Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Transgender Talented Tenth

When W.E.B DuBois first envisioned the Talented Tenth in his book The Souls of Black Folk it wasn't intended to be interpreted as being exclusionary or elitist. But that's the connotation that has been placed on the concept by many peeps in the African-American community.

DuBois concept was that the Talented Tenth would be given the mission to uplift the race and help it thrive through a combination of economic and political empowerment with a strong moral center as its core.

I believe that The Talented Tenth concept is one that is sorely needed at this juncture in the African-American transcommunity.

Too many of us have been focused on the party, the quick money and obsessively finding a 'husband' to validate our femininity. Not enough thought or time has been spent on community building, addressing the negative image we've been saddled with, where we fit in with our biowomen sistahs or how we evolve into becoming the Phenomenal Transwomen we were born to be.

That needs to end ASAP because as African-Americans, we African-American transpeeps, like the rest of our people are also judged by the WORST segments of our community, not the best.

I cringe when I hear the word 'elitism' being bandied about. It's been beaten to death in the white transgender community. I'm tired of seeing somebody branded as 'elitist' just because they busted their ass to go to school and get that paper. Should we be chomping Hater Tots and playa hatin' our transsistahs because they are college educated, have high self-esteem, are spiritually grounded, have a good job, wear fly clothes, own a house or have a nice car? Hell, naw.

If we desire the same things we should congratulate them, ask them what they did to get it, then replicate the hard work they put in to get theirs.

The main ones throwing that shade are the drag and street trans elements of our community. They heap scorn on people trying to get 'ejumacated' and legitimately paid. Some of the anti-intellectual strain in the African-American transcommunity is disproportionately concentrated in the drag and street transcommunity as well. While I understand why some of them harbor those resentments toward their more successful sisters, I'm not giving them a pass either. Some of them need to check themselves and start doing what it takes to come up to the next level as productive citizens doing their part to uplift the entire race.

At the same time, we have to make sure that our constructive criticism doesn't degenerate into a negative back and forth no-win dissfest. I have to point out that there are numerous drag artists and female illusionists who are highly educated, involved in the community, are proud of their African heritage and conduct themselves with impeccable decorum and class. The reality is there are others who don't and grouse about what peeps aren't doing for them.

But in order to accomplish our mission as members of the Transgender Talented Tenth those of us who have been blessed with the talents must stay focused. We must be on guard against developing selfish attitudes or arrogantly thinking that we are 'better' than our less fortunate transsistahs.

At the same time the blessed person has to remember that if it's requested, we have an obligation to at least try to lift a transsistah up and act as their mentor while doing so. If they rebuff you or don't want to do the self-examination and necessary work to improve their lives, then you have the right to move on and focus on your own life. You also have the option of continuing to search for the transsistah who is not only willing to listen to you, but sincerely desires to replicate your success in her own life.

So does the Transgender Talented Tenth exist? Yes they do. The peeps that it encompasses are not too dissimilar from the vision of DuBois. I consider the Transgender Talented Tenth to be made up of the educated transpeeps in our midst, the ones who are in leadership positions, be it with an organization or a grassroots activist level, business people, artists, the thinking visionaries and those who by living their lives help break down barriers and foster understanding between our community and the world at large. It's also rooted in the old saying to whom much is given, much is required.

We all want to be judged by the best we can produce and I believe like my ancestors that education holds the key to uplifting our people. African-Americans and the world MUST realize that there ARE transpeeps who are intelligent, care about the community as a whole and can do more than just entertain. We can run your businesses, your city, your county, your state and the country as well.

It is the Transgender Talented Tenth who will be the shock troops leading the charge toward slaying the demons of ignorance and misinformation. We have already started the process of demolishing the negative image of African-American transwomen that has built up over the years.

We are the peeps that through our daily interactions with our fellow African-Americans and others will break down those misconceptions. We will be the ones laying the groundwork for uplifting all transpeeps to our rightful place at the African-American family table and the American family table as well.


Martin said...

Wow! Very well put...

Monica Roberts said...

Thanks, Martin

I see you've been doing some intersting work yourself. ;)

Anonymous said...


I was struck by this. You've taken some of my parents' words and confronted me. Thank you for the reminder that i have much to give and that i must be about that work.