Transgender Introspective: The “ACT” In Activism

“Altogether, seven trans women of color have been murdered so far in 2017.”

Honestly, this is appalling to me. Not because of the number, but because for as few rights and privileges that transgender persons are barred from by cis people, the deaths of these women are being treated with similar lack of regard as any other ordinary cisgender person. This is a real problem that should be given much more attention that it has received.

…Ha! Easy for me to say.

“When we die, folks barely flinch. And that’s if a trans person is lucky enough to make the news and not be misgendered by the media.”

Lately, I think I am one of those people who don’t flinch.

My reason for penning this introspective is grounded in a personal challenging of how I’ve approached speaking out on behalf of the transgender community at large. As open as I have been about my identity, it’s a wonder how I am still alive. However, for me to even think this way, despite my “slacktivism” behind the computer, is, in many ways, belittling of those on the front lines. On the other hand, nearly all of these murders were not of activists, but every day girls like me just living proudly. Yes, these deaths have occurred predominately in the South, but it would be foolish to believe that the inclination to kill a transgender woman of color only exists in that area.

When I first came out to my mother and sister in 2014, my sister made it clear that she was very concerned about my safety. I reassured her that I was taking measures to ensure I’d be safe, but refused to life my life quietly. Though it has only been 2 1/2 years since then (and just about 3 years since I began HRT), the thought of my life being in danger has since left my mind despite it not being a huge concern for me in the first place. Back then, I had not been exposed to statistics of trans deaths I now am aware of. Yet, even with that awareness, I continue living my life like any other woman would. Cis or trans, no one expects to die while engaging with society, yet I have to ask myself “why am I not afraid that I could end up like one of those pretty girls”?

A broadened perspective of danger and homicide is something I’ve admittedly lacked, and perhaps, ignored more than I’d like to admit.

The article talks a lot about “safe spaces”, the “bathroom bill”, and navigating the legal & health challenges that many trans women of color encounter. The latter is something I can surely attest to, despite having periods where income was good & services were within reach. However, the other two matters have eluded me, save one experience I had at a rave before I had fully committed to who I truly am. Have I just been lucky? Am I just blessed with good facial genes and a relatively petite frame?

Hard to say, but I feel horrible knowing that I’ve avoided making this more personal. That somehow, I’ve circumvented the issues of safely using the bathroom to the point of feeling 100% comfortable doing my own makeup next to another woman. That I feel safe enough to chat with a man on the bus after another man had gotten up so I could sit.

However, what if I couldn’t shave my face? What if I couldn’t afford makeup? These are the hard questions that terrify women like me who are pseudo-stealth, or have fully reinvented themselves in secret. However, as is shown by the photos of those murdered black women, we are dying regardless of how attractive we are and what resources are available to us. And those resources (read: income, housing, health care, legal protections, etc.) are what activists and advocates are still fighting to make readily available to women like me.

Death doesn’t get personal for most people until it happens to someone they care about, or they, themselves, are already dead. One would think that death would make this personal for the LGBTQ community, but apparently it takes a ThinkProgress article for even me to realize how little attention these deaths really are getting from the community, let alone media outlets. Women being murdered for no reason other than being alive needs to be talked about more by those of us who are directly at risk. That includes me. Though I am in no way an “activist”, I do believe that despite my narrative being absent of the basic, societal hardships trans women of all races face, though undeniably skewed towards women of color, me simply living transparently as an ambitious, talented [trans] woman of color as a outlet for education and awareness does support the notion that our lives should matter.

Except that’s the meager extent of what I do.

“How can trans folks expect to be respected and valued when they’re dead, when we are not even humanized and granted such courtesies when we are alive?

I’m still questioning if simply passively pursuing my goals, sharing my story, and educating others as an outspoken black transwoman is enough. Lately, I don’t think it is.

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Saving myself for no one

The concept of sexual intimacy is not lost on you or me. However, somewhere along the line – growing up in a Christian household, trying to be a good, heterosexual boyfriend to the few girls who gave me a chance, my admittance of being of an agnostic, free-thinking perspective, and embracing my identity as a pansexual transwoman – I lost sight of what I should and should not deserve. Rather, I never had much of a chance to really explore the idea of engaging in sexual intimacy. For specific reasons, I just accepted that my time had not come.

My long-standing belief has been that one should reserve sexual intimacy for the person they have committed themselves to in a monogamous, romantic relationship. I have since realized that this line of thinking has been the last bastion of traditional, Christian-centric thought that had somehow survived through everything that had drastically shifted in my lifestyle. The idea had been deeply engrained into me, despite being “born male”, and the shame of contradicting this thinking loomed near whenever temptation arose. My parents being religious & fairly traditional led me to put my own romanticized take on it, believing that if I remained patient & virtuous, one day I would be able to entrust my body to the person I believed was “the one.”

