Monday, November 15, 2010

TransGriot Ten Questions Interview-Tona Brown

TransGriot Note:  What I envision for this TransGriot Ten Questions interview segment is to on a regular basis talk to people inside our community, the up and coming leaders, opinion shapers, artists, thinkers, icons and interesting personalities who are molding and shaping our chocolate trans world.  

This interview is with Tona Brown, who not only has mad classical music skills, she has begun stepping out as a leader and role model to the transwomen of her generation.   She's also performing in a upcoming concert with trans musician Desiree Hines as part of the TDOR events in Baltimore, MD.  

Time for Tona to answer the TransGriot's Ten Questions:

1-You've had a few interesting changes in your life over the last few years. How have they impacted you?

TB-Like anyone else I have had to deal with the effects of a rough economy and the struggles of being a classical artist in America. But I really can't complain too much. The Lord does provide when I least expect it. But moving to Baltimore has had its challenges but overall its been a good experience. I find that the GLBT organizations here are really trying to make a difference and many of them are trans inclusive which is nice.

2-How have you incorporated your world class musical talents into your activism?

TB- I have decided to use performance opportunities as ways to advocate for my community. Often times people do not expect musicians to have an opinion about much of anything unless you are a celebrity. I was really honored to be asked to sing the National Anthem at the Department of Veterans Affairs this year. It was really great and I got the opportunity to share my story with all the veterans. I applaud them for all they do for this country and would do it again if asked to do so.. Maybe not at 8 am! LOL.  The recordings are on YouTube.

3-What are your thoughts about the upcoming TDOR and what does that day mean to you?

TB- The Transgendered Day of Remembrance is very important to me and I usually perform every year for a vigil somewhere on the east coast. I think its imperative that trans people let the world know about the horrendous hate crimes against our community. Its great that we have this day to commemorate those that have been slain just for being who they are.

This upcoming TDOR is very special to me because I am currently residing in Baltimore, MD and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake will be holding a press conference to let the city know about the events around the city dedicated to TDOR. It's really great to see a local government take part in this day as well. It shows that the city does care about its citizens black, white, gay or transgender.

4-How excited are you to be performing with another musically gifted transperson in Desiree Hines? 

TB- I am very excited to share the stage with Desiree Hines. Its such a pleasure to be able to perform with another sister of color and to really show the world what we can do. There are so many negative stereotypes about transwomen. I have often felt alone as a trans artist of color in classical music. Meeting and speaking with Desiree Hines has been a rewarding and gratifying experience and I wanted to include her on this project. She of course was excited and thought the concert was an excellent idea! I mean how lucky are we to be able to perform together as two beautiful and talented sisters of color performing the music we love so much in a beautiful church amongst our community.

I will be performing with Ms. Hines again a few weeks later on December 1st for the Out Music Awards in NYC. We are very excited to be one of the opening acts for what is being called the "Gay Emmys" being broadcast on LOGO-TV for 40 million viewers! Here again we will dispel negative stigma and stereotypes and let the WORLD see how dynamic we are. I hope to see more sisters like us grace the stages and demand attention in the future on platforms like these.

5-How important is it to have African-American trans role models, and do you feel we have enough or of them or not enough of them?

TB- I feel that it is imperative for young African American Transexuals to have role models that look just like them! I know growing up in Norfolk, VA I never saw anyone that looked liked me and that made it harder for me to transition. Our community does have a number of role models and many more that live in "stealth" the problem is that these men and women are not speaking out and showing everyone who they are and what abilities they have. This makes advocating for our community very hard because we don't have more examples or statistics to show what our community does and what it needs.

How are we to expect trans women to know what it means to be ladies or guys to be gentlemen if there are no role models out there for them to learn from? If we are not speaking out and fighting then I fear the worst for our young transmen and women who will be here years after we all pass away. I want it to be easier for them to follow their dreams and achieve their goals.

6-As you observe our African-descended trans community, what are the things we are doing right and what do you think we need to improve on?

TB- The AA trans community is definitely doing some things very well for instance we are starting to speak out against injustice, sensationalism in the media, and start our own organizations that will be able to express our unique needs to the government. But the numbers of those participating are still low. That needs to change dramatically.

On a positive note..We look good! I must say that my brothers and sisters are some of the most beautiful people in the world and that makes me very proud. However, what are our young people using these good looks for and to do? The skies are truly the limits and no longer can a transexual use being a transexual as an excuse not to work and be a productive member of society. Will the road be hard. Of course it is! But its not impossible! We see it everyday!

My biggest complaint is our lack of unity. So many of us tend to bring a street mentality to life, relationships and even advocacy. Its all about the competition of who looks the best and who has the best looking mate or the nicest car or even who has the most work done.. Instead of any continuity or congruency amongst our people.

That must change. We are too preoccupied with all things that are materialistic. We want everything to quick and we are not willing to put in the hard work or willing to be vulnerable enough to grow. But this is not just an issue for trans people of color this is an issue for all people of color.

7-Do you believe your trans elders are doing enough to pass down our history to your generation of trans people?

TB- I do not feel that my trans elders are doing enough to share the stories of those before them or even about themselves. As a young woman I want to know that I am not alone and I want to be able to open a book and see women LIKE ME! I feel that is changing slowly but surely. But there is not enough literature out there. I also feel that we don't acknowledge our trans elders at all.. I was so pleased to see it done for the first time here in Baltimore at Baltimore Black Pride a few years ago and IN Philly there was a pioneer workshop. But we need more of it. The baby boomers are seasoned and mature and there are a lot of stories that are lost in the mix! Those stories are our stories and include the history of transgendered people in America!

8-How important is it to form friendships and working relationships with other African descended trans and cis women?

TB- I think that positive interpersonal relationships are very important among women both trans and cis gendered. No one is saying that every female you meet is going to understand you or be your best friend. But we can all learn from each other. Also my trans sisters must understand that we are essentially all we have. EACH OTHER.. The more you alienate yourself from other transwomen the worst off you become. Can you trust every lady because she is also trans OF COURSE NOT! But those that you can trust and that you can at least learn something from then open your mind and heart to doing so. We all have our own unique history and validity in this community.
9-If you could perform with any artist at any venue in the world, who would that artist be and where would you perform?

TB- If I could perform with any artist in any venue in the world it would have to be La Scala Opera House in Milan, Italy with Anne Sophie Mutter, Jessye Norman, Grace Bumbry, Leontyne Price or Shirley Verret! . 

10-And what do you see for yourself and the transcommunity of color ten years down the road? 

TB- My hopes for the transcommunity ten years down the road are to see more trans people breaking stereotypes and being leaders. I would like to see more artists as well of all genres performing main stream and getting acceptance from the masses. People are getting more comfortable with the gay issues but are not really relating to individuals that are transgendered.. Right now we are still so taboo and strange. That won't change until we are more public about our lives..

I would also like to see more transpeople married and in long term relationships. I would love to attend the weddings of many of my sisters and to be married myself one day. I would also like to see the men and women that love us stand up and speak up for us as well.. We have too many "silent" partners- I call them. That will not change until we hold them accountable. They love you but don't want the world to know or wish to remain anonymous in order to deflect the despairing views of their family, friends, coworkers etc. But until this thought pattern changes it will be hard for us to be seen as "normal"

Until you can show an entire TV show of trans people married and happy in long term relationships and their partners speaking up and saying "I love HIM OR HER and who CARES WHAT YOU THINK!" We will always be at a disadvantage.

No comments: