Mr. Cee, Brooke-Lynn Pinklady, and Transphobia

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

On March 30 hip-hop producer Calvin “Mr.Cee” Lebrun—he of Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die fame–was busted by New York City police allegedly receiving oral sex from a sex worker. Reports said Lebrun supposedly received the sexual favors from “a man” .  This got some people feeling some kind of homophobic way, complete with saying that “we all should have seen this coming” because of his alleged “golden showers” kink.  As Sister Toldja wrote earlier this week :

To be totally fair, this isn’t the average gay rumor; not only was the other person in the case allegedly paid for the act, the writer who dropped this gossip also claimed that Mister Cee has a thing for urinating on female strippers. So while much of the chatter is about Mister Cee being (allegedly) infected with The Gay, folks are aghast by this pee thing, too. Considering our attitudes about sexuality, that’s no surprise.

With homophobia and anti-kink sentiments roiling—and Lebrun and his supporters doing the NYPD Hip-Hop Conspiracy Step hip-hop artist and critic dream hampton provided some level-headed analysis about the situation:

While highly regarded in the hip hop industry and in New York, Mister Cee is not necessarily famous. Still, his arrest gave opportunity to talk about the persistent poking around hip hop’s “closet,” where speculation about sexual orientation is practically a sport. Charlamagne actually elevated the conversation by asking why a married 44-year-old man was seeking sexual favors from a 20-year-old, professional or otherwise, and if that, then why in a parked car? I argue that none of this would be a discussion, viral or anywhere else, had Cee been arrested with a 20-year-old woman, be she prostitute or not. I also don’t believe, 2011 or not, that hip hop is a safe space for anything other than aggressively heterosexual public behavior or affirmation. While obviously lesbian women MCs and personalities remain silent if not closeted about their sexuality, there is even less space for men to appear bisexual or homosexual.

I believe that Mister Cee’s sexuality is a personal matter, one he must reckon with himself and his wife. But Charlamagne’s co-host Angela Yee took the position widely held by heterosexual women—that closeted bisexual men are a health hazard, exposing trusting women to AIDS and more. While I’m not dismissive of those concerns, particularly in a marriage, where condom use is expected to be abandoned, I do know that we heterosexual Black women don’t exactly offer safe spaces for bisexual men to express their desires.

I’m also far more concerned that the transgendered 20-year-old who allegedly serviced him be safe, particularly if he is a sex worker. I wished aloud on my own Twitter feed that the discussion about Mister Cee would be one about decriminalizing sex work and focusing on harm reduction rather than speculating if Mister Cee is closeted.

Hampton is right in this respect.

The sex worker who is said to have provided the service, it turns out, is–based on the clues and cues I have picked up on from the media as well as personal education around trans issues and media literacy–a trans woman named Brooke-Lynn Pinklady not a “transvestite” that the first link’s source and other news and gossip sites—both cisgay and presumably cisstraight–thought to misgender as “a man.” (Even hampton refers to her as a “transgendered male.”) There’s a difference—a big difference—between a cis man, a “transvestite,” and a trans woman. (And, for the 50-11th time, the word is not “transgendered.” As several trans activists have point out, no one says “gayed” or “heteroed.” It’s “transgender” or “trans.” And I’m not going to go there about the word “trannie.” Suffice to say: don’t. It’s a slur. Don’t.)

To make the whole matter much worse, several outlets—and even the NYPD, never known at the bastion of tolerance, let alone acceptance and advocacy of trans people–refer to Brooke-Lynn by her government name instead of, like this post, honoring her as how she presents gender-wise.  Since too few people accorded her any sort of respect around her gender identity, we’re getting transphobia–specifically transmisogyny–twisted in the homophobia. Because of the constant misgendering of Brooke-Lynn as a “he,” out comes the assumption that Mr. Cee supposedly had sex with a “man.” No, Mr. Cee had sex with a woman, full stop—regardless of how he sexually identitfies. As Monica Roberts at TransGriot writes:

Many of us still have ID’s with mismatched name and gender code info or are in states that despite us having legal name changes, refuse to change gender codes until the person undergoes GRS.

