Response to “Op-ed: Trans Glamour Versus Trans Activism”

240EF2FF00000578-2875543-image-a-5_1418704482772Trans women of color are doing the damn thing and laughing off the scrutiny and criticism of their oppressors. While this piece is a direct response to Elle Boatman and her Op-ed on Advocate.com entitled ‘Trans Glamour Versus Trans Activism’, I do want to start off by noting that what I say in this piece applies to all persons that seek to silence the many trans women of color that show up and show out advocating for their lives and the lives of others around them. Before I start to truly critique the piece, let me provide you all with some context. Basically (and I mean basic-ally), Elle has written a piece about the Iconic Candy Magazine cover shoot that featured 14 trans role models and pegged this to be demeaning and harmful to the movement. She even made it look exclusionary and misleading, stating that only Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and Geena Rocero are trans women who do any sort of activism/advocacy work. Really, Elle?

Now, I do agree with the fact that media focuses on femme women and seeks to peg that as ideal but in the scope of the original argument, to be a white person critiquing transgender women who are of color as embodying norms and not representing the whole community and invalidating the work they do as activists, I start to itch. That doesn’t sit well with me. Allow me to elaborate.

I want to first start off by critiquing the idea of celebrity. I think it’s funny that once people of color get any type of nationwide coverage on something other than violence or drugs, they’re automatically pegged as a celebrity. Celebrity is a white centered notion placing higher value on individuals with whom are coveted and desired. As trans women of color, we don’t have the luxury of being wholly desirable in a cisnormative, white centered society. We are plastered throughout the media only when folk find out that other male celebrities do in fact desire us and they begin to do a slander campaign to strip us down and dehumanize our very existence. Janet Mock wrote a book and was super successful in doing so. Because she was palatable to the public and sensationalized because they “can’t believe she was born a boy”, she became a hit. Cis folk asked her to speak at various events and they put the pressure on her to try to speak for her community as a whole which she tried hard not to do. None of these women asked for ‘celebrity’. They wanted a lifestyle. They started to actualize their dreams and goals and upon achieving them, they were devalued and pegged as a “trans _________”. They can’t escape their identities nor can they escape the bigotry of the society in which they navigate that will forever seek to muffle all of their efforts to just make a living and be happy.

Activism cannot be quantified and I think operating under the idea that it can can have people feeling super uncomfortable. As a white woman, you may not understand this but the simple act of getting up and being in the public eye and proclaiming your transness unapologetically is an act of revolution for every trans person of color and in that right, they are doing the work. How dare you demean the existence of women who didn’t have to speak on their identity but chose to do so in order to work towards a more inclusive and visible society where young black and brown persons felt value and could imagine dreaming up more than trying to blend in and get “normal jobs” and be respectable; A society where they could finally feel beautiful and in charge of their own destinies. How dare you label the work of fellowshipping to the younger folks looking up to these possibility models as insignificant.

Elle proceeds to state, “Showing 14 conventionally, if not exceptionally, beautiful trans women and advertising them as the leaders of the trans community only reinforces the “normality” of straight, cisgender society by pandering to the pervasive notion that your worth is intrinsically connected to how easily you can mimic the cisgender, heterosexual ideal.” This is a very dangerous statement because it’s focusing on a false notion that trans women in the public eye seek to “mimic” cis people. When was that ever the case? It’s common for trans women to be jealous of other trans women because of the way they construct their identities. We are so focused on breaking the chains of normativity and ‘ending gender’ that we seek to take away the agency of those individuals who mold themselves in ways that just so happen to be what the greater society deems acceptable or beautiful. Demonizing femmness because it “adheres to patriarchal gaze” is problematic because you in turn demonize all folk that long to access femininity and instead of decentering heteronormativity and the long history of hypersexualization, you just avoid the issue which still centers heteronormativity and teaches women and any femme presenting folk to cover up and not do what they damn well please with their bodies because ‘men are watching’. What sense does that make? How does that help anyone?

It’s odd that a white woman is critiquing the ways in which trans women of color perform gender and how they “conform to the norms” seeing that norms and everything having to do with beauty and gender and acceptability are meant to keep non white folks out. Elle says that these women ‘blend in’ and are ‘conventionally beautiful’ when that just isn’t the case. Being black in the first place automatically knocks one out of this country’s historical colonialists and white imperialist convention. Furthermore, I as well as many other black trans women can attest to the struggles of trying to navigate as a trans woman when your body was struck with years of testosterone and you grew like other black men – strong faces, muscles, wider noses, veiny arms, etc. There have been a multitude of conversations amongst trans people of color where they testify to the fact that passing in white spaces is a piece of cake while not so much in our own communities. Just because your eyes can’t see the struggle and you think “oh they just blend on it” doesn’t mean there isn’t a struggle. Do you remember cycle 11 of ANTM when Isis was harassed by the cast members for having “man hands” or a “man face that doesn’t photograph well”? Do you remember Laverne constantly opening up about her experiences walking in the street and being called a man? Did you not watch the award shows and see the twitter response with everyone claiming her as a tranny and invalidating her womanhood? Or even comparing her size to Nicki Minaj’s when on the View and using that to snatch her womanhood away from her? Do you not hear about a few of the trans models who constantly feel pressure by the industry to get countless surgeries because of the ways in which their aesthetic is masculinized? But everyone is a “conventional beauty” right? Monica Roberts commented on this issue and very eloquently remarked,”Trans women of color are demonized for their race and being trans, unlike our white counterparts.. Especially in light of earlier this year when elements of the white transfeminine community were attacking Janet and Laverne, and all the murdered trans women in the US since June have been TWOC. So yeah, i’m definitely going to ask the question why is glamour and activism an issue in this case when it wasn’t for Christine Jorgensen, April Ashley, Caroline Cossey and most recently Jenna Talackova?” *sips tea*

It was also interesting that Elle suggested folk that should have been on the cover and they were white women. Quite typical of her to resort to that and it validates my argument that this is white tears in action and attack on the women of color doing the work and doing it effortlessly. Are you mad that trans women of color can achieve their goals, inspire others, and look desirable all at the same time? Are you mad that we’re no longer just in the tabloids for ‘sex scandals’  but now for just being bosses and looking like them? Are you mad because they can afford to? Are you mad because the trans movement started deviating from the white people’s “I was born in the wrong body and just want to be normal” narrative and images to that which has not been dominated by people of color? Why can’t we finally just be allowed to be great? Folk see a lack of whiteness and cry foul when they forget the centuries that folk of color have been marginalized and considered ugly. Because you know about the three trans women of color that the white centered world deems palatable, doesn’t mean they’re the only ones out here doing the work.

