The speech I’m delivering at the Queer Black History Month event in San Diego.
To the leadership of the Gender Phluid Collective, Angelle Maua, my trans siblings, allies, friends and honored guests
Thank you for the invitation to address you at this Queer Black History event. It was a well timed one as well. seeing that my hometown is being hit with freezing temps while I’m basking in the warmth of your love and these heavenly temperatures.
As we all know, this is Black History Month. As the child and godchild of historians, every month on the calendar is Black History Month, and I celebrate the ongoing story being written for and about a mighty people.
Those mighty Black people also include those of us who are also members of the trans, gender non conforming and same gender loving communities as well.
Far too often we are seen as ‘too Black’ for the TBLGQ plus community and ‘not Black enough’ for the cis hetero Black one. The bottom line is that we exist, and aren’t going away anytime soon. .
That is also true of those of us who proudly and unapologetically claim our trans and gender non conforming status. We will not be erased from society, or have our blood ties to the African American community and the African Diaspora denied or debated.
Black trans people are Black people. We have been here as long as modern humans have walked this planet and we will fight with every fiber of our beings any attempt to marginalize and erase us from our shared Black history.
In 1822 Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm, the founders of the abolitionist newspaper, Freedom’s Journal said, “We wish to plead our own case. For too long others have spoken about us, but our virtues go unnoticed’
While they were talking about African Americans in general, their words could easily apply to the queer Black community of the 21st Century.
When it comes to talking about the virtues of Black trans people, our virtues are willfully ignored while a far too long list of people inside and outside our community that includes D-list rappers, unfunny comedians, wannabe Black lesbian TERF’s, kneegrow conservafool pundits and assorted ignorati gleefully attack and denigrate us.
That crap needs to stop.
That’s a major reason why we need to be talking about the amazing things we have done and are doing in 21st Century America and the world as Black trans people. It’s why our history matters.
It’s why this event has been organized and my unapologetically Black trans self is proudly standing before you today.
Gender variant behavior has been part of African culture going back to ancient Egypt. There are still peoples on the African continent that have third gender categories. In the Yoruba language, there is no specific word for male or female.
So spare me that fake news that being trans or queer is ‘unAfrican’ Many of our gender nonconforming ancestors got that same unwanted free boat ride to the Western Hemisphere like everyone else who survived the Middle Passage here..
It’s time to plead our case. What case you ask? Our case that we are undeniably part of the Black community. And what an amazing one it is that I get to argue in front of you today.
Our case includes people like Mary Jones, who transitioned at a New Orleans brothel, made her way to New York City, and found herself in the middle of an 1836 trial covered in the New York Times.
It includes people like Frances Thompson, who along with her cisgender Black roommate was sexually assaulted during the 1866 Memphis riots, and told her story to the US Congressional committee documenting what happened.
It includes people like Lucy Hicks Anderson, who just up the road from here in Ventura California became the first known marriage equality case in 1945.
It includes the story of Wilmer Broadnax, a trans masculine person who was a major gospel singer from the 40s to the 70’s.
It’s early Black trans masculine leaders like Marcelle Cook Daniels and Alexander John Goodrum who helped shape the direction of the modern trans rights movement. .
Goodrum is responsible for helping pass the trans inclusive Tucson, AZ non discrimination ordinance in 1999.
There’s Althea Garrison, who in 1990 became the first trans persons elected to a state legislature when she accomplished that feat in Massachusetts. And of course, Marsha P Johnson, Miss Major, Kylar Broadus, and some five time nominated GLAAD award winning blogger.
It’s also important to hear the stories of our trans elders like Tracie Jada O’Brien who can tell us what it was like to transition back in the day and is still serving our community right now.
The father of the study of Black History, Carter G. Woodson, said that those who have no record of what their forebears accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.
Black History isn’t just a robotic recitation of names of people and dates of events. There are people right now who are making Black history like Minneapolis city Councilmembers Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham. It’s Aria Said putting together the Compton Trans Historical District in San Francisco. It’s Marisa Richmond blazing leadership trails in the Democratic Party upper echelon leadership ranks while teaching history herself at the collegiate level.
It’s Janet Mock, Angelica Ross and the ladies of POSE blazing trails in Hollywood and telling our stories on the small and silver screens. It’s Jessica Zyrie sashaying down catwalks during New York Fashion Week. It’s Jazelle Barbie Royale becoming last year the first Black winner of the Miss International Queen trans pageant in Thailand.
It’s our Black trans men from Carter Brown to Louis Mitchell to Rev. Lawrence Richardson not only blazing trails, but also beginning those conversations with cis masculine men about what Black masculinity looks like, how it can evolve into a more positive direction, and role modeling it..
We also can’t forget our trans younglings like Trinity Neal and Zaya Wade, who represent our next generation of trans people. It is them and trans and gender non conforming kids yet unborn who we do this work for to make our communities and world better
What telling our history accomplishes is several critical missions. It establishes the irrefutable fact that we have and always will continue to exist. It points out that not matter how much you hate on us, we remain an undeniable part of the Black community. It points out that we are doing our part to contribute our talents to make the Black community and all the communities we intersect and interact with better.
It also gives our trans kids, in a world irrationally hostile to their existence, possibility models they can be proud of and builds up their self esteem. Telling our stories also allows us to assert that we are more than just the ‘tragic transsexuals’ narrative the media consistently tries to paint us with.
So I’m saying it loud, I’m unapologetically, Black trans and proud of it. I not only am a history maker, so are you. I have a history as a Black trans person I am exceedingly proud of.
And that is why our history is Black history.