covered in job discrimination laws in many parts of the country, it's hard for us just to get a job.

Eevn if we have one, some employers are aware that it's illegal to fire us for being African-American. They'll just simply say I'm firing this person because they're transgender and unfortunately get away with it.

Sometimes. as Rochelle Evans has discovered, they won't hire us period.

Lack of employment is a root cause to some of what ails the African-American transgender community. We gotta eat, put clothes on our backs and have a place to lay our head. In addition to that, we gotta keep the cash flowing not only to pay for the necessities of life, but in order to complete our gender transitions.

Sometimes, my young transsisters are kicked out of their homes by their own families. They don't want to deal with their gender transformations out of either sheer ignorance or specious religious reasons.

Cutting us off from legitimate employment and the love and support of their family leads to some people feeling they have no other option but to turn tricks for cash. The end result of that can be what happened to young Ebony Whitaker a few weeks ago.

If they're lucky enough to not run into a john that kills them, then my street walking transsisters are at higher risk for contracting HIV, another issue in which we share a kinship with our African-American biobrothers and biosisters. They get paid more if they have sex with clients without a condom, and it's hard to say no to that if you're trying to survive.

The 2000 Washington Transgender Needs Assessment showed an alarming 25% of the respondents of that survey replying they were HIV positive. If they don't get it that way, because of the cost of the hormones that we need to transition, some girls pool their money to share hormone shots. If the person you're sharing a needle with is HIV positive, then you'll share that with them as well as the hormones you're injecting into your body.

Speaking of injecting things into your body, there's also the practice of silicone pumping parties than can lead to HIV infection, disfigurement or death.

Police brutality, as the Duanna Johnson case demonstrated in Memphis, is an issue we share with our bio brothers and sisters. We also have the added problem of being harassed by the people who are supposed to protect and serve us either verbally, physically or in some cases sexually.

Because our ministers have been more concerned with clocking dollars than uplifting the community and speaking truth to power, they've been acting and sounding more like white fundies instead of adhering to the traditional mission of the Black church to be drum majors for justice. That nasty rhetoric coming from our pulpits has opened gender variant kids up to being bullied, harassed and possibly killed. In some cases it has gotten so bad that some transpeople drop out of school because of it.

If you drop out, not only does it cut your income earning potential and your chances of landing a good paying job, it also greases the skids for you to end up in that vicious cycle that leads to the street life or worse.

The point that I must continue to make until some of my fellow African-Americans get it is that just because I transitioned, that doesn't forever divorce me or any of us from the African-American community. I am just as down with the goal of uplifting the race just as much as any non-transgender African-American.

We African-American transpeople want to do our part to help. But this is a two way road of mutual assistance. You have a moral obligation as fellow African-Americans to help us, too. We are your brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. We are as Frederick Douglass wrote in a North Star editorial in 1847:

'We are one, our cause is one, and we must help each other; if we are to succeed.'

Frankie Beverly said the same thing in the song 'We Are One' a century later.

I would have to say that transgender issues weren't on his mind when he wrote this song, but the point is we are one people. We'll need help from our biobrothers and biosisters to help stop the misinformation, the violence directed at us by our own people and help from our elected lawmakers to expand civil rights laws so they protect us from job discrimination as well.

Yes, Black transgender issues are Black community issues. The sooner that realization takes hold and we begin working together to solve what ails Black transgender America, the sooner we African-American transpeople can do our jobs to help heal what ails Black America as well.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Are The US Mens B-Ballers Ready For Beijing?

The Men's Olympic basketball tournament kicks off on August 10. The question on just about everyone's minds in the States is will Team USA not only be ready to play, but bring the gold medal back to the United States?

They'd better be, since their opening game in Group B play will be against Yao Ming and the host Chinese. Coach Mike Krzyzewski and team tricaptains LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony will be making sure they are. In fact, LeBron James has guaranteed that Team USA will bring back Beijing gold.

In addition to James, Wade and Anthony, the 2008 edition of Team USA includes Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Michael Redd, Tayshaun Prince, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer and Dwight Howard.

