How do you deal with the social stigma of being trans in the black community? I am sure you’re hard to clock but do you ever feel discriminated against? Do you feel the aggression more from women? or scorned men who find you drop dead gorgi?
Luckily I live in NY and although this city is by NO means free of trans-hate, I can generally choose to navigate in ways that allow me to minimize the risk that I’ll have to deal with explicit stigmatizing via verbal violence or otherwise. That being said, I still have to ride the train and participate in public spaces daily. The stigma that comes from the black community hurts the most, because of the wounded attachment I have to it. I grew up in the black community, was raised by a black family, and culturally LOVE my blackness. Unfortunately, that love is returned less and less as I transition more and more. There is slowly but surely a visibility (albeit limited and surely conditional) opening up for the black lgbt community, but the last group that will ever participate in this opening up is black transfeminine folks. So much of the black community centers around masculinity as the organizing point for our collective identity, even to the degree that it trumps homophobia in its pure form. The biggest example of this to me is the acceptance of female masculinity in the black community. Masculine women, assuming the masculinity they perform is hard enough, are often more accepted, even if on the condition that it not be explicitly linked to lesbianism (although even this isn’t always true - the fact that Set it Off even exists as central reference in black culture speaks to this). With that being said, femininity is generally denigrated and reduced to a servile position in relation to masculinity. I think that the disenfranchisement (economic, political or otherwise) of the black community as a whole has been equated with emasculation, and there has been a sort of collective identity formation around the idea of the black community as being robbed of its power (power being equated with masculinity). HERE is a detailed explanation on how i feel about all of this. Now, how do i deal? Well firstly, I have found a community here in NY that, when we congregate, allows me to be black, trans, cyborg, cunt, witch, and all of the other beautiful things that make me who I am. I’ve also found a family in my house (LADOSHA!) that is largely black and queer. The stigma that I deal with from the rest of the black community is generally easier to deal with knowing that I have my queer family to remind me that I am not less black by virtue of the fact that I’m a t-gurl. There is also a good portion of the black community that, even if in silence publicly, LIIIIIVES for my rage. I have been approached by mostly black women from the building I work in, the neighborhood I live in, my hometown among other places who have confided in me that they live respect and appreciate what I serve and how I serve it. It sucks that many of these same women are silent when men decided to turn it on me in public, but even just to know that the love is there means a lot to me. As far as black men are concerned … GIRL. A lot the problems I have is actually the ‘trans-panic’ moment. Because so many black men feel entitled to the bodies of black women (see above link for my explanation of that whole dynamic), I am often cat-called, hit-on, or propositioned by black men (which is already a dangerous and unwelcome dynamic to me). When they ‘realize’ that I’m not a ‘natural’ girl, there is either an angry/aggressive response or they feel even MORE entitled to treat me like a walking rape victim, because as a trans-gurl who is not afraid of my body, the cultural assumption is that I am inherently linked with sex work or a generally willingness to be prey for men (with a partial assumption that my femininity is only validated and upheld when cis-straight men’s desires say so). My number one fear/anxiety is honestly young (14-30) black men, because there is no single population that I deal with more bullshit from on a daily basis (this is also explained in the link). As of now, I live in Bushwick, and I find that the largely Dominican, Puerto Rican and Mexican nature of the neighborhood has a cultural space for gender variance that serves as an internal balance, albeit balance against (vs pro-acceptance), to the trans-hate. The more I am myself, the more often the response is to GAG, and that’s my ultimate goal. I don’t know if I ever need, plan or even want to walk down the street one day and be invisible as trans, as its precisely my visibility that has given me strength and my beauty in tandem with my visibility that will challenge if not change the world one gag at a time.