Friday, July 11, 2014

Transgender and race, an intimate conversation on socioeconomic's

Reflecting on life as a Black Transgender Woman I experience what it means to be black, transgender and seldom understood.  The people I encounter seemingly don’t have a clue about transgender.  They seemingly barely understand race.  So I find myself in somewhat of a pickle as I have learned that to live in the midst of limited understandings and imaginations of another is definitely a mental and spiritual health concern.  Shall I live for good mental and spiritual health yet be at risk of not attaining employment and a good living because of who I am?  I ponder what this means, to make a living while compromising who I am?  I am mindful that there are a significant number of trans folks who are highly educated yet chronically unemployed.    I don’t want or need to be in that statistic yet I am beginning to ponder this Trans reality.

I walk into a store or walk down the street and encounter various looks, stares  and emotions not knowing whether it is because I am Black or Transgender, or both.   There is this irrational need to put me in a category of male or female without the slightest possibility of something different.  I wonder if this is taught, learned or just a matter of indoctrination.   That said, I have become much more intentional in my cultural engagement, to somehow introduce a new consciousness through a different vocabulary.  I find it curious that people only encounter what affirms the limitations of their mindset not wanting anything or anyone to challenge that mindset.  What I mean is that the people I come in contact with encounter difference, not out of their desire for that difference but as a means of life challenging their mindset through people like myself who live life differently necessarily challenging the limitations of their mindset.  I remember meeting a person who told me, "they do that over there. I responded they do it over here also its just in the shadows."  His look was confusing, he didn't get it.  So, I wonder, is there a mode of translation, where who we are would be interpreted and understood even if we weren't embraced.  I ponder indeed!

I also attend various conferences and experience the division between the academy, i.e. school and the social justice, theological communities.  I am with black and people of color at “activist” conference and European American at the academic conferences.   In fact I am one of the few black transgender women in the academy.   As a minister I often wonder if the black transgender woman still feel somewhat unworthy due to theological concerns and what Franz Fanon termed white skin black masks.  Is it about self acceptance? 

I find that the European American transgender women I encounter have been fortunate to attain somewhat of a corporate professional identity while her black counterpart is still in the streets, on drugs and unemployed.  She works at IBM, Apple, Google and other corporate entities.  She is making her way. I recognize that this is a reality of the European American transwoman yet not the whole narrative.  In contrast the Black transwoman, even if she is highly educated and decorated, does have those experiences; in fact she has very little resources.  You might find her in the local church, the Tenderloin or strung out on drugs but not in the corporate professional context.  Now of course this is not the whole narrative, it is but a part yet it exists.  It is a reality in the transgender community.

So, as I look for work, with two master’s degrees, a certificate in Black Church Studies, a retired veteran and ordained clergy I ponder what the future might hold for me.  Sometimes I ponder what would my life look like if I were a European transgender woman.  That said, I find that I am somewhat frustrated by the blindness of people who only see the conversation of race.  Any other identity complex is seemingly a fad, a joke, and evil, something undeserving of respect.  Conversations beyond race are a matter of European American discourse.  I ask the reader, particularly if you are black or a person of color, “Is life here in the U.S. only about race.  Is race the only sacred conversation, I call you to ponder this question. 
As I ponder my transgender life and the lifes of my sisters I am clear that identity is a conversation on socio-economic realities and in this sense all facets of identity, i.e. gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity and the people we love are a conversation on socioeconomic realities.