Elle continues on stating, “Many in the trans community are content to celebrate this as a milestone in the fight for equality. And in a fashion sense, I suppose it is. But even then it’s absolutely not representative of the majority of trans women, let alone the trans community. While it succeeds in its diversity of skin color, it fails to accurately represent the body size and shape and weight, even the sexuality, of most typical trans women, nor does it do anything to highlight how these (admittedly beautiful) women did, in fact, contribute to the fight for transgender rights.” This is quite laughable because she admitted her bigotry in this statement. These trans women of color don’t deserve the title of activists because they don’t “represent the marjoriy of trans women, let alone the trans community…. Really Elle? So you and your buddies deserve it because you all are white and do jobs that adhere to professionalism/respectability politics. And what does sexuality look like to you? I didn’t know sexuality had an aesthetic. Little do you know, not all of these folk identify as heterosexual AND we can’t assume that they all even identify as women. Also, multiple people can’t be faces of trans movement? Are you so pressed about that title that you seek to tear other trans women down for doing their shit well? Jealousy of people of color is super real, apparently. Laughable, but real. And again, these are “typical trans women”. They just are living their lives and doing outstanding work and society dubbed them trailblazers. They don’t have “ideal” bodies by any means. You can ask every single on of them. You can look at them. You can ask them about their experiences. Not all of them got work done. But even if they did, who is shaming them for their own self actualization helping the movement? The work they do doesn’t need to be highlighted explicitly because the proof is in the pudding. Just because their work does not benefit you or your friends doesn’t mean that it doesn’t benefit anyone. There are thousands of trans people of color that look up to and benefit from the work of these lovely individuals. Let me just highlight a few for you.

Isis King was the first transgender woman of color to ever be a part of the show ‘America’s Next Top Model’. She made it possible for other little black trans girls to feel that they are enough. She opened the door for the possibility of black trans women to begin to even conceptualize a life where they too can break into the industry and redefine the standards of beauty that long excluded them. Not only that, but Isis has been speaking at colleges around the nation and even has taken the time out to speak to young black trans women of color one on one to inspire and motivate. But she’s not really doing the work, huh?

Gisele Alecia or better known as Gisele XTRAVAGANZA is the mother of the House of Xtravaganza in New York. If you know anything about the underground LGBTQ Ballroom culture, you’ll know that houses are made up of a mother or father who take in young LGBTQ folk that have been thrown out of their homes due to homophobia or abandoned or just looking for work/money to survive or thrive. They provide shelter and survival for these folks in exchange for money that they earn walking in balls throughout the nation to help the house thrive and continue to be a force. She’s done so much more but I think that qualification is enough for your white definition of activism, right? But she’s not really doing the work, huh?

JULIANA HUXTABLE! She’s the queen of non conformity! She embraces the politics of sexuality – a concept misconstrued when adjacent to black women in general. Her style is against respectability politics and acceptability. Not only that, but Juliana blurs the gender boundaries in fashion and is even identified as a queer dj hoping to ensure solidarity among self identified sisters across the whole spectrum. But she’s not really doing the work, huh?

Carmen Xtravaganza is also a mother of the international house of Xtravaganza. She was in the LEGENDARY documentary ‘Paris is Burning’. In an interview with the great Monic Roberts with TransGriot, she was quoted stating, “The kids today have a very shallow understanding of being trans. For them it’s about looks and looks only. Yes, it was about how do I look, but back then we had a sense of self and understanding about core values of community. Nowadays there is a lot out there for younger trans folks to access compared to the 70’s and 80’s and 90’s. This is something I’m on a mission to change starting with speaking out and explaining my life narrative. I am involved in developing a project with my sister Koko Jones Xtravaganza called ‘Stories From The Edge’. Our vision for ‘Stories From The Edge’ is to travel to colleges and community based organizations around the country to tell our stories which vary and explain that everyone has a different path and no path is wrong as long as you get to where you want to be.” But she’s not really doing work, huh?

I could go on and on but I know my sisters and wouldn’t dare justify their contributions or lives to those who don’t value them. If you decided to do a little more research and not just go off of what the white cis media tells you about these folk, you would know this information and then some. If you decided to take the time out to not slander and invalidate these people and actually learn some history outside of the white shit y’all force down our throats, then you’d realize how fucking awesome these people are. If you decided to ask somebody, you’d realize that trans women of color have ALWAYS been breathing life into the movement but the media stripped their accomplishments away and hid their identities. But the women in this CANDY cover are the Marsha P. Johnson’s and Sylvia Rivera’s and Miss. Major’s. They are the legacies and the vision. They are the revolution. They are me and my sisters. They are a force and we refuse to allow you to take that away from us.

Elle ends her Op-ed with, “So let’s recognize this photo shoot for what it is: a highly successful, Westernized, heteronormative, transgender fashion statement. Let’s not conflate that with an accurate portrayal of the trans* community or its activism.” While I do believe that passing privilege is real and I do think that certain folk embody beauty norms better than others, I question the validity of the notion that trans women of color EVER embodied heteronormative, westernized “transcend fashion statements”. Especially when I see dark skin, box braids, natural curly hair, curvy figures, and oh – the fact that most of them are anything but white and they pridefully accentuate that history.

So I ask you, are those lists that the cis white media publishes to honor trans activists that actively exclude trans people of color besides the few names they deem acceptable not enough? Are the white dominated GLAAD awards not enough? Is Trans 100 not enough? Are the multiple articles on certain white trans folk winning homecoming or fighting school battles or dating one another not enough? Was the T-Word not enough? Hell, are your history books and the indoctrination of young black and brown boys in girls in education and socially not enough? Get it together.

