The Black Trans Women of San Francisco Are Beacons of Resilience.

So as the executive director of Black Trans Women Inc. I want to build community connections with other Black trans women doing powerful work around the country. This allows me to build friendships but also see what is working in other areas of the trans community. I am from the South where the research shows disparities for black trans women are exacerbated due to the racially and regionally imbalanced distribution of funding. Despite the coast being saturated with funds, the black trans organizations still get a small portion of the funding while non-black led organizations gets the lion’s share. So learning strategies and what is effective from black transwomen living on the coasts can be valuable to help reduce the harm of those disparities in the South due to the imbalance of resources.

I spent the weekend in the historically queer San Francisco, California. I was there to participate in an event organized by the Compton’s Transgender Cultural District in the legendary Tenderloin area of this bay city. Named after the first documented uprising of transgender and queer people in United States history, the Compton’s Cafeteria Riots of 1966, the district encompasses 6 blocks in the southeastern Tenderloin and crosses over Market Street to include two blocks of 6th street.Screen Shot 2020-02-11 at 9.20.45 PM

The District is dedicated to preserving a space that represents the long yet complicated history of the transgender community in this area. Although the Castro may be more popular nationally as the queer hotspot of San Francisco, the Tenderloin aka the “Gay Ghetto” pre-dates the Castro and is one of the places that has housed the black trans community for decades. Although its may have been forced to be the landing ground of poor trans folks, its erasure would be to the detriment of the historical context of a city that was once dubbed the Queer mecca of the U.S. So many queer and trans folks found refuge in this city dating from the 19th century until now. Trans legendary elders like Miss Major Griffin Gracy, Tracie Jada Obrien, Sharon Grayson, and the late Bobbie Jean Baker tipped around these parts just to name a few. Our community has shaped San Fransico’s current prevalence in the nation.  By protecting and beautifying this area in resistance to the city’s long gentrifying tactics that displaces predominantly black and brown queer bodies(like in every city around the country), the Transgender Cultural District hopes to give honor to the past generation of trans folks and hold space as a beacon of resilience for the current and future generation to see. One of the amazing founding Exe. Dir, Aria Said invited me to come to participate in a live podcast on the Michelle Meow show at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco with Oakland’s own legend, Breonna McCree a UCSF peer counseling specialist.

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At the Commonwealth Club of San Fransico

The theme of the show was Self Love. We know that most of the time transition can seem like it rooted in fixing flaws and coming up against a larger societal narrative that says we don’t deserve love once we start living in our truth. Without self-love, we can find ourselves falling prey to addiction, predatory men, self-harm, and worthlessness. So cultivating self-love and a healthy self-care routine are essential to our survival and growth. We approached the topic from an honest and candid perspective with education and lived experience that gives our expertise a depth that you can only get from black trans women who don’t come from privilege. Aria, Breonna, and I are so open about our past that coming together is a magical learning experience privately, and this recording is just a perfect representation of that magic publicly. If you would like to listen to the show here is the link.

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Aria Said, Breonna McCree, and Diamond Stylz

Friday was also National Black HIV Awareness Day in San Francisco! So was privileged to sit in on a panel with the beautiful Janelle Luster ( @janelle_tf ) of the @transgenderdistrict and other  Black queer and trans HIV prevention advocates to discuss the state of HIV/AIDS and its impact on transgender and queer communities today- and how to eradicate stigma in our communities. I was in awe of the plethora of San Francisco legends, cis and trans, in the room who laid the groundwork that helped fight HIV/AIDS back in the 80s that expanded to other parts of the country.   Screen Shot 2020-02-11 at 9.55.29 PMScreen Shot 2020-02-11 at 10.36.40 PM

After a fun-filled touristy Saturday of exploring the city and having kikis time with the girls, Sunday morning I decided to chill and meet up with Navajo activist Yuè Clehona Begay  She lives in the Los Angeles area (Chumash land) but she was in San Francisco participating in the 2020 BAAITS Two-Spirit Powwow. We ate yummy ramen and recorded a fun episode on my podcast Marsha’s Plate about Native history, her queer experiences growing up on the reservations and demystifying the black and native history during the attempt colonization.

