Monday, November 30, 2009

2009 World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day, in which we draw attention to the AIDS pandemic and also remember the people lost to the disease.

I count some of my friends and extended family members among the 25 million people who have died of AIDS between 1981 and 2007. There are another 33.2 million people around the world who live with HIV/AIDS as of 2007.

I'm also concerned about the high infection rates for my transsisters as well, who acquired it either through risky sexual practices or sharing needles with infected people while injecting hormones.

So take a moment to say a prayer for the people we've lost, who live with the disease every day, and pray that a cure is found for it as well.

Bad PR For Macs

Been a couple of PR nightmares pop up for Apple lately.

First there's the unwanted photo of Bigot Harry Jackson using one of their computers to read his speech hating on the DC marriage issue during the pubic commentary phase.

But at the same time, Apple can't help the fact the bigots like their computing products, too

Then this old Mac ad touting their iMovie software resurfaced on YouTube in late September and caused some drama as well.

Model Gisele Bundchen in this ad is supposed to be the embodiment of a home movie made using iMovie. After the Mac presents Gisele, the PC presents a person wearing a dress identical to Gisele’s, in a wig, with no breasts, five o’clock shadow and an abundance of exposed chest hair.

The ad ends with the line: “Work in progress?”

Apple is a company that prides itself on its progressive politics, and many of the people that own Macs are GLBT community members. The last thing they want is ruffled feathers with an important segment of the marketing base.

According to GLAAD, they contacted Apple about the trans stereotype filled ad, and they stated they haven't run this since 2006.

But it did add up to a couple of PR headaches for Apple amongst its GLBT clients.

UH Coogs Climb to Number 18 in Football Rankings

The Coogs climbed up the college football ranking ladders this week in the wake of their 73-14 demolition of the Rice Owls.

They moved up to Number 18 in both the AP and USA Today College Football polls. They jumped two spots on the AP one and seven spots on the USA Today poll.

They also gained ground in the BCS poll, moving up two spots from Number 23 to Number 21.

And best of all, the Bayou Bucket is back where it belongs.

The Coogs play for the C-USA Championship Saturday against the C-USA East Division Champion East Carolina Pirates. Should be a fun game with Case Keenum only needing 50 yards to pass the 5000 yard barrier for the season.

Eat 'em up!

The 2009 Weblog Awards

The 2009 Weblog Awards

How in Hades this got past me I don't know, especially since I've been waiting for the e-mail notification that it was about to take place and looking for the website since late October.

The 2009 Weblog Awards competition is about to begin and I'm a little pissed about it.

Unfortunately I'm finding out too late to nominate some blogs for various categories since nominations closed on November 22.

In scanning the list of nominees for Best LGBT blog, while Pam's House Blend, The Bilerico Project and Towleroad got nominated, TransGriot didn't.

There were a few blogs authored by Afrosphere bloggers whose work I felt deserved to be recognized in various categories but probably won't get that chance now.

Here's the master category list for 2009.

Even though I'm disappointed I probably won't get a repeat nomination for Best GLBT Blog, I'm still putting a link up to it anyway so you can vote for the finalists.

I'm also making damned sure when the 2010 Weblog competition rolls around that I and other Afrospear members are there on the first day nominating some deserving blogs.

TransGriot Note: The 2009 Weblog Awards were canceled due to technical issues. Ready to pounce the minute that the nomination period opens for the 2010 edition.

Sometimes We Transwomen Can Be Our Own Harshest Critics

During the podcast interview Renee, Allison and I had with Isis a few weeks ago, we talked about the fact that some days, even though people are complimenting us left, right and center because we are working it, we still feel unpretty.

Frankly, we transwomen can be our own harshest critics when it comes to our appearance and how we interact with society.

For those of us who take our transitions seriously, being our authentic selves is important to us. We not only want to look the part, we want our actions and interactions with others to flow seamlessly in the key of life.

The desire to be as flawless as possible sometimes drives us to be hypercritical about how we present ourselves as the women we are or wonder if people are reading us as trans as we go out and about in the world.

It can lead us sometimes to feel as though we are in a perpetual femme realness ballroom competition, but with much higher stakes than just getting a series of tens from a panel of judges.

Failure in the real world to get that perfect score of passability can lead to anything from minor verbal abuse to extreme violence ending in your death. It is that backdrop of knowledge that sets up in a transwoman's mind the drive and the desire to get it right and blend in 100 percent of the time.

We transwomen discover at some point during our feminine journey even ciswomen don't approach that degree of accuracy in terms of their feminine presentation.

So why should we nitpickingly criticize ourselves for not meeting the 100 percent accuracy standard either?

Yes, we are gonna have our days where we feel that we don't nail our femme presentation. Just shrug it off, fight through it, and to borrow the line from an old commercial, never let 'em see you sweat because blending in is 90 percent confidence.

Stand up taller, look people in the eye, believe that you are the finest thing walking on Planet Earth and merrily strut through your day.

And when you get home, try not to beat yourself up over not reaching an impossible standard.

Mike Huckabee's Potential 'Willie Horton'

If former Arkansas governor and Faux News show host Mike Huckabee runs for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, get ready to see the picture of this gentleman in a lot of political attack ads directed at him.

This is Maurice Clemmons, who has a long criminal record. At age 17 he was convicted of aggravated robbery in 1989 and sentenced in Little Rock, AR to 95 years in prison.