Black Trans Revolution

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My heart is filled with joy and peace in this moment. I woke up super late and missed all of my classes [again] due to a clustered head of memories of transformative experiences and relationships I built. You may or may not know that I was a part of the new documentary produced by Laverne Cox entitled ‘Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word” and it aired on MTV and LOGO this week and while that experience was phenomenal and I have never felt so instrumental in the movement as I was there, I wish not to reflect on that in this post.

"Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word" Logo TV Premiere Party & Screening

I validate and uplift that experience but what I truly want to dwell on is the singular day I spent at the black trans revolution summit held in Pittsburgh, PA. This summit was organized by my goddess queen sister lourdes Ashley Hunter and my king brother Michael David Battle.

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I remember when I was asked to join their board of Ambassadors in which we were asked to utilize social media to truly articulate why this revolution was important to us. I poured my heart out in my posts trying to express to my sisters and brothers through  computer screen why their relationships and their love was so important to me. After weeks of this social media building, we were informed that we could register and everything would be set. To make a long story short, the oppressive nature of time and obligations did not allow me to spend all four days at the summit to fellowship with my family. However, I made it a point to come out for the days that I could which were the last two days. I missed all of the bonding and relationship building. I missed all of the important movement work in the beginning. I was worried that I would come in like some intruder.

I landed in Pittsburgh after a tumultuous flight and sat in the airport waiting for my ride to come pick me up. After about an hour, I was received by the lovely Douglas Sanders. Allow em to take this time to validate Douglas. I noticed how he would express his disappointment in himself for not feeling like he was enough and, Douglas, you are everything and then some! The work you did to make sure this summit flowed easily and the love you showed us all was just so wonderful. You were a gem and I appreciate you so very much! Please know that. Never feel like you’re undervalued or a totally fuckup. You are worth everything!

I headed to my hotel, took a minute to powder my nose, and then walked into the space where the rest of my family were having their session. I walked in and was greeted with smiles and jubilance. It was so lovely to see all the “chocolate skin” (in the words of my sister Cherno Biko) once again. It’s something about being amongst my trans family that reboots me. I tend to feel drained and unaffirmed in my day to day life as a college student in a southern catholic university. I am always on the verge of giving up when I am revived by the brilliance of my family. So grabbing a chair and sitting next to me loves and feeling their skin was just truly phenomenal. I don’t get that often.

In this one day, I felt revived as a leader and change agent. I developed my own leadership statement and to share it and have your people affirm that, validate it, and love it was such a blessing. I was given the opportunity to debrief on my experience with MTV and the documentary and I was able to be so open… so vulnerable… so raw. Affirmation after affirmation were passed around whenever a brother or sister needed it and that made my heart flutter. Later that night, we partied to celebrate the anniversaries of the Trans Women of Color Collective NYC AND The Garden of Peace Project.

But let me drop some knowledge and serious energy on you all. This experience wasn’t just fun and games for me. This experience wasn’t just a time for me to relax and have fun. This was a strategic opposition of the tyrannical cisgender white centered systems burdening our lives. We traveled across the country to celebrate our existence! We shared space for only ourselves and developed our skills as outspoken revolutionaries. We stomped the streets as a unit in dynamic ways. We stormed our hotel and demanded nothing but the best treatment. We laughed and loved and felt so affirmed amongst one another – something that society seeks to eliminate. We didn’t allow our circumstances to break our union. We honored all truths and came together in solidarity to create this huge black and brown queer/trans revolutionary force that allowed all of us to feel empowered and important.

This space and spaces like it are important for they teach us how to love ourselves in a world that longs to eliminate us. I learned that affirming myself whenever I wish is not problematic. I sometimes apologize for giving myself an affirmation or for feeling pretty at a moment but this experience has taught me to stop that! I live in a society that teaches me that I will not be beautiful ever unless I adhere to white beauty standards and go under the knife and the fact that I live authentically and can still claim that, it’s revolutionary. To affirm my sisters was everything as well. Our bathrooms were hideous but the things going on in them were transformative. The girl talk, the femme process – beating one another’s faces and doing our hair – all of that was a blessing. My sister, Elle, stated that she always does that alone. She never has the opportunity to share in that experience so to do so was a blessing.

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Having our own private parties, floor in the hotel, space for our fellowshipping, food for our sustenance…. all of that was a blessing. I felt important and worthy. And to have my brothers there to bring a shift to the trauma I feel when interacting with men was such an honor. Men always sexualize and dehumanize me and treat me in ways in which I feel unworthy. But my brothers took care of me and affirmed my existence. They looked me in my eyes. They honored my truth. They took care of me when I had a little too much to drink. They shifted the atmosphere in regards to what manhood is and how it can be perceived. I was truly grateful for that. To have men that looked at black trans women and honor their beauty, resilience, poise, and intellect was such a sight to see!

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I always say that community building and story telling are two super important aspects of mobilization and that is what happened in my time at #BTR14. I am so blessed and grateful that I had the opportunity to be in that space. I hope for many many more of those experiences to come. Each time I attend a summit with my family, I feel more and more empowered. I feel hungrier for world domination. I am inspired to effect change. There is no love greater than the one I have for my brothers and sisters. I want to keep everything in the family. I want to show the world that we can come together and resist oppression. I want to continue being in spaces that build our skills to be our true selves and still be critical change agents in the world. We’re ready and we’re coming.

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Thank you so much Lourdes Ashley Hunter, Michael David Battle, Cherno Biko, Aaryn Lang-Fleming, J Mase III, Katria Goodlet, Nala Simone, Vanessa Victoria, Milan Nicole-Sherry, Ovid Amorson, Tahj Carter, Wripley Bennet, Elle Hearns, Mona Whitley, Aria Copeland, Ruby Lopez, Paris Gayle, Rashod Brown, SahLeem Butler, and anyone else who was present at the summit in spirit! You all are my loves. I long to continue to build relationship and also watch our family grow, grow, and grow. The devil WINS!!!…… An asswhopping! ❤

Why Trans* Youth Are SO Important In the Movement

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Dear trans* advocates,

As the times press onward, politics change. Our issues evolve. Our fight becomes more complex. I fear that a lot of the people in the field doing the work are only doing a very small bit of it and not holding discussions that truly matter. I fear we’ve become a movement of tokenization – one where pretty, respectable, palatable folk are given a platform to speak about our issues but only tackle those that are comfortable for the broader society. We’re relying on these commercialized narratives and truths to represent us and our fight and articulate them over and over yet ignore other nuances of our identities. The young people like myself are a threat to normativity because we don’t know what that is (figuratively, of course). We are reinventing the trans* narrative in ways that makes others uncomfortable and even makes the work of advocates in the community a bit harder because they are faced with alternate truths that intersect at the point of our proclamation of our transness. What do I mean? Allow me to give a few examples.