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Yue Clehona Begay

I haven’t edited and released the episode yet but it will be released in the coming weeks so make sure you subscribe to Marsha’s Plate on any platform you use to listen to podcasts. Here is a link to the most popular platforms that we are on.

 After recording with Yue, we headed into the city. The Kween Culture Initiative invited me to one of their programs. Kween Culture Initiative is an org also helmed by Aria Said (does she and her team even have time to rest? lol). They organized and fund the Bold Beauty Workshop. This is a program in partnership with SEPHORA. The Bold Beauty Workshop closes the store to have comfort and privacy for its trans and non-binary participants.

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Kween Culture: Bold Beauty Workshop

After store hours, they allow trans people in for a focused makeup class lead by the staff of Sephora. This program creates a safe place to ask questions about techniques to be more professional in makeup application without taking away the glamour. It also builds confidence in how you want to represent yourself in the world particularly in the workplace. They provide gift cards for a customized purchase and gift bags with full-size skincare products to take your routine to the next level. I participated as a model and had a blast being in community with the people there and how amazing and culturally competent the staff was. I can definitely tell that the Kween Culture team organized the program thoroughly to cater to the need and comfort of the participants. This is why hiring trans leadership to leads your programming matters in its effectiveness.  Black transwomen around the country are really doing great work in our perspective cities so if you have extra funding and resources BTWI, Kween culture, and Transgender Cultural District are great places for sowing some effective seeds. I learn so much about the Black history of San Francisco which so fitting since its the beginning of February.  They definitely treat me like a queen the whole weekend and I can’t wait to come back.

I am Diamond Stylz. You can find me on all social media platforms here.

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Diamond Stylz

 

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ABC Nightline with Black Transwomen Inc