During his term as governor of Arkansas Huckabee commuted his sentence, which resulted in Clemmons 2000 parole. Clemmons subsequently violated his parole, was sent back to prison and released in 2004.

Huck caught a lot of flak during the 2008 GOP nomination race because in GOP eyes he issued too many clemencies and commutations. He cited Clemmons' age at the time as a reason for doing so.

Why this is blowing up is because of the ambush deaths of four police officers in a suburban Seattle coffee shop Saturday.

If it turns out Clemmons is the person responsible for the deaths of Lakewood police Sgt. Mark Renninger, 39, and Officers Ronald Owens, 37, Tina Griswold, 40, and Greg Richards, 42, Huckabee's gonna have some problems with the 'law and order lock 'em up and throw away the key' side of the GOP base.

Huck's already trying to do damage control on the developing story now by playing the blame game.

"Should he be found to be responsible for this horrible tragedy, it will be the result of a series of failures in the criminal justice system in both Arkansas and Washington state."

Yep, and one of those failures is one you are responsible for.

Stay tuned to this developing story that many of us will be watching, especially Mike Huckabee.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Number 20 Coogs Win The West-Barbecue Rice

The C-USA West Division that is.

My number 20 ranked fave college football team walked into the game with our crosstown rivals at the Rob with a lot at stake.

Win and they not only gained revenge for last year's 52-45 loss to Rice and reclaim the Bayou Bucket, they clinch a share of the C-USA West title with a 6-2 record and play in next week's C-USA title game.

Tyron Carrier got the game off to a rousing start by taking the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown as the Cougars raced to a 59-0 halftime lead enroute to a 73-14 victory over the Owls.

Case Keenum was 25 of 31 for 323 yards and two touchdowns. He added a first half rushing touchdown as the dark horse Heisman candidate led the 10-2 Cougars to their first 10 win season since 2006.

The Coogs will travel to Greenville, NC to play for their first C-USA championship since 2006 when they take on the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Earlier tonight I rolled over to my local multiplex to check out Precious.'

All I have to say about it is 'wow'.

It was worth every penny of the $8.50 I shelled out on it since I missed the matinee.

The movie is based on the novel Push by Sapphire, and it stars Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe as Precious, Mo'Nique, Paula Patton, Mariah Carey, and Lenny Kravitz.

It has been piling up the awards. It earned three awards at the Sundance Film Festival and a 15 minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival.

Mo'Nique deserves an Oscar nomination for her role as the abusive mother in this film. It was also interesting seeing Mariah Carey as the social worker Ms. Weiss.

It took me a few moments to recognize her since she had no makeup on and was in frumpy clothes to play this character, and yes, she actually did a bang up job in her role.

I'm not going to spoil it for those of you who haven't seen it yet, but I'd advise you to not wait until Precious hits DVD.

It will definitely be worth the trip.

Do I Ever Get Tired Of Being A Role Model?

One of the questions I get asked often by many people I come in contact with is whether or not I get tired of being a role model.


It comes with the territory of being a trans activist for over a decade. Many times the first contact a person may have had with an out African descended transperson is me.

I'm cognizant of the fact that as one of three African-American winners of the IFGE Trinity Award, I represent not only myself but an entire community.

One of the things I complain about from time to time was the lack of African descended trans role models when I was growing up back in the 70s.

I also remember the indifference, being dissed or ignored by the trans girls who had transitioned at the time before me. They guarded the knowledge of what to do, where to go, who to see and how to do it like it was the secret recipe for KFC.

One of the things I promised myself when I began transition was that if I were in the position to mentor or give advice on trans issues to younglings I wouldn't be as shady as some of my trans elders were.

Then there's my personal desire to be the best person I can be. I want my appearance to be on point, my dealings with people inside and outside this community to be ethical, transparent and above board, and my word be my bond.

Call me old fashioned, but those are the values I live by.

There's a saying we had posted in several TBLG bars back in Houston that I agree with.

What I do reflects on you
What you do reflects on me
What WE do reflects on the ENTIRE GLBT community

By living those values, I not only help myself, I help an entire community as well.

Then there's simply me living for me. I have a certain image I want to project to the world. I was blessed with God given intelligence I'm not dumbing down for anyone. I was blessed with looks, height and a lean body build that hormones enhanced.

It also looks good in most clothes that I put on my fine brown frame.

I come from a long line of classy, smart, educated, spiritually tuned in and elegantly dressed women proud of who they are, cognizant of their history, proud of their sororities and proud to be Black women.

I grew up being surrounded by numerous examples of those types of Black women outside my family as well. Those women are the ones I seek to emulate as I continue to evolve and grow into the type of Black woman I want to become.

As I have said numerous times and will repeatedly say it until I'm six feet under, I wish to be perceived as a compliment to womanhood, not an embarrassment or a detriment to it.

I strive to be the friend who has my sister's back be they cis or trans, not sticking my claws in it. As a Phenomenal Transwoman, I'm proud of who I am and don't see being Black and trans as something to be ashamed of.

So do I ever get tired of being a role model?

Nope. Somebody has to for an AA trans community that hasn't had over its history a whole lot of them to point to.

Getting Close To 1 Million Visitors!

Another day, another TransGriot milestone.

I passed 1 million hits a long time ago since I started the blog on January 1, 2006 but I didn't install the hit counter on TransGriot until January 17, 2007.

It is rapidly approaching the day when I hit 1 million visitors since I installed the counter, and for that I'm exceedingly proud. I remember the days when I was just happy to get 100 visitors a day to TransGriot. Now I get over 1800-2000 hits a day.

I'm approaching the 2500 post milestone and have written almost 1000 this year alone. My blog accomplished the goal of being a BBR Top 25 one and I hope to get a repeat nomination for Best GLBT blog when the 2009 version of the Weblog awards kick off again.

But I couldn't do all of this without my loyal TransGriot readers. It does me no good to pontificate on various issues here and put together quality posts if people don't read them or tell friends where they read them.

Obviously there are some folks who like my posts so much they try to steal them and pass it off as their work. Know that Moni don't play that.

If you want to showcase my work on your blog, just ask me via e-mail, link back to this blog and give me credit as the creator of it.

I've also been blessed to get opportunities to come speak to you as well on various college campuses and hope to see more of you in 2010 and the future.

Thank you, and now it's on to the next milestone.

1.5 million visitors, here I come.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Can A Transsistah Get Some Love This Holiday Season?

It's the start of the Christmas holiday season. From now until January 1 there will be nonstop Christmas music played on the radio airwaves and our favorite Christmas cartoons playing for a new generation of younglings.

We'll have Christmas trees and holiday decorations put up, and we'll endure a tidal wave of holiday themed television commercials seeking to sell us stuff.

Carolers will be out in force singing to old Christmas classics, and the seasonal cry for Peace on Earth and goodwill to your fellow humans will reign supreme.

But if I could sit on Santa's lap and get one Christmas wish granted for the holidays besides new shoes and having a supermodel's body, it would be this:

Can a transsistah get some love this holiday season?

For one month. can me and my transsistahs not hear about another transsistah getting shot, stabbed, killed and added to the Remembering Our Dead List?

Can me and my transisstahs go through this holiday season without being verbally attacked by faith based haters, the Catholic Church, conservative media or conservative Black megachurch preachers?

Can me and my transsistahs go through the holiday season without seeing transphobic comments on the Net every time a positive story highlighting a transperson gets posted?

Can me and my transsistahs go through the holiday season without seeing transphobic commentary from our so called allies as well?

Can a transsistah go through the holiday season without hearing snide comments as we are out and about in public from the willfully ignorant, disapproving family members, or ciswomen wallowing in privilege and disrespectfully declaring that we'll never be 'real' women?

For the holiday season, can me and my transsistahs get our fellow African descended people to open their minds about transpeople, open their hearts and welcome us with open arms into the community instead of denigrating and disrespecting us?

For the holiday season, can you come to the realization that me and my transsistahs are part of the diverse mosaic of human life, and we have much to offer to our various communities?

For the holiday season, can me and my transsistahs just be allowed to live our lives without additional drama?

And if you can manage to do all that and more for the holiday season, can you extend that to 2010 and beyond?

Georgina Beyer Election To NZ Parliament Tenth Anniversary

Today is the tenth anniversary of Georgina Beyer's grundbreaking achievement.

On this date in 1999 she became the first open transperson in the world to be elected to a national legislative body when she defeated Paul Henry to win the Wairarapa seat for the NZ Labour party and become the world's first transsexual MP.

Traditionally, a new legislator is given 10 minute to make a Maiden Speech as a way to introduce themselves to their new colleagues.

On this 10th anniversary of Georgina's historic achievement, I leave you with an excerpt from tht speech.

Mr. Speaker, I can't help but mention the number of firsts that are in this Parliament. Our first Rastafarian… our first Polynesia n woman… and yes, I have to say it, I guess, I am the first transsexual in New Zealand to be standing in this House of Parliament. This is a first not only in New Zealand, ladies and gentlemen, but also in the world. This is an historic moment. We need to acknowledge that this country of ours leads the way in so many aspects. We have led the way for women getting the vote. We have led the way in the past, and I hope we will do so again in the future in social policy and certainly in human rights.

And hopefully there will be many others following in your footsteps over time.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Shut Up Fool! Awards-Thanksgiving Weekend Edition

Hope you loyal TransGriot readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day and had plentiful food, great company, stress free travel and minimum drama with family as you got your grub on.

I'm parked in the house not planning on going anywhere near a mall today. I'm not risking life and limb to partake in the post holiday shopping madness.

It's also Friday and time to do what we do every week at TransGriot, carve up the turkeys who made fools of themselves this week.

As usual, our holiday fools runneth over, but alas, I can only choose one.

This week's fool is People For the Ethical Treatment Of Animals, or PETA for short.

The University of Georgia mascot, a purebred English bulldog named Uga VII died unexpectedly last week at age 4.

Peep the e-mail that University of Georgia AD Damon Evans received from PETA:

In the wake of the untimely death of the University of Georgia’s (UGA) bulldog mascot, Uga VII, PETA has asked the school’s athletic director, Damon M. Evans, to replace the mascot with an animatronic dog–or to rely solely on a costumed mascot–instead of using another real bulldog.

Bulldogs are prone to breathing difficulties, hip dysplasia, heart disorders, and other congenital ailments, and acquiring a dog from a breeder perpetuates the animal overpopulation crisis while causing another dog waiting in an animal shelter to be condemned to death.

Cue Twilight Zone theme music.

Okay, since when did a dog being on the sidelines of a football game wearing a sweater constitute 'cruel and inhumane' treatment?