Women can do sex work….because they just want to. Girls are speaking out and refuting the notion that sex work is only for the needy. They’re fighting the stigmatization of the field and this explaining away of those in it as a means to make the movement more palatable to the broader society. Yes many women are forced into sex work but if we don’t give space and agency to women to be able to do sex work no matter what their circumstance and we refuse to raise those voices up, we’re pretty much contributing to it’s demonization. So I ask you, do your politics support that?

Women can love their penises. More and more women are speaking their truths and claiming that they have no intention to get SRS. Women are loving, flaunting, and embracing their penises and using it as a means to further exemplify the beauty of their identities. Do your politics support that?

Women can religiously pursue dating gay men. Some have been embraced by the gay community most of their lives and had been involved with gay men for quite some time. They’ve been addressing that their sexual attraction does not change when one pops a hormone or begins to identify as a woman or any variant outside of the identity that was forced upon them at birth. Some women have loved the gay male culture and are still attracted to those that hold that identity. They bring a new perspective to the table in regards to attraction and limitations of sexual identity. Do your politics support that?

Women can refuse to disassociate themselves from gay male spaces. Many women “transition” yet find it very comforting to still embrace gay men as their family. They attend gay events, have a plethora of gay friends, and refuse to rid themselves of the cultural impact that living as part of the community has had on their lives. They are called “punks” and deemed unacceptable when they’re simply embracing themselves and living authentically like we preach. They fight to validate their existence and speak of the beauty of using one’s non cis background to shape them in ways that make them new breeds of women. Do your politics support that?

Women can love women. Duh. Do your politics support that?

Women can be masculine of center. You say fuck a binary and fuck normativity so let’s not forget that these women and those who are GNC exist. Do your politics support that?

Women can be sexually liberated and bear it on their sleeves. I’m going to have my titties out. I’m going to fuck because I enjoy it. I’m going to wear my coochie cutters and clap my ass in the club. I’m going to constantly take nude pictures. We see the greater feminist/womanist movements catering to cis women and working towards sexually liberating their bodies and identities. We see Beyoncé and Rihanna redefining black women’s bodies but what about black trans* women? We’re so caught up in being a palatable movement and working on one issue at a time that we reinforce the body policing and respectability that we claim to refute. Young women are challenging this. Young women are freeing themselves. Young women are being “sexual”. Do your politics support that?

Women can say “fuck your hormones”. We come in all variations and some women refuse to visually present in a way that makes their identities more comfortable to the bigots around them. Do your politics support that?

Women can be drag queens. Self explanatory… Do your politics support that?

There’s so much more I can add but all in all, I love my generation of trans* sisters specifically because they bring nuance to the discussions surrounding our issues. They’re coming out of the woodworks and saying “Actually…..” and “complicating” our movement. Trans* advocacy should not be about centering cisness or even about blending in. It should work for all of us. It should be about giving us all a seat at the table. The agenda should truly uplift those who live unapologetically in their various truths. It should raise up those voices of people who challenge every little piece of “normal” or “acceptable”. I’m not saying we can’t validate those who do ascribe and are comfortable with blending and “just being” but let’s be wary to not progress like other movements and isolate “fringe identities” in our community. We should all be one and move in unison and work for one another. The agenda shouldn’t be a numbered list. It should be continuous and simultaneous. All issues of any trans* person is a trans* issue worthy of being addressed at a white house or on a panel or in a rally. The youth will lead. The youth are finding themselves and reshaping this movement. Are you ready?

Sincerely,
Us

Fuck Your “Ladylike”

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“You know what will really help your realness in the future? The fact that you are a lady. Classy, elegant… you don’t act like a punk like these other little girls.”

What does this statement mean? Am I allowed to feel accomplished and thankful for this or should I feel shame for being pegged as “better than” my sisters who don’t find as much urgency as I to recreate new identities to norm themselves? It’s statements like these that make me feel like my identity and comfortability in it is all problematic. A friend asked me once how I felt about being a normaligned woman yet trans* identified and pressured to “end gender” or “be original.” Is my authenticity and ability to live honoring my truth not an act of originality?

I was born in a male body. I do not act like that fact is not true. I am not ashamed of my past and I actually honor and uplift it because without the lived experiences of struggling to blend in with cis society, I would not have the arsenal of knowledge and wisdom surrounding gender and it’s flexibility that I have today. I love being a transgender woman. I do not identify as one in the same with cisgender women. I am special. I am a goddess. I am ethereal. I was socialized as a boy in this world and society told me that I was gay. I embraced that identity and went through the motions to perform it but then I realized that it wasn’t for me.

It wasn’t until I started identifying as transgender and taking hormones did I really begin to experience intense dysphoria and discomfort with my body and experiences. I felt that I needed to look a certain way and act a certain way and be like other cisgender women. Assuming this identity has been good and bad for me because it allowed me to be more of myself but not all of myself.

This transgender label has been truly stifling my sisters. We don’t see the beauty of being who we are. It took me a while to realize this. I had a long talk with a goddess sister and she articulated multiple times the importance of truly knowing why we are who we are and staying authentic to ourselves. I am not a woman. I am beyond that. I am a mystical goddess of the Earth that no one can define. I rebuke your forced identities. Yet no matter what I do, they still stick. What is this “class” they speak of? I don’t find that complimentary to who I am. That word and words synonymous to it are acts of violence when used against me. I don’t want your class or elegance when used in comparison to my other goddess sisters who embrace their experiences. We bash one another and talk about how lately, girls are being “punks” and aren’t being the “true ladies” that they can be. What does that even mean? The beauty of being trans* is that we can live outside the boundaries of the normalized woman identity. If I was raised by my community living in a gay house and performing at balls and that is all I have ever known, why do I have to abandon that to be the woman that I am inside?