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Dave Chapelle Do Better

Netflix released Dave Chappelle’s comedy special “ Stick and Stones.” This set the Internet on fire. As a fan of Dave Chappelle and a black trans woman, I found myself pulled into a conflicted space between an outraged LGBTQ+ community and Right-wing adjacent straight community. I call them right-wing adjacent because a large portion of the Black cisgender heterosexual community aligns politically with the right-wing on most social issues except racial politics. However, most conservative-leaning black folks don’t take up comfortable seating with the GOP because the GOP  still wants to honor their white ancestors by putting up Confederate flags and denying the need for reparations. That would be a real “hilarious predicament” which is what Dave calls complicated situations. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a saying we all heard in our youth. A manta past down to teach us to ignore what people say because their words have no effect. Like many lessons that adults told us were important to learn, as we grow older we learn that some of those lessons weren’t useful or true. Thoughts turn into words. Words are used to set up jokes. Jokes reinforce beliefs. Beliefs turn into actions. Actions turn into policies. Policies turn into systematic oppression.
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I watched and enjoyed the latest Dave Chapelle’s Netflix special. In the same way, I twerk and get hype to songs that degrade and objectify Black women. This is a contradictory space that Black women growing up in the hip hop era are accustomed to being in. My body can respond to a rhythmic beat and catchy lyric but that does not stop my analytical mind from seeing the oppressive nature of the art. If I laugh at Dave’s well-delivered punchlines, this does not at all trump the need to stop using transphobic and misogynistic premises as the basis of his work. Like music and other forms of art, comedy has always been a force in the domino effect culture has on sociopolitical change. A perfect example is a queer pioneer in comedy Loretta Mary Aiken aka Moms Mabley.  She was the first successful female comedian. We would not have a Whoopi, Monique or a Tiffany Haddish without her. Mabley inspired male greats like Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, and Will Rogers too.  She strategically took transgressive comedy to the mainstream by packaging taboo social commentary about gender, sex, and age in a toothless homely character garbed in a bedraggled duster and bonnet. Moms Mabley was born in 1894. When she was growing up, major events that took black people out of second-class citizenship like the Civil Rights movement had not occurred. Toni Morrison’s books that centered black woman were yet to be written. Black women were the butt of the jokes through characters like Topsy or mammy housekeepers advertisement in the early 1900’s. The stakes were too high for a black women who was at the bottom of the socially hierarchy. She did not have the luxury of making fun of the less privileged. She leveraged her platform in a way that changed the landscape of entertainment and the national discourse by disarming the audience through how her character’s looks but telling truthful jokes that punched at the status quo. The results were an entertained audience and a push towards the better treatment of the people who share her identities and struggles. That’s what comedic genius looks like when used for good. It’s not some rich man punching down with “jokes” reinforcing conservative rhetoric that leads to the death of people on the margins of this society.
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We have a multitude of examples of how the public reaction to entertainers can negatively affects the interpersonal lives of an individual. Anita Hill, Paula Jones, and Dee Barnes have been victims of the community consequences when demonized on massive comedic platforms like SNL, MadTV, etc.  It’s not just joking from a platform as big as Dave Chappelle’s. If a comedian jokes about the issues of climate change, does it cause climate change? No, it does not. But if you joke about climate change, in a way to reinforce that climate change doesn’t exist on a big enough platform, you can affect how people vote or treat people who are trying to stop it.  Just like Donald Trump’s speeches dog whistles to conservative terrorists igniting mass shooters and vehicular homicidal maniacs. It is no coincidence that Breitbart featured this Dave Chappelle special on their site and no other Chapelle special before it. These “jokes” trivializes our experiences which diminishes the gravity of the the rape, discrimination, violence, and deaths of women and LGBTQ+  around the country particularly Black trans women. That statement is not a hyperbole. There are plenty of studies about how culture impacts community violence. Tyra Hunter was in a car accident in 1995. When the emergency medical technicians, EMT, came to rescue her and the other passenger, upon cutting off Tyra’s clothes, they discovered she was transgender. They made the same “its a man” jokes and audaciously utter derogatory epithets. They stop doing their job which consequently leads to her death.  Normalizing these mindsets and jokes leads to incidents like these. Muhlaysia Booker was violently mobbed by a group of men for a small fender bender in a viral video. Throughout the video, the men and bystanders are yelling homophobic slurs that Dave is trying to normalize by race-baiting us with jokes comparing homophobic slurs with racial slurs. He tells a joke about an executive reprimanding him for saying a classic homophobic slur. Her reason was because he is not in the LGBT community. His rebuttal was to point out the hypocrisy of him not being able to say the F-word but can freely say the N-word. Neither of this slurs should be used or normalized regardless of that executive’s ignorance of the intersections of homophobia and racial oppression. A month after the viral attack, Muhlaysia Booker was murdered adding her to the body count of 16 dark skin black trans women who has died to violence this year. Is Dave specifically responsible for her death? No. He does add fuel to fire instigating transphobic conversations in communities around the country.
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Dave Chappelle is not the only one. I saw an article offering Tiffany Haddish’s special “They Ready” as an alternative to “Sticks and Stones”. This is a better option for variety, but not a better option for LGBT people. Marcus Parker aka Flame Monroe is a drag queen who still identifies as a man and a proud father of 3. Flame’s whole set of jokes are based off the premise that people cant tell he is a man when he is dressed up and his intentional or unintentional deception of people when he is in drag. I anticipated its release because I remember the classic onstage roast battle between Flame and Sheryl Underwood on BET’s ComicView in the 90s. So you can only imagine how shocked I was to hear Flame do his bit with the same Im-really-a-man jokes he was doing in the 90s. He did add a new one the “LGBTABCDEFG people” joke similar to Dave’s “Alphabet people” joke based on a dismissive premise that LGBTQ+ folks are just doing too with all these letters. Flame even went on to simplify our issue down to sexual orientation. by saying “Back in my day, you either like penis or vagina or both” which harkens back to the that conservative alignment to old antiquated notion around gender and sexuality. This totally dismisses gender identity out of the equation. A person who doesn’t know the nuances of the trans experience would think all trans people are like this drag queen. It’s irresponsible and unnecessarily offensive. Tiffany Haddish cared enough to looks back in her past and pull Flame into the spotlight. I just wish Flame cared enough to be mindful of what he said when he got there. The difference between him and Dave is that Dave is in a place of power and privilege that Flame is not. Flame is still trying to get the shine. Flame’s self deprecating and self-effacement strategy is how Flame got in the door in the first place.
Do I want Dave Chappelle to be canceled? No. Trans people do not have the power to cancel someone so powerful in this social climate around our existence, but gone are the days where celebrity comics won’t get called out for these socially irresponsible tactics just for a cheap laugh. Marginalized people are not overly sensitive snowflakes forcing everyone to be politically correct. We are shining the light on the weakness of your so-called genius if you cant do comedy in a better way. Dave and people like him are having to lament the idea that it’s not ok to make us the butt of your jokes anymore. It is no longer as comfortable to stand proud in bigotry, racism, and female oppression as it once was. We are just asking celebrities to be socially conscious for the people your voice and entertainment effects. We are people on the margins trying to survive and your jokes make that harder in life or death ways. I recognize that this is your arts and your voice, but you are not some bully on the playground I can ignore. You are an influencer. I just ask that you acknowledge from the comfort of your privileged life that your words have an impact on the people beneath you.

