I’ve been processing a lot about my identity as a transmasculine, genderqueer person after attending the phenomenal First Annual Black Transmen Advocacy Conference in Dallas, TX. Here are some of my musings after such a transformational conference that has touched me in ways that no gender studies class or symposium ever could. My life has truly been changed forever, and I don’t say that lightly.
The conference almost brought me to tears multiple times because it was so healing. I received all the affirmation I have never gotten because no one knew how to give it to me–not even myself. I heard all those things I needed to hear from people like me. It wasn’t psychobabble or intellectual conversations around gender identity by stuffy academics, etc. I heard from folks who live this experience and who are at the margins and intersections. Speaking real talk. REAL TALK.
I received validation for everything I’ve ever suspected about why it’s so incredibly hard to be black and trans. For instance: that transitions aren’t a complete solution for everyone. They help brothers go “stealth” which can be a huge weight off with so much violence and homophobia within our community–but what about the mind? The spirit? Being trans isn’t just about your body despite what psychologists and doctors say. They have no idea. NO idea. For them, everything is solved with subtractions and additions of parts and a lifelong dose of hormones. To them … this is what makes you a man or woman. There is no room for emotional, mental, and spiritual preparation and transformation.
During the conference I realized that I’ve been so afraid to be who I am–transmasculine–because of a number of things: my own perceptions of what it means to be a man (read: black man), the scarcity of positive black male role models in my life and the life of others close to me, my issues with reconciling my inherent masculinity and my radical feminist ideals, others’ perceptions of what it means if I claim my masculinity (fellow feminists, girlfriends/partners, etc.), and lastly and most importantly, people not “letting” me be male.
Let me explain. By “let,” I mean people’s interactions with me. Because of the way I look (female … and sometimes androgynous) people interact with me as such and expect me to interact as a female. There’s not a lot I can do about this besides change my physical characteristics in order for others to see me the way I see me. Say what? People want me to cut off parts of my chest, take hormones that they have no idea in the future how they will affect me, go prematurely bald–all so that others can see me as male when I already see me as male?!
By Guest Contributors Kendra James and Jordan St. John and Managing Editor Arturo R. García
MSNBC’s Transgender in America: Hosted by Melissa Harris-Perry, this 20-minute segment started off with a bang when she gave a definition of ‘cisgendered’ on national mainstream media television and only got better from there, including taking time to speak about the CeCe McDonald case. If you still have a bad taste in your mouth from Barbara Walters’ 20/20 interview with Jenna Talackova (in which every question is somehow worse than the last and Donald Trump thinks he’s clever), Harris-Perry’s MSNBC segment might be just what you need to restore a bit of faith in the media. You can read Autostraddle’s full wrap-up here. - KJ
Glee: From 20/20 to MSNBC… to Glee? This episode of Fox’s musical dramedy couldn’t have aired with better timing. When Wade (a student from rival glee club Vocal Adrenaline, played by Glee Project runner-up Alex Newell, who is not a trans actor) comes to Mercedes and Kurt for performance advice, they discover she wants to perform as her female alterego “Unique.” While at first appearing male to the audience, she reveals to Kurt that she identifies as female. Perhaps this isn’t as much of a traditional learning experience as the MSNBC special but, for a show aimed at a younger viewing audience, it seems to be a fairly big step.
I have been grappling with the intersection of gender identity and race lately. I feel as if the concept of gender is entrenched in the black community–if not the pillar of it.
Roles have been defined for black women and black men and the socialization of black women vs. black men is intriguing. As I’ve come out as genderqueer I have found it difficult to imagine disassociating myself from black womanhood.
So much is tied to a black woman’s identity. The struggle of a black woman–the burden on her back–the solidarity in calling each other “my sister” is something I have come to own and appreciate, slowly but surely.
I feel that in taking on the trans identity and calling myself genderqueer that I am betraying my sisters in some way. I also feel that I am rejecting the women’s spaces which I felt so comfortable in for years and years. I am becoming an outsider to the community of women of color that I fought so hard in the past to understand and be a part of and protect through my academic writing.
As I was accepting the fact that I am genderqueer … that I am masculine of center, that I may not have been socialized as your typical female and had always seen myself as androgynous or leaning more toward the masculine spectrum–I began to panic.