Society forced me into the identity of gay male and for years, I found solidarity with other gay men. I built community. Now that I am trans* doesn’t mean that I break that bond. Are you mad because I refuse to act as though I was socialized in a way that makes you comfortable? I refuse to forget my experiences as a gay man and those experiences will be interweaved in my experiences as a trans* woman to define myself. Societal pressures to meet comfortability standards are fucking us up. I am tired of seeing sisters throw shade when another speaks of dating gay men or frequenting gay clubs or having all gay male friends. I embrace my gay male systahs because I identified as one of them and just because my physical form is altering and separating me from their aesthetic, I still hold on to them for they keep me grounded and remind me of my true self.

I don’t want to lose Terrell. I don’t want to lose my queer identity and there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with us weaving our past into our futures. I am tired of the pressures to “become a woman”. Fuck that noise. We are dynamic and womyn of grand proportions and our lived experiences are what make us unique. Don’t abandon that. Don’t try to rewrite your life. It’s so beautiful when I see other sisters living lives colored with experience of the world that no one else could fathom having.

There is nothing wrong with feeling comfortable with fulfilling the binary as a trans* woman but I do want each and every one of us to truly question our intents and ensure we are being authentic. When trans* women norm ourselves, we are denying our beauty. I am very much a femme of center, quite binary aligned womyn but in due time, I will abandon that and rewire my identity to incorporate my man, woman, goddess, etc. Fuck your “such a lady” compliment. I don’t want it. I’m living out loud and unapologetically and you’re going to hear me roar.

RuPaul, You Ain’t Cute, Bitch *Bianca Del Rio Voice*

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I’ve been seeing a lot of hate speech being slung in the direction of my dear Carmen Carrera for her stance on the issue of RuPaul and the use of the word “tranny”. There are many people calling her a hypocrite because she marketed off of Drag Race and now she’s “biting the hand that feeds her.” That’s quite interesting that this stance is taken seeing that we don’t use that excuse when minorities fight white supremacy and institutionalized racism. I mean, come on, the white man did literally feed us back in the 1800’s – gave us the scraps of the pig, a cabin to sleep in, and a job to keep us busy. But we don’t consider our movements for civil rights as biting the hands that feed us. Yet, when it comes to the trans* community FINALLY owning their power, it’s a problem?

RuPaul is a menace to our community and I will stand for it no longer. I don’t care how much he has made drag and gender variance a mainstream sensation. At the end of the day, he pokes fun at a subset of his community to gain public prowess. RuPaul is not in it for the community anymore but for the money, fame, and controversy. Drag is an art form that saved the wellbeing of so many young boys and girls who felt trapped in a state that didn’t allow them to express every facet of themselves. Drag is and was about the drama and alter ego’s. Drag was accessible to any person who wanted to be someone they couldn’t be everyday. Ru has made drag a mere economic pyramid – he’s on top and all of his minions follow suit and their earnings and celebrity help to increase his own. He cares not about the art (he doesn’t even do his own hair and makeup), what it stands for, or his community because if he did, transphobia would not be something he’d advocate for.

I don’t care how many bills you can pay, Ru, because for every bill you pay with the money earned from your constant reiteration of transphobic remarks is the harassment and murder of another trans* brother and sister whose last words they heard from their assaulter was “Tranny”, “faggot”, “she male”, or whatever other phrase you find “acceptable.” Every time you show a picture of a limb that our society doesn’t deem feminine enough and you peg it to be part of a “she male”, the greater the dysphoria felt by millions of trans* women who walk on this Earth knowing that their jaws are “too big” or shoulders “too broad” or nose “too fat” and the intensification of the culture surrounding “clocking/passing”. Each time you utter the word “tranny” in a song like that shit is cute and you commodify it, more and more people find it acceptable to utter it and laugh at folk like myself who identify as such.

I am not an exclusionary woman and accept any person who identifies as trans* to hold that identity. All trans* people know that “tranny” has a history of being used to oppress us. It’s used when acts of violence are inflicted onto our bodies. It’s used when we are unjustly denied entry into nightclubs or bars. It’s used when we are at public events and people wish to emotionally burden us. But, Ru does not identity as trans* which is sort of odd since he thinks he has the authority to reclaim a word that doesn’t have history of oppressing his own identity but of someone else’s. How dare you invalidate our pain and subjugation! How dare you think you have some type of power to change our experience! If a white person were to dress up in black face and dance around in a bar and say they’re reclaiming the gesture and erasing it’s oppression, how cute would you feel inside? If a white person were to consistently call groups of black people “coons” and  “niggers” but adamantly state that they’re using them out of love and erasing their racist influence, would you want to hug them? NO because they can’t erase how history has influenced those things that oppress us and were engrained in the institutions as a way to disenfranchise our people.

I refuse to allow some cisgender man to step to me and tell me that I need to “lighten up” when he disrespects me in my face. Ru Paul is a bully and menace to the transgender community and I refuse to sit here and allow his bigotry to go inequitably justified. I support Drag Race because it does help increase a sector of the LGBT’s community influence on pop culture but I refuse to allow Ru Paul to continue to have this show and feel he can further subjugate my people. I refuse to allow little boys and girls to think that transphobic slurs are okay to use and they then fling them around throughout their lives – mocking trans* folk in the process – continuing the consistent process of delaying the self actualization of young trans* people. Because of the transphobia I witnessed and internalized all of my life due to the slurs and stereotypes, I wasn’t able to truly come to terms with my true identity until much later in my life – having missed out on really experiencing prom, weekends out, the emergence of social media, a loving connection with my parents, etc. because I didn’t feel comfortable with who I was. I delayed that because society called who I wanted to become a “tranny” and looked at it with distaste. I still deal with dysphoria and slight lack of confidence in my skin due to the continuous slurs and I refuse to have someone tell me that I can’t feel hurt.

