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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.