Monday, November 12, 2012

Black Trans Women Became Visible Because We Had To Be

Was sent a link by reader Segmoh Hareema Akinak to a Clutch magazine story by Ella Vincent discussing how Black LGBT women became visible.  

Was surprised to note that it included me and Janet Mock in it since when they discuss women in these online heteronormative and cisgender oriented spaces, far too often trans women get left out of the discussion or dissed when people try to include us in it..

I appreciate the shout out, but I do need to expand on the #girlslikeus portion of Vincent's piece.

Black trans women are visible because we had to be for our own survival, political evolution and our sanity.  We face anti-trans violence aimed at us that we will sadly be memorializing this week in TDOR events here in the States and around the world.  We were getting ignored not only by our own transpeople and our African-American family inside and outside the community, but being erased from the trans and LGBT history we helped make.

Don't even get me started about the Black unwoman meme that is magnified when it focuses its negativity on African descended trans women and slaps us with a definition of Black trans femininity that is not who we see when we look in the mirror. 

In the face of that, it amazed me when I read about the Gallup survey that noted that 4.6 percent of African-Americans identify as LGBT along with 4 percent of Latinos and 4.3 percent of Asian-Americans while only  3.2 percent of white Americans say they are LGBT.   But the media faces representing the LGBT community and dominating the leadership ranks of professional TBLG rights organizations lobbying for it are far too often white ones.  The minuscule numbers of transpeople involved in those Gay, Inc organizations far too often aren't transwomen of color either. 

It's been glaringly obvious to me since the 90's that we desperately needed out and proud Black transwomen telling our stories and offsetting the disco era hate speech pushed by radical feminists about trans women. 

I've been part of that effort since 1998 and I'm happy I now have help in this vital visibility project from a new generation of out and proud trans women such as Janet Mock, Isis King, Laverne Cox, Rev. Carmarion Anderson, Bali White, Danielle King, KOKUMO, Dee Dee Chamblee and countless others around the country.

It's also wonderful that in addition to the new attitude we Black trans women have about fearlessly telling our chococentric truths about our transfeminine lives and stepping up to leadership roles in the various communities we intersect and interact with, we also have our trans elders such as Cheryl Courtney-Evans, Gloria Allen, Miss Major, Tracie Jada O'Brien, and Sharyn Grayson passing on their hard won knowledge and community history to us so we can pass on that history to future generations of African descended trans kids and our allies.

As New Black Transwomen, we not only had to become visible to attack the shame, guilt and fear that deleteriously impact our lives, we needed to do so in order to own our political and personal power, love ourselves and build pride in becoming and being who we are as proud African descended women. 

Black transwomen have become and are visible in this second decade of the 21st century because for the sake of the transkids wishing to walk in our pumps, we had to be.  


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