Well…that means I’m a black man! Ohhh great! Not only do I face oppression on so many other levels, but now I’ve got this new added burden of being perceived as a black man, should I choose to transition or present myself as male? I’ve been presenting myself as male for years now without really calling it that.
Now I would have to routinely see white women clutch their purses and turn up their noses, and white men feel threatened/disgusted by my very existence. I did not, do not…want to be a black man.
But, unfortunately, I don’t have much choice in the matter. And I’ll explain what I mean.
It’s not hard to imagine that, on some level, actor Amaury Nolasco knew his new show, Work It, would catch flack after his character, Angel, told his friend and fellow job-seeker Lee , “But I’m Puerto Rican. I’ll be great at selling drugs.”
If that was the case – and in the wake of the show’s disastrous premiere, Nolasco isn’t saying – then those instincts were right, and then some. Nolasco’s “drug dealers” joke is only the latest problem series creators Ted Cohen and Andrew Reich have brought upon themselves, and now their actors. Continue reading →
If you’ve seen the latest episode of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl (ABG), you probably caught J’s best friend Cece refer to White Jay’s ex as a “tr***y bitch in heels.” Or J’s co-worker Patty ask her if she’s “gay” because J cut her hair to a tweeny-weeny afro (TWA). Or J’s nemesis, Nina, asking her when did she “catch cancer” due to the new ‘do.
We love the show! We also love your continuous engagement with fans and your commitment to staying on the Web to maintain your vision. What we don’t love is the transmisogyny and misogyny in episode 11.
In episode 11, CeCe calls White Jay’s ex a “tra**y bitch in heels.” The word tra**y perpetuates violence and divisiveness amongst women by relying on the idea that trans women are not “real” women; it suggests that White Jay’s ex is somehow less than the main character J.
The word “tra**y” has a very real history of violence and discrimination, often targeting trans women. It has been used as a slur, as a way to objectify women, and as a way of denying the personhood of trans women on the basis of appearance.
We have seen your responsiveness to the fans of ABG and we hope that by raising this concern you will respond accordingly by not using such language in future episodes. There are so many awkward queer, trans, and disabled folks who love the show and it hurts to see and hear our lives used as punchlines. For those of us, the awkward black, queer folks who have lived at the intersections of our awkwardness, our blackness, and our transness, words like “tra**y” erase our lives, and our humanity. Phrases like “No lesbo” and the use of affected speech to imitate hard of hearing people detract from the vision of creating representations for the rest of us who are all too often maligned in mainstream media.
We look forward to many more episodes of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl that are hilarious without the use of marginalized groups as a punchline. We have confidence that you have the creativity to continue to push comedic boundaries in new ways and educate your audience in the process.
The May 2011 cover girl for ESSENCE magazine this month is none other than one Wendy J. Williams, the woman the Black gossip blogs love to hate and misgender.
Like I’ve said in previous posts on this subject, some of you Black folks need to buy a vowel, pick up a science book and get a clue that transpeople exist in all colors and sizes and aren’t going anywhere.
Note for the ignorantly clueless: Some of my transsisters are petite size 8 pump wearing fashion divas, so don’t get it twisted..
We are all blends of genetic material and characteristics from mommy and daddy. A little less testosterone in the womb and some of you so called ‘men‘ attacking Wendy would be rocking her dresses and pumps.
You also need to get a clue that it’s not cool to do what whiteness has done to the images of Black women for centuries and participate in the denigrating of the mothers of humanity. It’s even more repugnant to me as a proud African descended transwomen to see Black people (or alleged online Black people) deliberately misgendering Black women they don’t like.
But some of you are too stupid or insecure about your own gender identity and sexual orientation issues to get that point.
In my post about the transphobia stinking up the Mr. Cee/Brooke-Lynn Pinklady arrest, I referred to Brooke-Lynn as a trans woman. This I gathered from the reports and from how I was taught to recognize how the media tends to misgender trans women and other female-presenting people, complete with the public humilation of referring to their government names, vicious transmisogynistic slurs, and misuse of pronouns.
Come to find out that I was wrong. In this video (NSFW alert: language) that Bossip just released, Brooke-Lynn not only self-identifies but also discusses the arrest:
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.
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.