I periodically read about the murders of transgender women. These transwomen are usually, black, young and so often their crimes go unsolved. It probably sounds incredibly morbid and it is on some levels. But it’s also for me a way to stay attuned with the realities that face my community. I don’t know about other girls but I am an introvert and as of writing I do not have transwoman friends. I wouldn’t say this is purposeful as much as it is a combination of things including my own hang ups and my own traumas. So often, when transwomen and in particular Black transwomen are discussed it is on some traumatic shit . Either a death or being beaten or having a viral moment that may pique conversation for less than two minutes then forgotten. It is truly a miracle that any of us Black transwomen survive for as long as we do with the myriad of forces against us. I live with the expectation of violence because I know that savagery prevails at an intensity that just “being nice” and ” thinking nice pure things” will not assuage. I often wish that our narratives and indeed our lives weren’t so tragic. But we are a result of so many systems and so much cultural dogma that makes it too easy for us to be overrepresented in the morgues, in jails or just plain out our fucking mind. It gets so that in my case I go through the world very much avoiding people , a lot of them. Small talk has become no talk. I smile so hard till my cheeks hurt. And I often look away. It flies contrary to popular demand to always be engaging and approachable. I aspire for anonymity . I’ve found it too easy for people to under the guise of being friendly devolve and reveal their ignorance. It’s annoying to hear shit like” I’m a real woman”, or the ones who act progressive in your face but as soon as you’re out of earshot mis-gender and misname you.
There’s this edict for oppressed minorities to educate the majority, to assimilate, emulate and perform in ways that make the majority comfortable. There’s this edict in our society to never be angry, to look at random celebrities of your tribe who make it as proof of “making it” as a choice for you. I am supposed to in the name of survival look at the majority and find my way within it. And I guess with me in particular I am over alot of norms. I am over twice as good to get half as much. I am over transwomen denied their womanhood and personhood. I am over the incessant policing and punishing of Black bodies by everyone including Black people. I am over darkness being bad. And fatness being bad. And just having a high school diploma meaning you will never make more than minimum wage. I am over the wars waged on people who look like me. And what bothers me so much as well is what I’ve felt to be a sleepiness amongst the people and an upholding of status quo. Nothing fucking changes despite the entry of us few who do get that white picket life.
The reading of the murders of my sisters allows me a gratitude for own life but also it serves as a grating reminder for the many threats on my life as well. It reminds me that I too can be an article, a hash tag, a subject of an article written by an unconcerned writer who will list my birth name, who will add to my erasure by refusing me the dignity to not insult me. It makes me remember to read men in particular and read communities and people as well. Danger is always lurking and Black transwomen have not been let up as a favorite target of misplaced rage and chronic ignorance.
STAR network’s P-Valley has a forever fan. From being a Black show, for being a queer show, for being for women, for being set in the dirty South and for being so damn sexy and funny. It was truly a pleasure watching that first season. I wouldn’t think a show that off surface would be about strippers could get so deep, no offense to these talented, athletic beautiful women. I’ll admit at first glance of Uncle Clifford, I worried about her depiction. Those of us who operate outside a strict binary male/ female, straight/gay are saturated with this imagery of us as caricatures, as buffoons , as ones who make others laugh. And indeed on some respects Uncle Clifford does make one laugh but often not at her but the world around her and the hypocrisy and hysteria that grips not only the deep fried South but the rest of the United States as well. That said because Uncle Clifford is such a study , I want to focus on her relationship with closeted upcoming rapper Lil Murda.
There have been very few television, movie , books or media period that was able to conjure a relatedness in myself and in particular my Blackness, my trans ness and love. Particularly love between two black people and love between two black Queer people. I use Queer as an encompassing term for people on the LGBT spectrum. The storyline of this hidden love hit me with both excitement, interest and familiarity. Uncle Clifford and Lil Murda is not just fiction and entertainment. It represents a reality that has been experienced by many if not most Black transwomen, black gay men and Black gender non conforming folks. This hidden love that we are not permitted to share. Our love for straight men who happen to love us /lust us as well. Can’t give em that equal love cause I think for many of these men it is just lust, it is as I quote from an ex,” just a kink”. P’ Valley’s depiction of this relationship was treated not as a shock value or one rooted in sex. But a genuine relationship , one where you saw tenderness and connection from both of them. It’s in fact Lil’ Murda who foolishly suggests going out in public. And Clifford with the seasoned pain and knowledge of the world being what it is, remind him why that’s impossible. It made me again reflect on my own life but also the nugget of race.
In 2021 ,LGBT representation abounds on media . And yet, I write this admitting my ignorance cause I don’t always keep up with the newest shows, there has become in many of the representations I’ve seen a sort of stock depiction. And usually when there is someone who is Black and Queer ,their love interest is someone white or other. But usually white. By contrast, I have seen way less depictions of say two Black men or a Black man and Black transwoman/ non binary character. And not to leave out Lesbian depictions but I am almost sure that interracial lens remains. I am not anti interracial but I do have an issue with it’s saturation in the media almost to the exclusion of same race couples. Again another post. When I saw Clifford and Murda and reflected on the myriad of realities probably present in that relationship , I was also able to predict a bad ending. The hyper heterosexuality and incessant conformity of image in their small mostly Black southern town, a romance for two Queers from across the tracks, one pursuing his artistic value as a rapper and possibly hustling in the streets and Uncle Clifford who by a certain segment would be thought of as that fag or tranny who owns our local strip joint, the imagination runs wild about where these two can end up. But it’s not happy and healthy with a double wide and a dog.
