Saturday, September 05, 2009

What A Difference A Year Makes

Back in May 2008 I wrote a TransGriot post entitled 'Destruction of the Black Transwoman Image.'

In that post I pointed out that transwomen have some of the same problems as our cisgender sisters when it comes to Black womanhood. I also lamented in that post the lack of positive trans role models of African descent.

Just three months after I wrote that, things started to change.

During the month of August 2008 we had Isis King become the first open transgender contestant on America's Next Top Model's Cycle 11. At the same time Laverne Cox was making her GLAAD media award winning appearance on I Want To Work For Diddy.

During the historic Democratic National Convention later that month we had 2002 IFGE Trinity Award winner Dr. Marisa Richmond make a little history of her own. She become the first African descended transperson to be elected as a delegate to a major party political convention.

The documentary movie Still Black A Portrait of Black Transmen gave my African descended transbrothers some long needed and deserved attention and love. Nick Mwaluko's story published in the Huffington Post added to the visibility of African descended transpeople.

Nick's story, along with Nigeria's Mia Nikasimo and the stories of brave continental African trans activists such as Uganda's Victor Juliet Mukasa drove home the point that there are transpeople on the second largest continent on planet Earth.

And oh yeah, there was some African-American trans blogger from Texas who was a finalist in last year's Weblog Awards for Best LGBT Blog.

The image problems that Black transpeople have had go back to 1953. Ever since Christine Jorgenson stepped off the plane from Denmark, whatever media attention that transpeople have garnered in the last 50 plus years was disproportionately focused on my white transsisters.

Coverage of Black transpeople was relegated to intermittent articles or small blurbs in our iconic EBONY and JET magazines. It took this Justina Williams article in the November 1, 1979 issue of JET before I read an article about a transperson that shared my ethnic heritage.

It drove home the point that being trans wasn't a 'white thang' and that was sorely needed. During the time I was growing up, transpeople went stealth after surgery. That resulted in me not having 'out and proud' Black role models to pattern myself after.

Our transitions are different from our white transsisters, and because of those stealth conditions imposed by back in the day helping professionals, I and my sisters were denied the opportunity to learn our history or ask our trans elders for transition advice specific to Black transpeople..

Paris Is Burning was released in theaters just as I was beginning my transition. I've always wanted to meet Octavia St. Laurent and tell her how much of an inspiration she was to me.

Unfortunately, since she recently passed away, I won't get the opportunity to do so.

What a difference a year makes. Now it seems that we have more Black transwomen and other transpeople of color stepping out there, positively living their lives and proudly talking about it.

I'm looking forward to the day when we have Black transwomen running for public office as Kim Coco Iwamoto successfully did in Hawaii.

And yes, I'm rooting for Vogue Evolution and my sis Leyomi Maldonado to win the grand prize on America's Best Dance Crew.

I would like to see a Black transwoman character in the movies or on television similar to Ugly Betty's Alexis Meade.

I want nothing less than for African descended transwomen to not be tragically thought of in context with the Remembering Our Dead List that far too many of us are on.

Like 'errbody' else, I'd rather Black transpeople be judged by the quality people we produce, not lies, pseudo-science, centuries old myths and transphobic ignorance.

crossposted from Feministe

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