Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Open Letter To My Young Black Transsisters

Dear Young Black Transsisters,

Been a while since I wrote one of these open letters, and this time I thought I'd direct this one at you since y'all don't get enough love sent your way.

One of the cool things about being the TransGriot is from time to time, I get to chat with some of you either online or on the phone. I get to hear your joys, your sorrows, your concerns, your triumphs, and your disappointments.

First thing you need to know and always remember is that you are not alone. Even if you have some issues separating yourselves from your blood family, know that you are loved not only by God or whatever you address the higher power as, but by us as well.

Your family has expanded, not contracted, and your sisters are all over the planet. You are part of the interlocking mosaic of humankind, and you are special.

While it's going to be tougher for you than your cissisters to find that special someone, it's not impossible either. One thing that will make that bumpy road to romance a lot smoother is if you start by loving yourself first. Once you get that loving yourself first party started, everything else will fall into place.

You have people like myself who are willing to fight tooth and nail for you in order to make your lives better. We are ready, willing and able to pass on our hard won knowledge about dealing with life as a transperson of African descent.

We stand ready to give you that motivational kick in the butt when you need it or a comforting hug when it's necessary. We fight the Forces of Intolerance inside and outside our community so that your generation of transwomen and succeeding ones have it a little better than we did.

These aren't just one way interactions, my young Black transsisters. We get to understand how much the world has changed since we were your age and walking in your pumps. In some cases we get to listen to you kick it to us about new ways of approaching a situation or thinking about these issues.

We are proud to note that you are the best educated, smartest and most tech savvy group our people have produced. We know you are capable of great things if you just get that break you need to excel.

I don't see it as a burden to interact with you, I see it as an honor, privilege, and something I am called to do. It's a promise I made to God that if I was blessed to transition, I would happily serve as a mentor to the transkids coming behind me since I and my peers were denied that.

In the best traditions of our people, I hope that I have either done, written or said something that inspired you. I hope that you feel that I have lifted you up as I climbed. All I ask is that you do the same someday for the transsisters that transition behind you.

I get the pleasure of answering your questions, passing your history on to you, and sometimes just enjoying chilling with you for that fleeting moment of time I'm conversing with you

My generation didn't have the benefit of our African descended trans elders kicking knowledge to us due the WPATH standard in place at the time demanding that they hide once their transitions were completed. Some chose to live stealth lives for various reasons as well.

It's one of the reasons why we are just now finding out about some of the accomplishments of our African descended transsisters. Consider yourselves blessed that we are now able thanks to 21st century communications technology and changes in those restrictive policies to do so for you.

The French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir once stated, 'One is not born a woman, one becomes one. Our cissisters don't come out of the birth canal knowing everything there is to know about womanhood, they have to learn it just like you do and it is a lifelong process.

The major difference is you face resistance from society and your blood families in some cases as you try to navigate all the issues wrapped up with wandering Planet Earth in an African descended feminine body. To complicate matters, you don't have as much time to learn what you need to know.

You also face faith-based ignorance, prejudice, discrimination, being walking targets for sexual assault and the Black Woman's Burden of having her beauty and intelligence denigrated and disrespected.

You have a history despite the best attempts of people inside and outside the community to erase you from TBLG history and try to tell you what you can't do or accomplish.

People who share your ethnic heritage executed the first trans oriented protest in 1965. Miss Major was present at Stonewall in 1969. Marsha P. Johnson in conjunction with Sylvia Rivera helped organize STAR. It was an African American transwoman named Avon Wilson who was the first client in 1966 of the now closed Johns Hopkins Gender Program. Over the last ten years four of us have picked up IFGE Trinity Awards for the work we have done to uplift the entire trans community. Tracy Africa was a successful fashion model in the 70's and 80's. Dr. Marisa Richmond was present at the 2008 Democratic Convention as the first trans African American elected delegate to a major party convention. Some of you, like Isis are making history today.

There are many of your transsisters working in a wide range of professional fields and occupations around the country and across the Diaspora.

You are African descended transwomen. You have nothing to be ashamed of in saying that. Up, up my mighty sisters, and accomplish what you will.

But in the end, the best advice I can give you is that you must love yourself and have pride in everything that you do. You are the descendants of queens and history making women of action who have been the backbone of our culture and our people, and that is a towering legacy to live up to.

I hope that I and other African descended transwomen have provided you with role models that we didn't have or didn't know about back when we were your age in terms of how to become quality women of trans experience.

I have no doubts that you will exponentially improve on what we've been able to accomplish and write impressive new chapters in future history books where the African descended transwoman is concerned.

And as you climb, know that we will be happily watching you every step of the way.

Sincerely yours,
Monica Roberts
The TransGriot

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