Monday, February 12, 2007

Angelica's Had It Up To Here (And So Have I)

Yesterday Elizabeth (one of my TransGriot guest colmunists) posted a link from You Tube of a video from Chicago transwoman Angelica Love Ross.

Angelica expressed her frustration with the images out there of African-American transwomen. She made it clear that she wasn't criticizing those people who are involved in the pageant, showgirl and adult entertainment worlds, but implored them to think about life after being in those worlds. She drove home the point that we are capable of doing far more than that. Angelica does shows but has a real estate license and a business she's putting together that she's launching later this summee.

She drew from her Native American heritage and personal example to implore African-American transwomen to look past fleeting beauty and stretch themselves spiritually and emotionally to become better human beings that can make positive contributions to society.

I couldn't agree more.

It's a subject that I and other African-American transwomen have discussed for almost a decade now. Many of us are beyond Fannie Lou Hamer status when it comes to 'being sick and tired of being sick and tired' of negative images. Somewhere along the way we veered away from the classy image of Justina Williams to and I have a theory as to when it started.

My suspicions point to the early 80's. That's when AIDS was ravaging the GLBT community and taking out those people who would have been mentors to my generation of transpeeps. Those who were willing to do so, that is.

Factor in what gender clinics told their patients back in the day about gender transition. They advised them to have SRS, blend in with society and cut any ties to the transgender community. Many did. In the case of some African-American transpeeps they went stealth for employment, personal security reasons or both.

The problem with 'stealth' is that we end up not having any knowledge about successful transwomen like the Lynn Conway's of the world unless they come forward or are outed. That becomes more critical when you are part of a minority community and you look for role models for additional inspiration and strength. One of the factors that held up my transition was because I didn't have multiple examples of college-educated transpeeps who looked like me. I didn't meet any until the late 90's.

There's an old saying that 'nature abhors a vacuum'. The lack of visible role models, the death of many in the 80's due to HIV/AIDS, stealth status of others who could have acted as mentors, lack of a community information and support structure similar to our Caucasian sistets and brothers and lack of media coverage created a vacuum that allowed the 'only thing a Black transperson can do is shows or adult entertainment' myth to flower into existence. That's BS, but until you see out and proud African-American transpeeps that are successful in life and the business world, then that negative perception is one we are going to have to expend a lot of energy counteracting.

That image makeover needs to happen right now. We have some churches in our communities preaching hate sermons against us. Because of ignorance and misperceptions about gender identity in our community we comprise a disproportionate share of the people tragically affected by anti-transgender violence. Some 'ejumacation' is sorely needed in the African-American community about who we are and what we have to offer our people.

That information dissemination also needs to happen amongst our fellow transpeeps. There are other ways to 'get paid' and education is the key to a better life. There are African-American transistahs and transbrothas who not only sucessfully work nine to fives but are helping uplift our race as well.

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