Seven years ago, shortly after moving to San Francisco, I was having a conversation with a young[, preop FTM (female-to-male)] man about social responsibility as an artist; relative to one’s being queer and out. He thought it’s very important to be out for others who do not have the capacity to be so; to enable them to have positive models. Accordingly, he felt that is was my duty to be open about who I am. I strongly, no, adamantly disagreed. “That’s my business!”, I told him. “I’m not …obligated to anyone to be out. Besides, there are a lot of others who will take that step.” “You’re wrong”, he retorted. “They’re too afraid and, as a transperson, there’s nobody like you who can stand up and communicate to the Black community.” Neither of us budged from our positions on that matter.
I was living in stealth when we had that conversation and I felt (and continue to feel) that I deserve to be as closeted as I wanna be in order for me to not have to deal with rejection and heat from the world about my being a transwoman. It indescribably hurts to develop heartfelt relationships with people who see me and get to know me without the transsexual label [and all its relative terms], to then have them learn of that aspect of my being and to instantly feel their flow of Love to me shift to fear and rejection, to see the look in their eyes turn from genuine warmth and appreciation to genuine loathing, scorn and, sometimes malice – sunshine to darkness, frequently within 2-3 seconds, just because of that single thing. Can you imagine that?? Can you imagine what it’s like to be the recipient of that reaction?? If you can, even remotely, then understand, I have experienced that too frequently to even try to count. And I’m fortunate; my mama and daddy gave me great DNA and I can just blend in, with no prob. If I don’t want people to know I’m transsexual, all I need to do is not disclose that info. In my business, it’s not considered as good PR. In fact, historically (and in my personal experience), in BIG show business, being openly transgender typically has had an overwhelmingly detrimental effect on one’s career; and I think BIG. So, why change my personal and quite comfortable status quo to out myself?
Well, the initial shift began after my friend and I had that conversation, which inspired me to join the Transcendence Gospel Choir, resulting in my being publicly out around the country as we toured, and around the world as a result of press and films about us. But, other than my original inspirational music and the Choir, I separated my sacred music life and profile from that of my secular music, (and I’m primarily a secular musician). From the Choir and other creative activities here in the City, many people in the local queer community knew of my being a transperson, but otherwise, it wasn’t generally known. A couple of years ago, speaking as one of my elders, a friend of my mother’s told me, “People have to get to know you to accept you. For them to know you, they have to see you and spend time with you.” He was speaking of a specific community; naturally, I extrapolated his comment to include the entire galaxy, and I pondered what he’d said. For awhile.
Eventually, (and somewhat recently), I began coming across articles by journalists addressing the dirth of black transgender public figures. The black community’s rejection of us is insidious; it inspires us to hide out, to lay lowwwww. ~ (Particularly, the backstabbing of the Black church. Church goin’ folks will just lo-o-o-o-ove all over you; hugs, blessings, smiles, positive words, invitations, introductions, the whole shebang – until they discover you’re gay, lesbian and, God forbid, “don’t go there”, a transgender person. Then, it’s ice, venom, curses and steel; and that’s the real deal, from the pulpit and the pantry. For most black people in America, church is important and that’s typical Black church love towards transgender people; or, rather the denial of it. Faced with a life impairing and threatening denial, most black transgender persons either leave the church or keep quiet and lay lowwwww. That double denial, that of love and that of positive public role models results in scores of black, transgender youth suicides every year. There, but for the grace of God, went I. Transgender people tend to be gifted and highly intelligent people; those kids take unusual degrees of talent, skill and capacity with them, lessening the entire world. (It will continue until some of us have the courage to just be real about who we are, to help our own community displace its collective negative baggage about transgenderism – which is completely accommodated by the words of Jesus Christ Himself, Matt. 19: 11, 12, though [as He Himself said] not everybody can accept it. – I’m glad He loved us enough to directly speak up for us!!) ~ A few days ago, I received an email from a fan with link to a blog posting about transgender persons being completely left out of BET’s “Who’s Who In Black GLBT America”.. When I read it online, it was linked to an article about the sorrowful lack of positive, black transgender roles models, period. I decided to spend some time doing my own research into fellow, out, black transwomen musicians. After well over two hours, I could only find 5; all female, one singer, four singer/songwriters, the latter set all on Myspace, myself included, two of us here in the San Francisco Bay Area, three in CA. (Surely, there are more, but where are they?? ?? ??)
My mother’s friend was correct. Years earlier, my young friend was correct. We’re not seen, so we’re not known, so we’re not accepted and the hundreds of black kids out there who were born like us are not given the certainty that it’s just ok to be themselves, as we are, and create, or teach, or design buildings, or lead companies or parent, or whatever we do, as we do. Being out, as I am now, was a very difficult choice; like most people do with difficult choices, I finally made it when the cost of maintaining stealth became greater than the value, in the big picture. For me to have to dig and only find 3 other genuine expressions of professional, black, transgender musical talent in addition to my was an appalling slap in the face. Minimal presence equals minimal support; in evidence, community failure – thus far, even the black, creative LGBT community has failed to acknowledge us. If we’re not even acknowledged by our own community, how can the world EVER get to the point of being able to do so? (About 4 years ago, the fortune in my fortune cookie said something like, “People are looking for you. They just don’t know where to find you.”) At some point, as the author of the blog wrote, we need to start makin’ a noise, tooting our own horn as out, creative transwomen in order to let people know we’re here and where we are, so they can hear us. Our community may deny us, be we’ll not deny ourselves, or others the blessings that come from knowing us.
I confess, my initial choice to be out was primarily motivated by my not wanting to get post relationship rejection in my business dealings any more. That disclosure-rejection paradigm in business, after having spent perhaps years developing and tuning good relationships, is career devastating; (my career once evidenced that.) My attitude was, “If people are going to reject me, I’d rather have them do so before them getting into relationship with me and wasting precious time and my life force.” Now, as it was with the Choir, my choice is motivated by Love. Years ago, I asked God why He created transgender persons. His answer was, “To increase your families’ capacity to Love.” That being said, I joined the Choir. That being said, I’m an out transgender entertainer in order to increase my community’s capacity to Love and, therefore, my country’s and, therefore, the world’s. If my being out makes it possible for one little boy or girl, perceived now as a girl or boy respectively, to be loved by their family enough to be supported, [to get the therapy and evaluation and confirmation necessary for them] to have an optimally healthy transition, while also being enabled and even empowered to explore expressing their talents and gifts as the genuine persons they are (regardless of their age), my following the wise counsel of good friends will make my choice to be so a very worthwhile decision. Certainly, it assures me that those who do decide they want to partner with me to capitalize on my talents and resources are mostly likely going to be in my corner for a long ride, with no ejection seat. Either way, “it’s not easy being green”, but Love is furthered. Now, that being said, let me entertain you! 😀
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Anyone who has links to web sites of other black, transgender singer/songwriters, MtF or FtM, feel free to post them in the comments below. I’d like that.
Written by Alyras
Copyright by de Cygne. All rights reserved.