Putting them in a ring to fight another dog to the death is.

Whether it's dress up like Klansmen, violate every ism in the book, or throw paint on people's fur coats, PETA never ceases to offend, say something breathtakingly stupid or make themselves look like the fools they are.

Besides, if any nation comes up with robotic dogs, probably won't be ours. My money's on Japan, since they invest 10 billion yen a year in robotics research and development. As a matter of fact, the Japanese are working on humanoid robots that walk, talk and interact with humans.

But back to PETA. Every time they open their mouths and make ridiculous statements such as this, they set the cause of ending animal cruelty back.

PETA, shut the HELL up, fools!

President Obama's Thanksgiving Greeting

For centuries, in peace and in war, in prosperity and in adversity, Americans have paused at this time of year to gather with loved ones and give thanks for life’s blessings. This week, we carry on this distinctly American tradition. All across our country, folks are coming together to spend time with family, to catch up with old friends, to cook and enjoy a big dinner – and maybe to watch a little football in between.

As always, we give thanks for the kindness of loved ones, for the joys of the previous year, and for the pride we feel in our communities and country. We keep in our thoughts and prayers the many families marking this Thanksgiving with an empty seat – saved for a son or daughter, or husband or wife, stationed in harm’s way. And we say a special thanks for the sacrifices those men and women in uniform are making for our safety and freedom, and for all those Americans who enrich the lives of our communities through acts of kindness, generosity and service.

But as much as we all have to be thankful for, we also know that this year millions of Americans are facing very difficult economic times. Many have lost jobs in this recession – the worst in generations. Many more are struggling to afford health care premiums and house payments, let alone to save for an education or retirement. Too many are wondering if the dream of a middle class life – that American Dream – is slipping away. It’s the worry I hear from folks across the country; good, hard-working people doing the best they can for their families – but fearing that their best just isn’t good enough. These are not strangers. They are our family, our friends, and our neighbors. Their struggles must be our concern.

That’s why we passed the Recovery Act that cut taxes for 95 percent of working people and for small businesses – and that extended unemployment benefits and health coverage for millions of Americans who lost their jobs in this turmoil. That’s why we are reforming the health care system so that middle-class families have affordable insurance that cannot be denied because of a pre-existing condition or taken away because you happen to get sick. We’ve worked to stem the tide of foreclosures and to stop the decline in home values. We’re making it easier to save for retirement and more affordable to send a son or daughter to college.

The investments we have made and tough steps we have taken have helped break the back of the recession, and now our economy is finally growing again. But as I said when I took office, job recovery from this crisis would not come easily or quickly. Though the job losses we were experiencing earlier this year have slowed dramatically, we’re still not creating enough new jobs each month to make up for the ones we’re losing. And no matter what the economists say, for families and communities across the country, this recession will not end until we completely turn that tide.

So we’ve made progress. But we cannot rest – and my administration will not rest – until we have revived this economy and rebuilt it stronger than before; until we are creating jobs and opportunities for middle class families; until we have moved beyond the cycles of boom and bust – of reckless risk and speculation – that led us to so much crisis and pain these past few years.

Next week, I’ll be meeting with owners of large and small businesses, labor leaders, and non-for-profits from across the country, to talk about the additional steps we can take to help spur job creation. I will work with the Congress to enact them quickly. And it is my fervent hope – and my heartfelt expectation – that next Thanksgiving we will be able to celebrate the fact that many of those who have lost their jobs are back at work, and that as a nation we will have come through these difficult storms stronger and wiser and grateful to have reached a brighter day.

Thank you, God bless you, and from my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

Brittney Gets Her Official NCAA Dunk

It was only a matter of time before Baylor's 6 foot 8 freshman phenom b-baller Brittney Griner threw down a dunk in NCAA competition, especially in light of the fact she dunked 52 times at Aldine Nimitz.

She's already thrown one down in an NCAA exhibition game, and had missed connections on one handed dunk attempts in two previous games.

Five minutes into the first half of the Number 8 ranked Lady Bears 104-45 victory Tuesday night over Jacksonville State, Griner officially became the seventh woman to do so in an NCAA game.

Oh yeah, she had 20 points, six rebounds and eight blocked shots as well in 21 minutes of playing time.

In case you're wondering who the other six women are in the NCAA collegiate hoops dunking sorority, its West Virginia's Georgeann Wells (the first to do so), Tennessee's Candace Parker (seven times, first to so in the NCAA tournament, and first to do so twice in one game) LSU's Sylvia Fowles, North Carolina's Charlotte Smith, Tennessee's Michelle Snow, and ahem, Houston's Sancho Lyttle.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, Peeps!

I know you Canadians got your Thanksgiving grub on last month. Now it's your south of the border cousins turn to partake of the turkey and dressing or whatever graces your dining table.

It's been an up and down year for me so far, but overall I have much to be thankful for. The trans community has seen the passage of one of our legislative crown jewels in the Byrd-Shepard Hate Crimes Bill and may get ENDA passed as well.

While violence against transpeople around the world spiked up, I'm still prayerfully hopeful that with the increased education and acceptance that will end.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my TransGriot readers. May your food be plentiful and delicious, your travels to and from wherever you're dining be stress free, your interactions with family and friends be filled with positivity and may your blessings for the rest of this year and 2010 be abundant.

Happy Thanksgiving, peeps!

Go Annise Go!