I have girls like Carmen Carrera and Laverne Cox to look up to for they are part of a marginalized community and as they gain power in the social realm, they don’t feel the need to put another person down to raise themselves up. It ain’t cute, Ru. Can I get a, “amen”?

Xavier University of Louisiana Infringing Transgender Rights

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Please share this with the world so that everyone can see how blatantly transphobic Xavier University of Louisiana is. They have released a ballot for the student body to vote on amendments to the constitution and one of them is to choose whether Miss. Xavier or any class Miss has to be BORN female or not. They are publicly supporting the fate of persecution, ostracism, and discrimination of gender variant individuals. My human rights is held to a vote and majority rules. Not only has the school simply tolerated me and not made changes I’ve requested (I.e gender neutral restrooms, trans* friendly housing policies and health insurance, the ability to form a GSA, etc) they now choose to publicly humiliate and subjugate my community. I spoke to the SGA president and she told me the word of this had been around campus for a while and so she can’t do anything about it so I’ve opted to get community support and take public action. Help me fight this. Fight for gender equity and trans* inclusion. Fight oppression. Share this! Spread the word!

More Than Enough

In the Fall of 2013, I came back to campus, moved my things and after resting in my room, headed to the cafeteria for dinner. Classes began and I completed the routine over and over and then one day (I forget what the meal was) I sat in the back of the cafeteria as usual and people watched and after a few minutes, one of the most beautiful men I have ever seen walks in. He was a new freshman and I was instantly infatuated. His skin was the darkest of chocolates and evenly toned. He had a huge beautiful white smile and black, vibrant eyes as large as marbles. He had an average build with a low cut fade and wearing a black sweatsuit. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I never normally find myself really into guys at my school but this one really caught my eye. Throughout the semester, I’d be so anxious walking into the cafeteria knowing he’d be there and I’d be infatuated AGAIN. The only encounters we’d have is when he’d hold a door open for me or when he’d hug a mutual friend that I’d be with. He was so beautiful, girls. I needed him in my life. At the end of the semester, I was sitting by the cash register talking to the worker and he walked up to us and I froze. I reflexively smiled super hard, dropped my phone, said “oh my gosh”, and sat down to calm myself. The whole time, he looked at me smiling and walked away and I knew he knew what was up. I made a complete fool of myself but he found it to be cute, I suppose. Fast forward to this semester, I barely see him. I would notice him walking across the street going to a class or something but that’s it. After a while, I didn’t see him at all and I sort of forgot about my feelings for him. Until this morning. I had to wake up for an 8 am exam and so after the exam, I went to breakfast. I sat in the back per usual and had my little omelet and then out of the corner of my eye, I notice him walk in. He was wearing the same outfit I saw him wear the first day I saw him. He got his food and sat about 4 table northwest of me. I was facing him and found it so hard to avert my gaze. We locked eyes every now and again and it was so beautiful. Those locked moments were like vows of marriage to me. I treasured each glance we shared. He would laugh and smile at his table, I’d laugh and smile at mine (I had a friend sit down with me eventually) and we’d turn and look at one another mid smile. It was amazing. After 20 minutes, I decided that I couldn’t torture myself any longer and I got up and went to my room.

I have never felt this way about another man at my school ever. It’s more than a crush… I feel connected. I feel butterflies in my stomach when he looks at me. When I see him walk in the room, I quiver and my face flushes. I see him interact with people and wish I were the one wrapped in between his warm, lovely, dark chocolate arms. He laughs and shows those beautiful teeth and I wish it were he and I sharing moments like those.

The thing keeping us apart? The transgender taboo. Homophobia/transphobia mutually working together to prevent people like myself from being able to openly pursue other men. The stigma of who I am especially here on campus makes it impossible for men who find me even remotely attractive to explore that attraction and treat me like any other girl he’s interested in. That and my own insecurity of being trans*. My own sense of unworthiness and self marginalization. My own perpetuation of isolationism. Who says he isn’t interested and has no hang ups? Who says we can’t be? Pretty much…. me. I assume I’m taboo. I assume I’m not worthy. I assume my approaching of him would be uncomfortable for him and pretty unacceptable. Yes, the systems around me influence that thought process and what have you but if I continually allow myself to assume a place of ostracism, how will I ever figure out the possibilities? Why do I devalue my attraction to certain men when my cisgender counterparts express interest in him as well? I’m just as worthy. I am enough. I need to work on my confidence. I need to work on my viewing me and my navigation in the world as a woman as simply that and not focus everything on my transness. Trans* identity is what has molded me but it is not me. I am more than my body or experience. I need to allow myself to be more.

*Beyoncé Voice* – Bitch, I’m trans*

ImageI couldn’t wait until March 31 to do this so I apologize. I just had a recent experience that really enlightened me. Yesterday, I was sitting outside enjoying the weather and reading a novel for my Women in World History course when a friend of mine rolled up and screamed my name. I ran to her and we got to chatting by her car and after a bit, we decided to go hang out in the French Quarter (I reside in New Orleans, LA) and enjoy the festival that was going on and whatnot. We spend about an hour trying to find parking and then when we finally did, we hopped out of the car and started strutting around and having conversation. Being a black trans* woman walking out in public with daylight to spare in a very populated area like a festival is pretty nerve wracking to say the least. But I was just doing my thing and trying to blend in with the community. However, that didn’t particularly happen. We would walk pass certain men and hear comments like “dude looks like a lady” or “that’s a tranny”. But also, we’d have men following us to catcall us, commenting on how beautiful we are, and even shining flashlights at our behinds to “check to see if we had dicks.”

All of that sounds pretty pathetic, right? At the end of the day, I did not “pass” and I was again pretty bummed about it especially since I’ve been on hormones for going on 2.5 months now and expecting some revolutionary change (which I knew I shouldn’t have been expecting). But then I realized – I am only worried about passing in sexually charged spaces. When I’m going out for dinner or just simply running random errands, the concept of “passing” does not even cross my little mind. I really don’t care about it, you know? I couldn’t give a rat’s ass what gender people saw me as unbeknownst to my transition or whatever. But whenever I find myself in spaces where men are either trying to sexualize me or place me in their little conquest for picking up the hottest chicks, the worry is real. But why should I ever be worried about passing to be a greater victim to the male gaze? To me, the whole issue about “passing” is that you don’t feel beautiful enough for men to want you as the woman you are because you are of trans* experience and that is just not comfortable or acceptable for a man to deal with. That is complete bullshit. I refuse to be insecure in my skin because a man can’t put me in a box and feel 100% secure in objectifying me or having ownness of my body. No thanks.

