Wednesday, October 26, 2011

TransGriot Ten Questions Interview-Diamond Stylz

One of the cool things about me being back home is discovering I'm not alone in terms of African descended transsisters in Houston who are more willing to stand up not only for their own human rights but role model what it means to be a Black transwoman.

Meet the multi-talented actress, singer, tell it like it T-I-S is video blogger and civil rights warrior from Indianapolis, Diamond Stylz.  Discovered her video blog in 2010 and her interesting backstory in terms of her transitioning at age 13 and being a plaintiff in a 1999 ACLU lawsuit. The fact she lives in Houston is a bonus.

It's time to ask Diamond the TransGriot's Ten Questions

1-What was it like to transition during your teen years, and what are your thoughts about transkids being able to do so at earlier ages as we have kids doing now?  

DS-At the time of my transition, I didn't know that transitioning so early was a blessing. During my teen years, my mother was battling on the losing side of a crack addiction. I was going from living with hateful Jehovah's Witness family members to homelessness to group homes.  The lack of stability and inconsistent authority figures allowed me to embrace who I was slowly without much change in consequences. I was still getting bullied and Bible thumped just as I was prior to changing how I dressed.

The state funded group home had rules and policies.  They cant kick you out on the street for dressing in girl clothes or because "the Lord says YOU are an abomination." I was smart and some would say cute. I knew how to rub the staff members the right way literally and figuratively, if you know what I mean.

I made it work for me. I didn't have time to think about how lucky I was because I didn't feel lucky at all. I was just surviving what was going on in the outside world, so I needed as little chaos as possible on the inside. Transitioning gave that serenity to me.

That ability to express who we are is so important to everyone in their development. Trans kids that are allowed to transition earlier can focus on dealing with the world instead of dealing with that AND battling themselves.

2-Did you have any trans role models growing up and if you didn't, who are the women that you role model in your life?

DS-I did not have trans role models when i was in my teens. It was very slim pickings in my area.  Every older trans I knew was a drunk drag diva, semi-full time, on drugs, or in a totally abusive relationships. Most were combinations of two or more of those qualities if I can call them qualities. The few older ones that were "normal" were very standoffish and shady.   I found camaraderie in trans people my age and gay men. Gay men get a bad rap sometimes when it comes to trans issues but they can be a blessing. They were my protectors and listening ears during the early years.

Now during my 20's I found my gay mother. She changed my life. She was loving, fun, and genuinely cared for me. She inspired me to be more because she was more. She is definitely one of the elements that propelled me to a better place in my life right now.

3-I understand you graduated from the same high school that actress Vivica A. Fox attended and that your paths crossed during your time in Circle City.   Is she as trans supportive as I have heard her rumored to be? 

DS-Yes Vivica did graduate from my high school. I met her very briefly a few times. It was not long enough for me to really get into her but she was very nice and personable.

4-You had to fight for the right with the help of the ACLU to rock your prom dress when you graduated.  What was that battle like and what triggered it?
DS-I have the story on my site to give you more details. I'll summarize here. Basically I was rude and tactless li'l tranny. I said something I should not have said to my principal about her breath consistently being stinky after she kissed me on the cheek in front of the superintendent. 

The comment, although the truth, was inappropriate and started her on this vindictive rampage to ruin my senior year. 

During our class picture she tried to make me sit in the back so people couldn't see me. She waited two days before the prom to tell me that I couldn't go to the prom as a girl. This was strange because the school administration had never had a problem with me dressing in girls apparel in all those prior years.  So when one of my teachers whispered in my ears about the ACLU, I called them and the local news and the two day battle began.

The principal stopped me in the hallway after I was on the news and said,"You know you are gonna lose and just embarrass yourself." I looked and her and smiled and said "I guess we will see."  In the end, I won the case and she ate good ole crow. That win gave me the spirit to fight for my rights that I have today.

Years later, I found out that allegedly the judge who ruled in my favor was a regular client of the local trans escorts. So I was lucky in many ways

5-Do you think that Black transwomen are doing a better job of building sisterhood, it's at the same level as when you came into the community, or it's worse? 

DS-I think the exposure to quality transwomen is much better then ever before. We have people like you showcasing our lives, issues, and history on the web. Successful role models like Tona Brown, Valerie Spencer, Janet Mock, Isis King, Laverne Cox, model Lea T and others are shining their lights for the world to see.  The younger generation can see this clearly.

Even our non-ethnic sisters give us inspiration like Lynn Conway, Andrea James, Candis Cayne, Amanda Simpson, Phyllis Frye, Cristan Williams. All of them inspire as well.  Like-minded transfolks can come together like never before, networking, sharing each other stories, promoting projects, and listening to each others needs. This will help us become a solid unit and force to reckon with toward change.

6-What are some of the projects you are currently working on?

DS-Well I am the first African American transgender YouTube partner. This was a wonderful medium to build myself an audience. I want to keep growing in that area.

Most people don't know this because I cover activist type issues and comedy, but I am a singer/songwriter. I am in the process of saving to record an album. I have released some of the song on my music page of my site. Studio time is expensive so I'm working hard to get the money to get the project done.

If there are any music buffs out there. I would LOVE to collaborate. I want to use the profits for my album to start a college fund for first year trans students. I think it important to have financial support during that time in a trans person life. I needed it during college so I want to give back what was given to me.

7-You are queen of the world with unlimited power to erase injustice  What are the first three things you would focus on?

DS-I would get rid of this monetary based system of government. That is the root to any marginalized groups demise. I am an avid supporter of the Venus Project created by Jacques Fresco. I think it a wonderful idea. Yes, it has some things to be work out but the idea of overall social change that would stop the depletion of our resources and drastically impact the injustice of the world is an overwhelming concept. There would not be a greedy bureaucracy controlling our lives and well being aka there would be no Wall Street to occupied.

8-What are your perceptions of the differences between the Indianapolis and Houston trans communities?

DS-Everything is in extreme here (in Houston) from my perspective. The shadiness of the community is at an extreme and the activist spirit here is at an extreme. I have seen some of the most evil, vengeful heartless acts being done here, but on the flipside there are so many progressive trans people in the Houston area compared to Indianapolis. I was surprised at both ends, but I'd rather be in place at the boiling point than a place that is lukewarm.  That's why I love it here in Houston.  .

9-What's the one question you'd like to ask the TransGriot you're dying to get an answer to?  

DS-One of my favorite parts about TransGriot is when you showcase some of our trans history.  It opens my eyes to a world in the past that I can't imagine living in. From Lady Java to Lucy Hicks Anderson, I appreciate knowing that we didn't just pop up in the millennium. We have been here fighting. It shows me that I have been handed a torch and I need to continue running with the torch.

So my question would be: When will we see more of that and can you give us any sneak peeks on who might be next to be showcased?

10-Where do you see the Black trans community in the next ten years?

DS-I see us busting the mainstream media wide open. I believe exposure to our lives is what will change society. As long as we are stealth or in the shadows they will never see us. As negative as shows like Jerry Springer and Maury Povich are, the positive to them is they did help to expose us to the world outside of porn and a local adult bookstore.

It's now time for the more positive images to be exposed.  I see our talents, passions, and normalcy being pushed forward and more interesting than the taboo and physicality of our being. I am speaking that into existence right now. I see that happening in our future.

Thanks Diamond for your time and hope you readers enjoyed this latest TransGriot Ten Questions interview.

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