You TransGriot readers are aware that I'm closely watching a potentially historic mayoral race in my beloved hometown. There will be a December 12 runoff between city controller and former at large councilmember Annise Parker and city attorney Gene Locke.

Annise is bidding to become the second woman elected mayor of Houston, and Gene Locke is trying to become the second African-American elected as mayor of my hometown.

Who am I rooting for? Annise Parker.

Parker led wire to wire during the election on November 3 but didn't get the 50% she needed to win outright and has received the endorsement of the Houston Chronicle.

That's got Dave Wilson, Hotze's Nazis and the rest of the 'white' wing christobigots coming out of the closet with their hatred of Annise and backing Locke.

Locke also has some issues that are dogging his campaign as well in addition to the Christohaters..

If Parker wins, she would also become the first open lesbian to become mayor of a top tier city and the first open GLBT person in Texas to do so.

Seth MacFarlane Attacks Transwomen On 'The Cleveland Show'

TransGriot Note: Another on point guest post from my brilliant and talented Canadian homegirl Renee of Womanist Musings

The Cleveland Show continues to be a hot mess. Week after week it targets the most vulnerable members of our society. MacFarlane has no witty repartee for the reduction of White, cisgender males of class privilege. Apparently men that look like him are above ridicule. Often the defence of his actions is that he picks on everyone, however; that is far from the case. The omission of White cisgender males of class privilege, speaks to who he values and whose power he is attempting to maintain.

This week MacFarlane decided to play with gender.

At first it seemed that he was taking a page out of Tyler Perry’s play book. The character Auntie Mama, is quite reminiscent of Madea. She is loud, abrasive and quite foul, taking pleasure in screaming outrageous as she farts loudly. Of course, Auntie Mama is revered by her family. It seems that despite his Whiteness, MacFarlane believes he knows the characteristics of the Black family.

Then the shift occurs, Cleveland discovers that Auntie Mama has a penis and immediately declares her a man. Auntie Mama clearly presents as a woman and lives her life as such and therefore; declaring her a man is highly transphobic. Rather than just admitting that trans people make the decisions that they do because their bodies are not aligned with their gender, Auntie Mama claims to have made the decision to live as woman after the death of Donna’s mother to give her feminine role models.

Cleveland then decides to corner Auntie Momma and demand that she declare that she is a man. Immediately Auntie Momma’s voice deepens and the rest of the episode is spent making jokes about her gender presentation. It was written as though she was deceiving those around her. This meme is particularly dangerous. The deceptive trans woman construction has lead repeatedly to murder and yet MacFarlane decided that this was just pure humour.

Of course, the deceptive trans woman then goes on to seduce a straight cisgender male. When Auntie Momma is outed by Cleveland, his father proceeds to vomit copiously and expresses shame for having in engaged in sex with Auntie Momma. It is absolutely not Cleveland's place to out someone? In the real world, such an action often ends in violence. Why is it necessarily shameful that a cisgender man engaged in sex with a trans woman? The response of Cleveland’s father is based squarely in the trans panic and homophobia. Isn’t MacFarlane great; two marginalizations for the price of one.

This entire episode was devoted to promoting transphobia and homophobia. It is particularly galling that this episode was aired right after the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which commemorates all those who have died because of trans hate in the previous year. When trans people are reduced in this way it leads to violence, which is hardly a laughing matter. Could MacFarlane stand at the graves of Ebony Whittaker, LaTeisha Green, or Taysia Elzy and justify his comedy as ironic? Could he look into the eyes of their grieving family members and even for one moment pretend that they had not suffered a terrible loss?

Not only is violence against trans women extremely common, it is even more so for trans women of color. Some would even declare this ongoing violence a war. In this battle MacFarlane has clearly chosen sides. To ensure that there was no mistaking his intent, he had the character Cleveland, call Auntie Momma a tranny repeatedly. MacFarlane was not giving some kind of ironic commentary regarding the lives of trans women, he was acting to maintain cis supremacy.

There will be those that will continue to defend such hatred as comedy, blind to the fact that the media is an agent of socialization. The media not only reflects common beliefs, it informs them through its active selection of how different bodies are constructed. I could turn off the television and avoid the barrage of offensive images, however; that would not protect me from the people that continually consume this kind of media uncritically. When undeserved privilege is routinely affirmed, it encourages the perpetuation of othering.

We know that othering leads to discrimination, poverty and in some cases violence. With this knowledge, how can we possibly declare sitcoms like The Cleveland show to be harmless? It is particularly galling that this episode played just days after the Transgender day of Remembrance, which commemorates all of those who died because of trans hatred each year. Despite all of the violence the trans community must endure, it was not until this year that someone was finally convicted of a hate crime in death of a trans woman. It took this long because we have demeaned and reduced their humanity. It takes extreme arrogance to laugh in the face of blood and violence. How many death notices do we need detailing the murder trans women to understand that such mockery devalues their lives? MacFarlane will not pay the cost for his actions because he is cisgender, white and male; it can be certain that a vulnerable woman will pay for his hatred.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Moni's Excellent LI Adventure

I had the honor and pleasure of being the keynote speaker for the LITDOR on Sunday. Even though the invitation was extended months in advance, by the time the actual date approached I was ready for another trip out of Da Ville.

I usually don't like flying the day of my speaking engagements because as a former airline employee, I am intimately familiar with ATC delays and how capricious they can be at times. Air travel can be stress inducing enough without adding the concern that you're going to be delayed for an event you are the one of the participants in, but it worked out this time.

I crawled out of bed at 4 AM to get ready for my flight and when I was satisfied, I woke Dawn up at 4:55 AM to drop me off at the airport. My flight wasn't leaving until 6:10 AM and I already knew from the Bryn Mawr trip that the checkpoint doesn't open until 5:30 AM.

Got checked in at the US Airways counter and as I was clearing the security checkpoint I set off the alarm. I'd forgotten to take off my belt, which has a large metal buckle.

I take it off and as a precaution took off my earrings as well. Once again as I walk through I hear the annoying beep again, and realize at that moment it's the underwire bra I'm wearing that was the culprit. I ended up getting hand wanded and pat down searched by a friendly female TSA officer before I could proceed to my gate.

I finally get to the gate as my regional jet flight is boarding, so my timing is perfect despite the unexpected extra time I spent clearing TSA security. Once I get settled in my seat I pulled out my speech and started reviewing and making corrections to it as we pushed off the gate to begin my airborne journey to Philadelphia and my subsequent connecting flight to Islip.

Had a beautiful late fall morning with a beautiful sunrise as we streaked eastward with plenty of visibility. As we crossed the Appalachian Mountains it got a little bumpy and the cloud cover started thickening up below us. I also noted the thick blanket of snow that had been dropped in some parts of the mountains as we got closer to Philly.

We landed and I made my way to my connecting gate. I noted that this Islip leg was going to be on a Dash-8 turboprop, and the last time I'd flown one of those was on the Pittsburgh-Lexington return leg of my trip back home to bury my grandmother in 2002.

I'm a jet fan, be they regional or big birds. I detest turboprops because of the noise, and to make matters worse my seat was right by the engines.

I also knew we were going to be flying for a few minutes of the flight over the Atlantic Ocean before landing in Islip. While I'm blessed with many talents, swimming isn't one of them.

The flight was uneventful but I was nervous from the time the New Jersey shoreline receded from my view until I saw the welcome sight of the southern Long Island coastline.

We finally land at MacArthur International in Islip and Eileen is there to greet me as I exit into the airport's lobby area. After checking in to my nearby hotel and dropping off my bags we went on a mini tour of Long Island.

My flight arrived early, so Eileen and I had two hours to kill before we met the rest of the LITDOR gang at a restaurant in Centerpoint. I ended up taking a little stroll down the Jones Beach Boardwalk, discussing various trans political and other issues with Eileen before we took off for the restaurant.

We also ended up on the iconic Long Island Expressway for a few minutes and I chuckled when we passed the Amityville exit before we walked into the restaurant a little after 1 PM.

The restaurant was in some rolling, forested hills next to a picturesque lake framed with fall foliage. The food was great but my positive mood took a hit a few minutes later.

I'm the only African-descended person at the table with a group of twenty people and one of the waiters has a pronoun problem only with moi. First time is an accident, second time is deliberate, and the third time after I've advised you not to do so is a major indicator you are disrespecting me. At that point the USS Monica goes on Defcon 1 status and launches verbal Tomahawks at the fool or fools in question.

I politely told him the first time I didn't appreciate being 'sirred'. When he did it the second time, had I been back in Da Ville, I would have politely gone verbally nuclear on his behind, found the manager, told them why and walked out. My hosts were appalled and not too thrilled about it either.

But my pissivity over the Afro-transphobic waiter lessened as the LITDOR gang surprised me with a t-shirt and other Long Island themed gifts since it was my first trip there.

I get dropped off at the hotel after 4 PM to take a nap. I'd been up at this point since 4 AM and definitely needed it. I managed to get almost two hours in before I was awakened by the alarm clock to get ready for the LITDOR service that was starting at 7 PM.

Arianna scooped me up and got me to the church for a LITDOR service was a wonderful blend of music, spoken personal testimonies by various LITDOR members and Native American spirituality.

Then it was my turn to do my speech after a wonderful introduction by Juli, who was at the IFGE convention in Philly for my 2006 Trinity acceptance speech that still gets positive commentary three years later.

I was also surprised and flattered to see a July 2007 poem that I'd written on TransGriot called 'Don't Disrespect Me' printed as part of the program.

Not sure if this keynote speech was on the level of the 2006 IFGE one, but the audience liked it, and that's all I really cared about. I was interrupted by applause once before I finished it.

After the names are read by LITDOR members from various corners of the room and the benediction by Rev. Bigelow, we close the service with a rendition of 'Amazing Grace' before Eileen and I jointly blew out the single large candle resting on the altar draped with a transgender flag different from the Monica Helms designed white pink and blue version to conclude the service.

I found out how much the attendees liked the speech at the reception. One person after another sought me out over the next two hours and told me me how much they enjoyed the speech, TransGriot, or both. I also had the interesting and humbling experience of being asked for my autograph by a Black transman named Christian. As I signed his program he expressed how proud he was to see me standing there and eloquently speak about our fallen brothers and sisters.

Ended up in some substantive conversations with many of the attendees on a wide variety of subjects before heading back to the hotel and get some sleep for the return trip back to Da Ville

Said my goodbyes to Eileen and quietly autographed the extra copy of the speech she had for me before I entered the Islip terminal. This time to avoid what happened in Louisville I made sure that any foundation garments I was wearing didn't have metal in them.