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The Love Beneath 15: Hence The Problem

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New Music from Diamond Stylz “Find The Right Words”

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Don’t Wait To Celebrate

Gender dysphoria is a common term thrown around between trans people and medical professionals. Gender identity disorder is a conflict between a person’s physical sex and the gender he or she identifies as. For example, a person born as a boy may actually feel and identify like a girl. The person is very uncomfortable with the gender they were born. Due to this paradigm, a state of gender dysphoria can occur within trans individuals. I never knew the exact meaning of gender dysphoria until recently. Before I looked up the meaning, the context clues that defined the meaning to me was that gender dysphoria was as a state of being disassociated, dissatisfied, even angry with your physical body and identity. I would hear people described this hatred for their bodies that was so strong they could not even look in the mirror. In some cases, this hate for their physical form would lead to incidents of self-castration or mutilation. I met a girl in my travels that put herself in a tub filled with ice, a sharp exacto knife, and 911 on speed dial. Since she could not get the castration the legit way due to lack of finances, she went the DIY way.

 

WHOA! After being rush from a bloody tub to the emergency room, she incredibly succeeded in two things: castrating herself and solidifying herself as a complete basket case to me and others. One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest.  As a transperson, I never experience that extreme kind of gender dysphoria. When I looked in the mirror in my youth, I did not hate what I saw. It was not what I wanted it to see but it was not something that brought me disparaging anger or sadness toward myself. I valued my looks then and now. My mother instilled a self esteem in me by  making me feel smart and attractive. She was on some “you is kind ,you is smart, you is important” type stuff lol.  I knew that once I started my transition, also known as living my truth, my body would have to change to fit the identity I wanted to project to the world. I knew that this would be a process. How long of a process? I was not for sure. I didnt know how much any thing associated with transitioning  would cost or how to obtain any of those things. I just had a mission and direction to go. I just stepped out on faith in a cute wig for hair, bra filled with Victoria Secret jelly cutlets for boobs, and sculpted foam pads for hips and ass.  I made these fake things work until I slowly but surely made all them better and more real. Each milestone was a celebration. I celebrated progression toward the ending. I think that was key to overcoming depression about not actually being at the finish line. The focus on not being complete leads to asking myself: Why me? Why is/did this happening to me?Is this fair? etc. Falling into a deep dark hole of finding someone or something to blame for all the negative that come from not being one’s perfect physical self. Celebrating current progress shifts the mindset to a positive, in-the-moment state of mind.  I may not have my hormone but I celebrate I have some cute girl clothes. I may not have my breasts but I celebrate, I have my hormones. I may not have my vagina but I celebrate I have my breasts, and so on. I think this mindset can be translated in any one life include non trans people  also known as cisgender. Whatever your goal is, dont focus on how far you are away right now . Focus on how much more closer you are to the goal from last week. Celebrate your progression now.

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My Transgender Child and I

I hadn’t seen my mom in a year because we live so far away from each other and I have a full time job. I decide to buy her a ticket and show her a good time here in Houston. She had never flown on a plane or been to Houston. So perfect time make this an adventure for her. We have ate good and shopped till we dropped..lol. Of course you know i had to stick a camera in her face for my Youtube. So here is my interview with her. She shares her experience as the mother of a transgender child and coping with that experience. Hope you enjoy and share with your friends.

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