A lot of people ask me to place the moment where I felt I was born in the wrong body. I absolutely hate that cis-cceptable trans* narrative. I never thought I was born in the wrong body. My body is perfect in my eyes. I felt great in my skin and for as long as I can remember, I dealt with ways to affirm my identity while accepting who I was and what skin I was in. Being trans* to me has always been a thing in my life but I just didn’t have the language to describe it or the understanding to conceptualize it to the extent that I can now. I was born of trans* experience. My destiny was always to ultimately find what expression of my gender and persona was right for me and it wasn’t until I realized that I was able to alter the hormonal balance inside of me to have my body more accurately portray the image of myself that I had on the inside that I truly found peace. My outer transness however you see it is actually a step deep deep deep in a transition that I’ve been having psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, etc since the first time I realized I was “different” as a toddler.

I say all that to affirm my being as not trying to meld into cisness and simp be a “regular” woman and all that jazz. I am tired of trying to be acceptable to society and be ashamed of the fact that I am trans* for whatever reason. Bitch, I’m trans* and I love it! When I conceptualized the perfect partner for me, I never envisioned a man that wanted normalcy. I am queer as all hell and I wanted a man that accepted that fact and would grow right along with me. Before I accepted this “trans*” identity on my person, I found beauty in being androgynous and respected men who found beauty in that as well. So why change that perspective now? I shouldn’t have to. I guess this post is more or so encouragement and affirmation for my own self. I worked so hard to live in my truth and accept all of my queerness and now I am ashamed of it coming to light? I shouldn’t be. Me being ashamed of my body and features and downing myself when people “clock my tea” is inherently me still dealing with internalized transphobia that I thought I had done away with months ago. But it’s okay because the first step in enlightenment is admitting you have a problem, right? I love the fact that I am trans* and I make it my business to broadcast that fact in every new environment I find myself in because I am proud of that identity and refuse to be normalized as simply female. Yes, I want my female identity to be affirmed but if people can “see my transness” (whatever that is), then so be it. I’m going to embrace that shit. It’s so revolutionary to me to walk down a street, have a man find me attractive and proceed to pursue me, then realize I’m of trans* experience and proceed to having his little internal struggle going on. Yes, hun, I’m beautiful and trans* and cannot “pass” in a lot of spaces but I’m still beautiful and will always be trans* “pass” or not – so now what? We need more people having the internal struggle because it signifies a challenge of normativity. I am a change agent. I am owning my transness. I refuse to be depressed about not “passing.” Bye, Felicia. I do long to see that stereotypical woman in the mirror but if I never do, then so be it. I will love the androgyny that makes me who I am and as far as men are concerned, I value this for it is now easier for me to weed out the assholes and indulge men worthy of my time.

We Are At War

ImageIt was about 9:00 at night and I just left my weekly meeting at Youth BreakOUT!, an organization based in New Orleans aiming to end the criminalization of LGBT youth. We’ve been having some unusual weather down here as of late so of course I put on a cute pair of shorts and some comfortable heels in order to accentuate my long, cut legs. I live in a dormitory on my school campus and the walk is literally about 8 minutes long so I pumped it down the long street to get back in my room, safely. As I’m pushing forward, a white car inches toward my direction. I moved toward the side of the road to let the car go by but the driver rolled his window down and I immediately noticed he was a police officer. He had on his uniform but was riding in an unmarked vehicle at the time. He looked at me and spat out some words which I didn’t understand. I asked him to repeat himself and he uttered, “what’s your sexy ass doing out? Where are you going?” I told him that I was heading to school and started walking again and he yelled, “You’re fine as fuck!” I politely thanked him and started walking a little more briskly. It’s not unusual for men to stop and cat call me or ask to give me rides but I had never had an encounter like this with a police officer. Usually, I ignore men that approach me for I hate being sexualized but how do you interact with a man with authority? Would he be angry if I were to make him feel belittled?

As I’m walking, I hear the cracking of rocks behind me letting me know that the car is moving. I let out a sigh of relief and continue on my merry way but to my right, the same car pulls up beside me again. He’s now following me! He continues to sexualize me and make me feel like I need to be between his knees and I start to jog a little bit. He yells “Where are you going?! HEY!” and I realize I am doing the wrong thing. You can’t run from the police! I pull out my phone as I walk past an intersection towards a main road and I call one of my mentors. He jumps in his car and while on the phone with me, rides to find me. I reach the main road where there are dozens of cars flowing in either direction and run to what looks like an abandoned mechanic yard. The officer makes a right on the main road and pulls off and moments later, my mentor finds me and I hop in his car. We get back to my dorm and I’m in complete shock. I couldn’t believe that just happened to me. We embraced one another for a good minute and then I went to my room, curled up in my bed, and fell asleep.

This happened to me about a week or so ago and until now, I had not been in the right mental state to really unpack the events of that night. But, my story, as small as it is, needs to be told because we are at war and one way to win is to know the tactics of our enemies. I am a woman and simply for that reason, this man felt it was okay to basically sexually assault me. He pegged me for weak, vulnerable, and helpless and took advantage of that in the dark of night. To add insult to injury, he used his inflated status as an officer to keep me in check. As much as I’d hate to admit it, I was helpless. I was vulnerable. He could easily have forced me to engage in sex with him and who would have believed me, a trans* woman of color in a community where those with my identity are highly criminalized and policed, if i were to admit that? He even could have done that and then arrested me himself for indecent exposure or something of the sort. My fate was all in his hands and that terrified me. Not only that, but a year ago, I was robbed and after filing a report, the department refused to follow up for suspicions that I was engaging in sex work which I was not. So knowing that was in their records and then to have this pop up as well, how fortunate do you think I would have been?