SRS is not the end all and be all to determining gender identity or when a person transitions to the other gender.

As far as I’m concerned, the second you swallow you first hormone or take your first shot of testosterone, begin living in the opposite gender and make moves to harmonize your body with that gender role that may or may not include surgical options, you ARE that gender.

Many transpeople who would like to have it either aren’t able to afford genital surgery or have health issues that prevent it. There are many transpeople successfully living in our new gender roles despite possessing neoclits in our panties.

To break this point down for you: gender is between your ears, not your legs.

With that said, let’s bring this back to hampton’s concern.

According to a landmark report from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force , sixteen percent of trans people of color (TPoCs) who responded to the organizations’ survey have turned to selling sex and drugs in order to survive. Furthermore, the report states:

  • Respondents who were currently unemployed experienced debilitating negative outcomes, including nearly double the rate of working in the underground economy (such as doing sex work or selling drugs), twice the homelessness, 85% more incarceration, and more negative health outcomes, such as more than double the HIV infection rate and nearly double the rate of current drinking or drug misuse to cope with mistreatment, compared to those who were employed.
  • Respondents who had lost a job due to bias also experienced ruinous consequences such as four times the rate of homelessness, 70% more current drinking or misuse of drugs to cope with mistreatment, 85% more incarceration, more than double the rate working in the underground economy, and more than double the HIV infection rate, compared to those who did not lose a job due to bias.

I agree the cruel parlor game of Suspecting Teh Gayz, especially on spurious reasons like being down with kink, needs to cease within some Black communities as well as a conversation around decriminalizing sex work needs to open up.  I also think what happened with Mr. Cee is a perfect opportunity to talk about transphobia, gender identity, and gender policing, too—which, as an ex-friend pointed out to me, tend to be the “what’s really going on” when some want to go homophobic because they want to judge what a “real man” or a “real woman” is supposed to look like and act like.

We’re wrecking too, too many lives with this basic disrespect.

Photo Credit: thesmokinggun.com

  • omi

    hey! loved the piece, but wanted to note this re: Brooke-Lynn’s self-ID: http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/04/brooke-lynn_pinklady_and_the_importance_of_self-definition.htmlion.html

    i’m totally with you on your points around transphobia and sex work, but just thought y’all should know.

  • Pingback: Brooke-Lynn Pinklady Speaks On Self-Identification and Arrest | Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture

  • Dee

    He recently released a video calling himself a “drag queen” … Not trans anything

    • AndreaPlaid

      Yep, that was picked up by Bossip in the last day. And we’ll run an apology regarding this tomorrow morning.

  • http://twitter.com/GREGORYABUTLER Gregory A. Butler

    I echo Andrea and dream hampton’s comments that this incident should spark a conversation about the decriminalization of sex work.

    Sex workers like Brooke-Lynn Pinklady should be free to practice their trade free of police harassment and persecution. Her profession is difficult, emotionally draining and physically dangerous enough under the best of circumstances – she shouldn’t have to fear arrest and prosecution (and, in her case, possibly being imprisoned in a men’s jail and all the dangers of rape and abuse that would stem from that) just for trying to make a living. The same goes for every other cisgendered man, cisgendered woman and transgendered woman in that industry.

    As for Mr Cee, if he feels the need to seek sex outside his marriage that’s his business, and the only people who should have anything to say about that are his wife and the people (of whatever gender or orientation) he chooses to have sex with. The same goes for every other married man that feels the need to be sexual outside of their relationship.

    Police persecution of the sexual activities of consenting adults (commercial or otherwise) is undemocratic and morally wrong. It needs to stop, now!

  • Val

    This is a great piece, Andrea. It’s too bad that it probably won’t be cross-posted where it would do the most good. That would be on one of the several gossip blogs that have been exploiting this story since day one.