I own that ‘Supermodel’ CD and used to once upon a time like RuPaul, but excuse me if I and other transpeople aren’t jumping with joy over the coronation of Ru in that Tracey Ross article as some sort of 21st century gender warrior or trans expert.
It really pisses us Black trans women off that you give RuPaul Andre Charles (and Tyler Perry dressed as Madea) more love and respect than you do the average Black transwoman struggling to live their lives and interact with the Black cis and SGL communities without major drama.
RuPaul is a Black gay man, not a transperson, and the trans community is beyond sick and tired of being sick and tired of him being elevated by cis and gay people to some nebulous ‘trans expert’ level..
As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I became a trans activist in 1998 was because of a Transgender Tapestry magazine article in the 90’s that ignorantly considered RuPaul and Dennis Rodman as Black transwomen juxtaposed against other accomplished white trans people despite both Ru and Dennis Rodman emphatically saying they weren’t trans and didn’t want to transition.
It was the epiphany that made me realize just how invisible Black transwomen were in the trans human rights movement and gave me the impetus to get involved and change that dynamic.
As a trans woman, there’s rarely a time when I’ve been able to applaud the portrayal or someone’s commentary on a woman like myself in mainstream media. As a fan of many shows, entertainers and writers who’ve belittled “my people,” I have a bittersweet relationship with what I consume. If I wrote off every famous person or show that offended me, I would have nothing to watch. And for some this is an effortless protest. For me, it is not. That’s why I’m a critical fan.
There are many things that I choose not to offer my commentary on because I just want it to go away and I don’t want to be bombarded by the stans who will surely say that I am “too sensitive,” that it was “just a joke,” that “tranny” is not a slur because “my friend’s cousin is a transgender and she uses it all the time.”
Being a critical fan means that you love a famous human being, knowing fully well they are flawed and can make mistakes due to their privilege-blindness or outright ignorance (whether knowingly or unknowingly practicing misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, racism, etc.). When they f*ck up, it is your duty as a critical fan to make them better, call them out and educate them. Your job is not to create excuses and adamantly defend their mistakes because they are so fierce in your eyes.
I know Banks will not be the last famous person to say something foul and Hilton will not be the last person to receive it. What I know for sure though is that we will not heal until we learn to love ourselves, embrace each other’s differences and push one another to be better, especially when we –- the famous ones and the ones covering and following the famous ones — make mistakes.
CeCe McDonald, a black trans woman, has been facing 2nd degree murder charges since being attacked last summer by a group of white adults.
CeCe and several friends, all black, were walking to the grocery store on June 5th, 2011 when white adults standing in the patio area of a South Minneapolis bar started screaming racist and transphobic slurs at the youth. CeCe, who is only 23 years old, approached the group and replied that she and her friends would not tolerate hate speech. In response, one of the white women said “I’ll take you bitches on” and smashed her glass into CeCe’s face. The broken glass sliced all the way through CeCe’s cheek. A fight ensued between the adults and the young people after this initial attack and one of the attackers, Dean Schmitz, was fatally stabbed.
As if it were not sufficiently tragic that a group of young people were subjected to such severe violence and that Dean Schmitz lost his life, police arriving at the scene arrested CeCe, denied her adequate medical treatment, interrogated her for hours, and placed her in solitary confinement. In the aftermath of being attacked, she was not treated with care, but launched into another nightmare. The only person arrested that night, she has since been charged with two counts of 2nd degree murder. Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman has the power to drop these charges, a choice he made in multiple other clear instances of self-defense this year, but he has not yet done so.
CeCe’s story is a portrait of the United States Criminal Justice System. Her story is what is meant when we are told that transgender people, especially transgender women of color, experience disproportionate rates of police harassment, profiling, and abuse. She is living one of the stories rolled into statistics like: trans people are ten to fifteen times more likely to be incarcerated than cisgender (not transgender) people, or nearly half of African American transgender people have spent time in jail or prison.
These statistics are the result of the all of the ways that transgender people, especially transgender people of color, are denied access to the resources and opportunities that we need to live healthy lives free of violence, discrimination, and oppression. Transgender people consistently experience high levels of harassment in school, extreme levels of unemployment due to discrimination and lack of education, denial of competent medical care, inability to change identification documents, and disproportionate violence and harassment. Nevertheless, for generations transgender people, especially transgender women of color, have been at the forefront of movements against police brutality, white supremacy, economic injustice, and for queer liberation and gender self-determination.
Karnythia of the Angry Black Woman blog had an interesting post I ran across entitled How To Write About Black Women in which she slammed all the tropes, memes and blanket statements aimed at Black women when others outside our community write about us.
One group she didn’t mention is Black trans women, and here’s where I was inspired to pick up the baton and happily run with it where Karnythia left off.
(Moni cracks knuckles)
Let’s get started with this post, shall we?
Only acknowledge the existence of Black transwomen when we are murdered or the victim of a crime, salaciously involved in some scandal or news story you wish to highlight, during the November 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance, you wish to pump up your Nielsen ratings during sweeps week or you wish to use us to insult Black cis women you hate.
Ignore the African descended trans activists who have toiled for decades to represent our community or have eloquently written about those issues for years because only white transwomen do that. Don’t bother quoting Black transwomen on issues of importance to the rainbow community at large, write positive stories about them speaking on trans issues or believe there are engaged Black transfeminine leaders involved in fighting for the human rights of their community and others. .
Use a sellout Black gay male drag queen, white trans activists at inside the beltway Gay, Inc organizations or local rainbow community orgs to speak as ‘experts’ on Black trans lives.
Violate the AP Stylebook guidelines on covering transgender people by misgendering Black transwomen at every opportunity. When known, mention their old male names even if it isn’t germane to the story in order to other them and reinforce the point they weren’t originally born female.
If you’re a cis female or radical feminist do all of the above, flaunt your ability to menstruate, birth them babies and add misogynist to your list of charges. If you’re a white transsexual separatist, obsess about surgical status in addition to doing all of the above.