Too many women like me are slaves to the justice system. The prison industrial complex is flooding our communities and shackling my dear sisters. That night, I could have been another number to add to the bunch. I’m tired of living in fear and proactivity! I’m tired of having to cover myself up or walk only at certain times of the night and basically be aware of how pretty I look in fear of sexual assault as a black woman and profiling/criminalizing as a black woman of trans* experience. When will we say, “enough of this shit!” and start a revolution? By no means am I anti man but I AM anti “women are either disposable or expendable when necessary” train of thought.

We know how problematic it is when men objectify us and you’ve read posts by me exposing that issue. But do we ever think about that issue with these police officers who should be out here protecting the citizens? You take a misogynist, hypersexual scum bag and give him a badge, gun, and a little legal authority and that is just a recipe for legalized rape culture. No means no, they say, but how do you say no to a man with a gun in your face and the threat of arrest and jail time? How do you say no when you are certain that because your identities are highly subjugated in the eyes of society, you will go unheard and probably spend time in prison? I’ve long felt less and less protected by the police but now, not only do I feel unprotected, but I feel threatened. Who said that it was efficient to give so much power to normal people as if they act outside of prejudice and adversity? I don’t feel safe in these streets as a woman and that is a shame. I can walk in an area with cops on every corner and I still will be in fear of losing either my life, my dignity, or my freedom.

I was going to try to post this on ELIXHER magazine’s website (which you ALL should check out at elixher.com) but this was too personal for me to not completely own. I just thought that this experience was significant to share on my own blog because it has really shown me why the social justice and advocacy work that I do is so important. Though pretty minor, this experience gave me the tools to fight back. I am not satisfied with declared protection by the police or a little policy. That shit is not going to do anything if the people in those uniforms and those supposed to enforce the legislation either don’t give a damn or use it against us. We need to fight the powers that be and stop relying on law and badges for comfort if they do not work efficiently or equitably. We need to demolish the politics of respectability and the whole “she asked for it” campaign. We need to end trans* criminalization and LGBT policing. We need to put an end to colorist patriarchy. We need to put an end to the police state!

Reproduction As An Essentially Problematic Concept For Queer Women of Color

ImageI was sitting in my Feminist Theory course – which only discusses the white woman’s viewpoint but that’s something to discuss at another time – and as we were deconstructing the theories of radical-liberal and radical-cultural feminists, the topic of motherhood and reproduction arose. I’m not going to sit here and give you a history lesson on the issue but what I do want to do is pose the question: where do queer women of color fit in this discussion?

There are many layers to peel back when discussing reproduction but at the most fundamental level, women are seen as closer to nature for they essentially provide life and repopulate the Earth. In our androcentric society, however, women are seen as simply a means. Women are ultimately the vessels that men use to plant their seeds and ensure that their wealth and assets stay within the family and their lineage is continued.

Now take this black woman whose body ultimately does not belong to her due to the objectification of her parts. Black women are singled out for their “child bearing hips” and their bountiful curves. Men (white men, primarily) historically have equated a black woman’s curvaceous body to having many healthy kids. But as the times press onward and more and more women are having fewer to no kids at all, that objectification for reproductive purposes turns into hypersexualization for carnal purposes. For queer women that do not fit the “true woman” mold of marrying and having kids, this becomes a violent problem.

Black women that either have non functional reproductive organs, none at all, or are lesbian identified and opt to never bear children are seen as “damaged goods and are ostracized and devalued. As a result, these women are subjected to being victims of sex crimes. A childless woman is only uplifted since men see her as a sexual toy to play with over and over and not have to worry about the surprise of a kid. Lesbian women are vilified for they are seen as women that are going against the “true order.” The adversity lesbian women endure is a conflated mix of homophobia and sexism in one. As a trans* woman, I see and hear about men who use us like rag dolls because men feel that they can achieve their sexual pleasures and never have to worry about a kid. They sensationalize our bodies and treat us like blow up dolls to be used, tucked away, and reused over and over again for their sexual exploration.

Today, my doctor told me what I at first took as wonderful news. I received her phone call and after hearing the words “your hormone levels are practically by the female range,” I jumped for joy and the rush of euphoria invaded my body. But then I stopped and thought about the implications of the reality of the true progression and physical manifestation of my womanhood. I thought about years down the road and how men will continually objectify me as a blow up doll because I cannot have children. I had a moment of self hate for though my feminism doesn’t view reproduction as a key focus of womanhood, in that moment, I felt like such a disgraceful woman. I’ve always been a woman but now that my hormone levels reflect that yet I have no means of reproduction, I felt less than. I have now entered this phase in my life where I am skeptical of any approaches by men because knowing I am unable to give them children, I am afraid that they will see me as that means of sexual exploration and here to fulfill their carnal desires. I know that a uterus doesn’t mean a damn thing but these oppressive systems of cisnormativity and the nurturing archetype have me all discombobulated. Being inherently hypersexualized for walking with a black woman’s body, what extra layer of sexual scrutiny am I welcoming into my space as a black woman that cannot have children? What are the dangers of not being able to serve the reproductive function? I feel like I am simply a slave to patriarchy and my body has been claimed by all men at once. Penetration of my body of any man will cause me to question my significance or purpose as the receiving party. When I’m catcalled or sweet talked on the street, I question intent and hope to gain since my organs do not have multi purpose. Of course, I know my worth and know that these thoughts are ridiculous but we never have spaces to discuss these concepts and that can truly be detrimental to the self esteem of many women.

Queer women of color that choose not to or cannot bear their own children battle the double edged sword of not only having to deal with sexism and the stripping of their womanhood as being illegitimate, but they also then must battle patriarchy, the commodification of their bodies, and sex trafficking. I’m not saying that women who bear children do not, but I am addressing that queer women of color who do not or cannot do experience a higher risk of  objectification and sensationalization. What changes is the means that men see women – we are now a means of climax; a means of sexual exploitation. We are now at higher risk of violence due to our decisions to control and redefine our bodies and it’s function. For these reasons, it’s so important that we as queer women of color have open discussions analyzing the intricacies and complexities of motherhood, reproduction, body politics, and our sexualities.