Anyway shout out to P Valley. I’m definitely waiting for the second season. There are few shows that feel so realistic and explore real shit. Definitely not Black real shit and assuredly not queer Black shit.
Born in this land tis of thee, one is saturated from inception with values of material and accomplishment. Endowed with this edict to conquer, to fatten, to better one’s self. It is the propaganda that informs this country as the place all want to come to, the land where anything and everything is possible. A land of plenty , a stock dream of wealth obtainment and prestige. A bunch of bullshit. I’m not sure where I’m going with all this except to say at times it just feels like a rigged game. One built on following a certain set of rules and standards, for having certain qualities and making it to the other side, a much more prosperous and comfortable side. By its’ construct though I’d venture to say most Black people are left out of this fabulous equation that equals the American dream. A lot of us won’t escape the generational deficits that prevent access to that other side. A lot of us don’t follow enough of the constructs and do what we’re “supposed” to do to get us to the other side. A lot of us are just too damn Black to get there. And what I mean by that is that amongst the melanin enriched, success in this United States does not come without acquiescence to white ways and whiteness itself whether by emulation or proximity in tone, or literal subjugation in the name of a dollar. Wealth saturates the Black mind as the only route to obtain as close to whiteness also known as rightness as we can. The differences between those of us who have and those who don’t are profound true. And we bask in our people’s success. Those who look like us who make it. It inspires hope that we too can share in these capitalistic spoils, fuels a drive to get there and finally feel almost as good as them. I don’t knock grinding or being successful. I don’t knock using them lemons or even the repeating of success formulas to those who want to make it. But I do question the prominence of ideologies that promote the dollar over everything else and how it saturates personhood to the point of willing to do anything to get it and have it. I hate the unspoken sort of truism in American culture that tells us without material that we ain’t nothing. I hate that in writing this I wonder about the repercussions of talking about systems and norms that exist as God -like in this society. Fear of losing access to crumbs keeps the discontented quiet and condoning. American Inheritance.
I think that I’m amongst those many who have made it to be 30 years old and have no idea what they want to do with their life. A talk with someone the other day about that very subject sent me to tears. Why? Why has it been so challenging to answer this question? The very unpractical part of me has always said I just want to be. Equipped of course with all the material trappings of western life. But it wouldn’t have to be million dollar ,mansion in Beverly Hills. Just free to live without the constraints of participating in this hyper manic, capitalistic society that thinks it’s a mark of merit to work till you’re old and sick and tired and over it and given a Social security check and told to live out your golden years. That’s if you get there. And in my case, I think that’s a big part of what makes thinking about life and what I’m doing and goals so fucking taxing.
There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think about what it means to be Black and to be a transgender woman in America. It’s an identity that would have to be amongst the most taboo of taboo. It’s an identity forged with an edict to constantly resist and fight against so many forces. It’s an identity we as a society associate with comedy, of bathroom anxieties, of boogeymen in dresses, of falling prey to white sponsored ideologies, of abandonment of necessary gender norms. I am at once invisible and highly visible and I by virtue of survival add to my erasure as well. I know few girls who would wear a shirt saying “I’m trans and proud”. Often our bodies ,our faces, our refusal and inability to blend and to conform are enough. But gasp, we are just regular people as well. Contrary to the popular demands and views espoused by the masses.
I don’t record the statistics because there are too many I have to remember. But I do know that it was stated that the average life expectancy for Black transwomen is like 35-37. So by average standards, my days are numbered as a 30 year old Black transwoman. I do know that discrimination in housing, employment, education and in public settings are all notoriously high . The prevalence of violence and the all too easy to seek relief of drug culture further adds to our mortality not to mention the dire health statistics and our overrepresentation in the global sex market only fuels a keg of forces designed to take many of us out. I don’t write this to be morbid and for my fellow trans sisters reading this I’m not trying to put more negative propaganda out there. I’m just saying my being is sometimes such a force that just imagining the future hurts.
I’m not a bright sunny side up blue skies, kinda chick. While life and people can be beautiful , it by virtue of its’ functioning has to be all kinds of ugly. So yes I am here at 30 ,still trying to figure it out and even acknowledging that this may be where I’m supposed to be. The nice, neat, little plans of having life figured out with the white picket fences and marriage and two kids and a dog and a career and all those trappings of American life were never intended for me and my kind. And the pressure to get away from those definitions of a happy life will be my ultimate struggle.
I’m Thelma, a Black transwoman living in the NYC metro area. This blog site is not for English majors, transphobes, anti Blackness, anti fatness, anti mental illness. No preachers, no haters, no perfection seekers. I am speaking as myself for myself and for no other reason than voices like mine are scarcely heard. So again if you can get with that please indulge in my randomness.