On my PHL layover ran into the same ground personnel who had kicked my Islip flight out the day before. I had a wonderful chat with them before I headed for my gate for my Louisville bound flight.

One of the cool things about the trans community is that your family expands, not contracts. I added some new family members and had a wonderful time in the process despite the solemn reason I was on Long Island in the first place.

Once again, I thank the LITDOR gang for inviting me to speak at their event. I knew I had a tough act to follow in Diego Sanchez and the other keynoters who have graced that event. Looking forward to hanging out with the LITDOR gang sometime and somewhere in the near future.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Already Getting Started On The TDOR 2010 List

We in the international trans community are just wrapping up the many TDOR events we held for 2009, and as Leona Lo reports courtesy of The Guardian, there's already been a transwoman death to possibly kick off our 2010 list.

32 year old Brenda Paes was found dead November 20 in her apartment that she shared with her friend Natalie after a mysterious fire.

But this one has the earmarks of a murder, since her roommate Natalie is one of the people involved in a widening political scandal that eventually forced the October 27 resignation of prominent Italian center-left politician Piero Marrazzo.

The widening scandal is now threatening the center-right government of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The scandal started with four members of the Carabinieri, the Italian paramilitary police force offering for sale to the press a video shot August 2 of a sexual tryst involving the former governor of the Lazio region, which surrounds Rome.

Investigators then discovered a longer video allegedly showing Marrazzo in the company of two transsexual sex workers. Brenda admitted to local magistrates investigating the unfolding drama on November 2 that she recorded the images on her mobile phone.

Brenda was found lying naked on the floor in her bedroom loft next to some packed suitcases. She apparently died of asphyxia after a fire started in a bag of old clothes next to the door.

Arousing particular suspicion in what police described as a complex crime scene was the presence of Brenda’s laptop computer partially covered by water in the sink.

One of the people who also shares the hypothesis that Brenda was murdered is none other than Italy's first trans MP, Vladimir Luxuria.

“I immediately thought it was murder. It made me really angry when I heard them talking about suicide,” Ms. Luxuria said. “The person who ordered it is a powerful individual who feared meeting the same fate as Marrazzo. This is a Mafia-style murder and it sends the message: don’t talk.”

Ms. Luxuria said Brenda was a vulnerable person whose photo and address had been published in the press and who had received no protection despite being a witness in a sensitive political scandal.

“Brenda had her mobile phone stolen two weeks ago. No one seems to have asked whether the phone had value as an object or because of the information stored in its memory,” Ms. Luxuria said. The former MP says she knows at least 10 of her political colleagues who availed themselves of the sexual services of transsexuals.

“The person behind this could just be a single individual, but someone in a very high position. I hope this doesn’t end up as yet another Italian political mystery.”

She and others, including Piero Mazzarro's lawyer are calling for Brenda's roommate Natalie to be put under immediate police protection in the wake of Brenda's death.

But sadly, thanks to an unfolding political scandal, Brenda Paes may have also just become the first name we read at the 2010 TDOR ceremonies.

Back In SDF

What's SDF? The IATA airline code for Da Ville.

Back in town after spending a wonderful Sunday afternoon and evening hanging out on Long Island with Eileen, Kyle, Juli, Barbara, Arianna and the rest of the LITDOR gang. Got to sample a little bit of life on Long island before my speech later that evening.

There was someone videotaping it along with Barbara taking photos, so if I get them or a link to the video of the LITDOR event, I'll put them up in a later post.

Once again, I deeply thank the Eileen and the LITDOR organizing committee for extending the invitation for me to speak at your event and being gracious hosts.

Hope y'all enjoyed the speech as much as I enjoyed delivering it.

By the way, if you want the TransGriot to speak at your events, better get to me early. 2010 will be here before you know it.

My flights back here got in early, and Polar was at the airport to scoop up the TransGriot and take her to lunch.

I'm going to crash for a little while, and will talk to y'all about my excellent Long Island adventure later.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

2009 LITDOR Keynote Speech

TransGriot Note: This is the text of the keynote speech I'm giving at this minute for the 2009 LITDOR Service in Centerpoint, LI, NY

Moments before taking the podium at the church, was advised we'd added two more names to be memorialized, so I revised what I originally posted to reflect we were remembering 122 people.

Giving honor to God, my gracious LITDOR hosts, my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, members of this church congregation, my transgender brothers and sisters, friends and allies of our community.

I have been given the honor of delivering the keynote speech for the 2009 Long Island Transgender Day of Remembrance Service.

I thank you for the opportunity of joining the long list of prominent people in our community who have preceded me in having the chance to do so. Many of those people are ones who I admire, and it’s nice to be included in such lofty company.

I thank Eileen and all the wonderful LITDOR people that I’ve had the pleasure to meet today for extending the invitation. I thank you for doing the hard behind the scenes work, the phone conversations and numerous e-mail exchanges to ensure I would be standing proudly before you today on this not so happy occasion.

One of the things I thought about in the days leading up to my speech tonight and also pondered on the plane ride here is that this event is taking place on the anniversary of another senseless death, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

In his televised June 11, 1963 speech on civil rights, he used the words ‘a moral crisis’ to describe what was going on in the nation at the time..

Well, tonight, we are here to call attention to another moral crisis, the senseless loss of people to anti-transgender violence. Tonight we are going to talk about the 120 people that are no longer here on Planet Earth.

One of those people on the tragically long list we are memorializing this year is Lateisha Green, who was killed in Syracuse, NY six days before TDOR 2008.

