Category Archives: trans issues

The Story of Carlett Brown

By Guest Contributor Monica, originally published at TransGriot

One of the cool benefits of the recent Johnson Publishing Company deal with Google that allows digitizing of the iconic African-American magazines JET and EBONY is that it not only provides a record of Black history as it happened, it also is a cultural time capsule as well.

One of the things I’ve always pondered is African American transgender people and our history. I know I and other African-American transpeeps didn’t just pop up out of thin air. We have a long fascinating history that just begs to be told.

christineOne of those fascinating stories starts unfolding across several JET issues during 1953. Coincidentally it starts around the time Christine Jorgensen had become a household name after the December 1, 1952 news story broke about her surgery and just before her February 12, 1953 return to the United States from Denmark.

It centers on a 26 year old professional female illusionist and shake dancer from Pittsburgh whose birth name was Charles Robert Brown but later changed it to Carlett Angianlee Brown.

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Who Was The First African-American Transwoman?

By Guest Contributor Monica, originally published at TransGriot

In 1906 Kelly Miller stated, “All great people glorify their history and look back upon their early attainments with a spiritual vision.”

Because the half century of transgender history so far has been predominately written by people who don’t share my ethnic heritage, it has only covered one facet of the story.

morejetWe know for example that Lili Elbe was the first person to undergo gender transition in the 1930’s, that Christine Jorgensen in 1953 was the first post-war one that garnered huge media attention, and about the exploits of other transwomen from Coccinelle to Renee Richards to Dana International.

But it’s only in the last few years that the stories of pioneering non-white transpeople have been coming to the forefront. Fortunately, some of those stories were recorded in the pages of our iconic magazines JET, EBONY and Sepia. Thanks to the Johnson Publishing Company agreement with Google that resulted in JET and EBONY being digitized and placed online in their book search feature to peruse, some of those stories are now coming to light.

As a transperson of African descent who comes from a family of historians, I want to know and revel in my history. Just as I’m keenly aware of the varied historical accomplishments of my people, I want to know the same things about Black transpeople as well.

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The Jeffersons’ Transgender Episode

By Guest Contributor Monica, originally published at TransGriot

The episode entitled ‘Just A Friend’ from the fourth season of ‘The Jeffersons’ was groundbreaking in many respects. It was the first time that an African descended transwoman character was shown on TV who didn’t fit the stereotypes we all know and loathe.

It was also broadcast in 1977.

While I didn’t care for the part where George tried to pass off Leroy as Edie, for the most part the episode is on point. You also have to remember at the time ‘The Jeffersons’ was a Top 10 rated show that many African-American homes watched.

So if they weren’t aware of the trans issue affecting African descended people, they were after that broadcast.