I recently read a novel that turned me on (pun intended) to the very common practice of two characters meeting one another. After their initial meeting, both of them recognized their instinctual attraction to one another over time with each chance interaction feeding the heat between them. Eventually, one makes a move and the other is equally overcome with ferocious passion. For some reason, the timing in which I was exposed to that story – right around when I turned thirty – caused me to have an alternative perspective. Prior to turning thirty, I would have asked “who could possibly jump into bed with someone who clearly had no romantic intentions to remain faithful to them”? However, in the face of physical aging, sparse intimacy over my lifetime, and the high level of self-love I had cultivated as the woman I was born to be, what I read now appeared almost natural and sensible as my former mindset seemed almost something an insane, brainwashed prude would do.

#1: I can be shallow as fuck about looks.

#2: I am light-years from being a “prude”.

“Turning 30” has been a recurring theme in this blog as of late and sexual expression is not excluded from it. As I often do, I wondered why only I had to be the one sexually frustrated, swearing off intimacy just because “the one” hadn’t come along. I could count on one hand how many times I had believed I would marry someone. This romanticized notion of keeping myself “pure” for “my first time” when I was already perverted, unabashedly playful in my sexuality, and near legitimately considered a succubus among my close friends rapidly became outdated through rigorous self-assessment.

Being met with my cold logic quickly turned to frustration. I was three weeks into being 30 and had yet to experience unrestrained intimacy followed by sharing a bed with my partner. Like an ignorant, virgin teenager, I was still wondering how people [read: my friends] have sex and if there were any steps to follow for a successful romp. And then I was smacked in the face with the truth: This was all my own doing. I repeatedly declined the idea simply because no romantic commitment would follow when there were multiple instances where sex likely would have been welcomed.

Another hard truth washed over me: The combination of my past upbringing and now my present life as a transwoman had somehow made me believe by default I should never feel safe experiencing sexual intimacy other than with someone who had confessed their love for me. An amalgamation of anger and sadness careened through my body. There had to be a way to rewrite this automated preset equation that I had left unchecked in the midst of my gender transition.

I want to be a good woman.

Only sluts sleep around.

How do you take love out of sex? I’m so clingy. I’d fall in love with them and get hurt.

Will I ever be loved?

But…

…why I should starve myself.

I’m desirable. Beautiful. Lovable.

If sex with someone I trust could make sense…

Experiencing intimacy with someone I feel comfortable with isn’t shameful.

Yes, I want to be loved. Sex doesn’t equal love. It never has.

I won’t be young forever. Live your life. 

Fuck who you want.

So I did.

What Freedom Looks Like

So much of my life has changed since I left my mother’s nest. As likely eluded to in past posts, my departure was not by choice, but rather out of my mother’s desperation to have her freedom. The same freedom I had strived for nine years of my post-college life to give to her. The same freedom that all of my well-laid plans failed to accomplish.

The strange thing is how in just three months, I feel as though I’ve experienced more than I had in those long nine years leading up to turning thirty in just the past three months. Most likely, that feeling can be attributed to the majority of my 20s being rife with gender dysphoria, financial and emotional struggles, my rise and fall from grace within corporate America, and a daily bath in self-loathing. My path to self-discovery began at age 26, self-acceptance at age 27, public admittance at age 28, and mental maturation into the self-confident, charismatic woman that once only existed as a transient existence within this blog. Regardless of the insanely arduous path that has led me to this point, accepting my mother’s [legal] ordinance to leave and becoming self-accountable in every possible way has radically broadened my personal ideologies & goal-setting standards.

In layman’s terms: I have rapidly cultivated a much sharper understanding of what I want and believe I deserve out of this life.

Now, a month and a half into this new chapter of my 30s, I walk taller, trust more, set smarter goals, and indulge in ways I would not have done before. My identity has virtually been carved in stone & no one dares to question the legitimacy of my womanhood. In the last few months, men have begun making passes at me when I’m only wearing basic problem area cover-up on my chin. Quite honestly, this truth continues to baffle me.

As I type this entry on my phone while washing clothes on my own in my local laundromat for the first time, more and more do I feel as though I am slowly grasping the life – what it’s really like to be “busy” – that my mother led for so many years. I was able to find a place to live with a male roommate who I discovered is a closet geek. I’ve taken the next step in transitioning from a 7-day work week split between two part-time jobs to taking the plunge with one relatively flexible, full-time position with a relatively new company franchise that welcomes my creativity & business acumen. This new position now opens up my schedule for putting more time into my voice-over work, exploring new skill sets, running needed errands, & being social with minimal sacrifice. All coming with a suitable paycheck and a healthier work-life balance.

My life as a 30-year old woman rapidly continues taking each decisive, difficult stride one goal at a time despite clawing my way up from practically nothing.  In the face of intense doubt & bloodied pride, I become accustomed to the painful crashing through each wall of uncertainty, defying any and all which dares to hold me back from reaching my destination. The legacy of my life shall echo through the ages. I will settle for nothing less.

Freedom is like a new, untrained pet given to a child. An immediately gratifying source of joy in the initial moments, the new owner holds it close only to be peed on without warning. The child quickly discovers it was all a farce as the pet requires so much more effort and attention to maintain than they could have imagined. However, if they remain diligent and train the pet well, moments of joy can still abound amidst their constant demands. Alas, the child’s perspective of pet ownership will never be the same and relies solely on their own will to either care for it or hate it.

I have chosen to care for this “pet” called freedom the best way I can, loving my self and life more than ever.