We’re going to talk about the 122 senseless deaths that have not only taken away a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, son, daughter or cousin, it has deprived our various communities around the world of the contributions our lost brothers and sisters could have made to those societies.

We know in the trans community we have some amazing people in it who have as we say in my community the skills to pay the bills, assuming we’re ever allowed to show that we can do so.

Well never know if the people that were killed would have gone on to become leading educators, made that scientific breakthrough that advances life for all humanity, created art, become prominent social and political leaders in our various nations, or simply become parents raising a family

We'll never know that because they have been violently taken away from us.

It also causes us to say to ourselves, “there but for the grace of God go I’

I know the question many of us are asking ourselves tonight and have been since we started this ongoing gender journey is. ‘Why?’

Why are people so resistant to us simply living our lives or feel so threatened by the existence of transgender people that they have the misguided belief that they can kill us?

Maybe it’s because the religious leaders who are supposed to help us sort out these moral crises are instead exacerbating the problem.

When you have the leader of the Roman Catholic Church make a Christmas Eve speech in which he states, “humanity needed to listen to the "language of creation" to understand the intended roles of man and woman and behavior beyond traditional heterosexual relations was a "destruction of God’s work"., it’s not surprising that there was an alarming spike of transgender deaths in Roman Catholic dominated countries such as Brazil, Honduras, and Guatemala.

When you have a moderate Islamic cleric such as Malaysia’s Mohamad Asri Zainul Abidin say in an interview transsexuals should be fined or jailed if counseling proves ineffective at deterring them from transition, then follow up that misguided comment up by stating, "We must try to reform them and give them advice. We must not allow them to stray. Imagine if this world were filled with transsexuals -- what would happen to the human race?"

It’s not surprising that the result of such comments by Islamic clerics who share Abidin’s opinions is persecution and killing of transpeople in Muslim countries.

When you have fundamentalist Christians, our modern day Pharisees and Sagicees repeatedly violate the Ninth Commandment of ‘bearing false witness against thy neighbor’ because of their personal transphobia or as part of promoting their regressive right wing political agenda, is it any wonder that we have repeated violations of the Sixth Commandment in regards to transgender people?

In case you’re wondering what the Sixth Commandment states, it’s ‘thou shalt not kill.’

It is the words of these so-called religious leaders that are fueling the dastardly deeds of the people who are killing our trans brothers and sisters.

Well, time to school all the faith based haters out there. Increasing reams of medical evidence and recorded history point to the inescapable conclusion that transpeople are part of the divinely inspired mosaic of human life. The sooner y’all get that through your thick heads, the better life will be for all of us on Planet Earth.

Why is this still happening to transgender people? As I know all too well from my people’s tortured history in the Americas and across the African Diaspora, when you ‘other’ a people, promote lies and half truths about them, refuse to understand and learn about their issues, and deny their humanity, the end result is they begin to die at the hands of the people who are actively denying their humanity.

The funny thing about that is as the Forces of Intolerance continue their nefarious mission to dehumanize transpeople, we fight back even harder to ensure that we call them on it when it happens.

Now that I’ve given you the abridged version to the ‘why’ this is happening, it’s time to move on to our solemn task for this evening.

What we are gathered in this church for this evening is to remember the 122 people who lives have sadly been extinguished by anti-transgender violence.

122 people. It’s triple the number we memorialized in 2008.

122 people having candles being lit for them during this service to symbolize each one of the lives that was taken away from us far too soon.

122 people too many

For some of the people we memorialize, we won’t even get the opportunity of reading their names because they were either killed and dumped on the side of a road or for security reason the name of the deceased was not released in order to protect their living relatives.

122 people who died simply because somebody hated them for who they were.

I have to point out that one of the 122 people on this list that we memorialize this year is a cisgender man by the name of Michael Hunt.

He died for the same reason Pfc. Barry Winchell did ten years ago, because his killer didn’t like the fact he fell in love with a transwoman.

Michael Hunt fell in love with Taysia Elzy, and for that he paid with his life.

Dwight DeLee didn’t like the fact that Lateisha Green was daring to live her life in upstate New York openly and unabashedly proud about who she was. A gunshot outside a Syracuse house party fired from a rifle wielded by DeLee wounded her brother Mark and ended her life.

I’m a fan of the science fiction series Battlestar Galactica and I recently viewed the movie entitled The Plan. In one scene Number Six says to Brother Cavil, in regards to the genocidal nuclear sneak attack launched by him and his fellow humanoid robots that destroyed the Twelve Colonies of Mankind and led them on a quest to find a new home on Earth, ‘you can’t declare war on love.’

That’s what I take away from these TDOR 2009 memorial services that took place all around the world on November 20 and here this evening.

We are saying to those who have declared war on transpeople, ‘You cannot declare war on love.’

There is the love our allies have shown for us this week. The love we have shown for each other and we mourn our losses and resolve to work even harder to make the TDOR obsolete. The love that we show for our fallen brothers and sisters.

Love is the most powerful force in the universe, and it endures long after the outer shell of a body that houses our spirits becomes dust that goes back to the earth.

Love is the advantage we have over the Forces of Intolerance and all the other nattering nabobs of negativity who demonize and deny our shared humanity.

It is the love we have for our fallen transbrothers and transsisters that compels us to gather in this church today to mourn their losses, and ensure that we the living never forget the people who died.