But their road to gold won't be easy. In addition to the 2004 Athens Games bronze medallists having to play Yao Ming and the Chinese team, Group B also includes Dirk Nowitzki and the Germans, Pau Gasol and the current FIBA World Champions Spain, perennial Africa Zone champion Angola and Greece.

And that's just in their group. Group A is even nastier with Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and the defending 2004 Olympic gold medallist Argentina, the Australians, the always tough Lithuanians, Andrei Kirilenko and the Russians, the Croatians, and the surprise Asian Zone champions Iran.

Over the course of the next two weeks, we'll see if Team USA can restore some of our lost luster as the preeminent world basketball powerhouse.

Zapata Remembered At Funeral As Courageous Friend

TransGriot Note: I'm happy to see that Angie's finally getting the respectful coverage that she deserved.

It's bad enough her life was tragically cut short. But she didn't deserve to be disrespected on top of that in print by using a birth gender role and a birth name that's widely at variance with the way she lived her life up until she was taken away from us. I pray that the people who did this are found and eventually brought to justice.

Thanks to everyone who called, wrote and complained to the Greeley Tribune to ensure this article became a reality.

by Jakob Rodgers
Greeley Tribune

Senior pastor Joe Sanchez solemnly stepped up to the front of the congregation, greeted those in attendance, and with a strong and commanding voice, offered his deep condolences.

"We are here to celebrate the life of a person, the life of a person cut down in the prime of their life. What can I tell you in this situation, it never feels good to come before a congregation like yourself to express what we feel about a young person that is taken from in the prime of their life."

Yet, with words of encouragement and of hope, nearly 200 friends and family of Angie Zapata wept in silence, smiled in memory and cried in remorse Wednesday night as they remembered the lively 18-year-old at the aptly-named Healing Place, 17801 E. 160th Ave. in Brighton.

"Death is always an interruption," said Sanchez, concerning a passage in the Bible, before speaking in Spanish as he did often during the service. "It never comes at a convenient time, and I believe that we know it is inevitable -- just not now, just not now Lord, I have so much to do. I have so much to say. I have so many relationships" to enrich.

Instead of focusing on the tragedy that took Zapata from their lives, those in attendance decided to remember her simple and unique qualities.

The way she would spoil her niece and nephew, even quitting a job to take care of them, as two friends reminisced during the service. The way she loved roses, the colors red and black, and way she always made sure her makeup was good -- even simply when taking a trip to Wal-Mart.

Perhaps, most of all, however, was the way she never backed down from who she was, instead saving the energy to care for her friends and family.

"She was always happy," said Alicia Portillo, one of Angie's friends. "She loved music. She didn't care what people thought of her. She always just wanted to be who she was and that was female and to be loved."

Portillo even said Zapata's courage helped her with her own identity as a lesbian.

"Angie gave me the power to not care what people thought of me."

Zapata was born male, but identified herself as a woman, and lived her life as such. Zapata was found dead on July 17 in her apartment on the 2000 block of 4th Street in Greeley, and her car -- a green 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser, with the Colorado license plate number of 441ORN -- is still missing. Police have not said yet if her identity played a part in the homicide.

Kelly Costello, of the Colorado Anti-Violence Program, said the group thought it might be a hate crime, and that such incidences usually do not end with one act of violence. In 2007, he said, there were 19 deaths nationwide that were linked to either homophobic or transphobic violence.

"We often find that hate crimes have a ripple effect they effect every one that identifies in that community," said Costello. "So it's no longer about the individual, but there's an increased vulnerability and fear among the community."

After Zapata's body was carried from the church, Sanchez talked with friends and family, and recalled a message he tried shared with the family before the service.

"Give them hope," said Sanchez, who continuously remarked how happy he was Zapata began attending the church a month before her death. "And give them a desire to go on and to know that this isn't good-bye, but this is see you in the morning. It's not an end, it's not an end. It's a message of hope for eternity."