Check me out on Hulu…. Soul of a Nation: Pride To Be Seen talking about my 1999 victory against the Indianapolis Public School system & my show Marsha’s Plate Podcast … I’ll be with so many other amazing folks for their #Pride event. Check us out 🤩
Transgender people are worthy of celebration, love and belonging, joy and euphoria, safety, food security, affirming and affordable medical care, housing and investment in our futures.
Globally, the political attacks on our personhood have contributed to developing and perpetuating a culture of hate and violence that has resulted in our daily persecution and limited our ability to live our lives to their fullest potential. Thus far in 2021, legislators across the country have filed over 240 anti-LGBTQ+ bills during the regular legislative session and special session combined. Close to to 120 of these bills are anti-trans bills. They were even trying to criminalize parents who support their trans kids. How fucking invasive is that?
This anti-trans atmosphere creates deadly circumstances for trans people – particularly dark skin Black trans women. Yet lawmakers have doubled down on prioritizing banning trans girls from participating in sports during the special session – overlooking the unequivocal examples of harm these bills cause and instead focusing on hypothetical scenarios of a problem that doesn’t exist. The only examples we keep hearing about, oddly enough, are about Black transgender women and girls in Connecticut. Side note: Lets dissect that even a little bit deeper. Olympic Weightlifter, Laurel Hubbard of New Zealand was unable to get a few lifts in the snatch so she didn’t win any medals this week at the Olympics. She was beat by three cisgender women:: Wenwen Li of China(gold) Emily Jade of Great Britain(silver), and Sarah Elizabeth Robles of United States(bronze). Well would you look at that… those anti-trans sports laws seem to look a little bit dumber today.
Hubbard didn’t win any medals but it does make her the first trans woman to compete in the Olympics. That’s nice but how horribly racist is it for y’all to let a white trans woman be able to compete while black women, cis or trans, are being blocked from competing all over the globe for reasons that range from naturally having too much testosterone to qualify as a female or just being trans period.
Even protective swim caps are regulated…. what the fuck? This is clearly misogynoir and it makes it bittersweet to celebrate Laurel Hubbard hard earned success. I know she was hit with a whirlwind of transphobic attacks lately and can understand the pressure of her position. SoIll just say congrats to her but yall other mofos are annoying with your blatant racism. Anyway back to the subject
I’m tired of politicians using my gender identity and my race as political football. I know my trans-ness is the new proverbial enemy since marriage equality passed in 2015, but I am tired of being the dog whistle to rally your base to the polls or fattening your wallets through donations. These tactics are indicative of your incompetence in actually creating political strategies that are not based in fear and ignorance but in integrity and efficacy.
Because the political climate disenfranchises people like me, it breeds a culture of disrespect against trans/nonbinary people, eliminates our humanity and makes it easier for other Texans to disrespect us out in the world. Across this country on a daily basis, Trans people are tormented on public transit commuting to an underpaid job Jayla Ware. A job that we just got workforce discrimination protections for when they voted on the expansive definition of “sex” in Title VII . Trans people are being attacked and murder at fast food restaurants like Iris Santos at her local Houston Chick-fil-a ironically. Transgender people are harassed and assaulted in an Uber or when we are walking from a convenience store for snacks like Ky Peterson or Daniela Caledron. If trans people encounter violence, there is a defense here in Texas that allows folks to use my gender identity against me to circumvent justice.
Our death and despair should not be the catalyst to reveal our humanity. Stories about trans people in Texas often focus on our tragedy, our dysphoria, and our marginalization. But these stories don’t often connect that our misfortunes are a direct result of state policies that do nothing to protect us and the destructive debate about us at the state legislature. Every other year, legislators debate our dignity, tell people they should be afraid of us, and continue their mission to exclude us from everyday life. With that kind of rhetoric, it’s not surprising that since 2013, 10% of all deaths of transgender people in this country have occurred in Texas – the highest count nationwide. Do they get that people are not living today as a result of their actions and people will not be around in the future because of what they are putting us through now?
Why not focus on solutions that help us not only survive but thrive? We are Texans and deserve the same individual liberties and representation that all other Texans have. Don’t tread on my rights – we have been here for too long. We come from Texas’s own Monica Roberts, Marsha P. Johnson, Audre Lorde, Bayard Rustin, Lucy Hicks Henderson, and Lizzie Montgomery, a former enslaved Texan who transitioned after Juneteenth.
I stand on the shoulders of giants and despite the hate I will live because my existence is revolutionary. I’m a woman that has come into my power, that has come into my trans joy, that has come into a new place in my life. Being a part of a community that loves me that shows me every day that my life is valuable and that I am worthy of being listened to and my story is worthy of being told empowers me. But my experience should be commonplace for trans people, not unique.
With my newfound power, I will continue to demand better from our elected officials. As the Executive Director of Black Trans Women Inc, a national non-profit that is led by Black trans women focused on social advocacy, positive visibility and building strong leadership among Black trans advocates and activists I will provide a platform for those who need it most. I urge every ally and LGB person to do the same and hold their lawmakers to account and implore them to reject harmful anti-transgender legislation appearing at the local, state and federal levels because it is clear that the violence we are experiencing disproportionately is a result of the hate being spewed about us.
Im Diamond Stylz, the host and producer of Marsha’s Plate, a weekly podcast that centers trans-inclusive pro-black feminism and pop culture.
As a creative, I always find it hard to find space where I can create, collaborate, feel safe and supported while doing my art. Just like in any other workspace, there can be roadblocks that stifle creativity. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and classism sometimes stop people from working with you or making the connection with people who will. Artists want to make content and feel supported. For marginalized people, there can be financial barriers that impede our creativity as well. So I want to create that space for me and other artists.
As an activist, I run across so many radically talented, artistically diverse groups of human beings that just need a chance to showcase their brilliance. There are so many talented voices that want to create but don’t have the support, resources, or spaces to do it. As artists, educators, and activists, we recognize the power of the arts to create social change. We all have heard a song or poem that moved us to tear, or saw a painting or sculpture that wowed us. That art has to be incubated with care.
I am creating this Initiative for a facility that can produce and showcase creatives. I want a lounge and performance area to invite national artist for intimate shows and recording(think Tiny Desk but more independent artist). I was a recording studio for podcasts and musicians, and an art gallery for visual artists all in one location. Through performances, film showings, music recording, exhibits, podcasting, and special events, we will promote artists, movements of racial and gender equity. With multimedia artistic endeavors, our mission is using film, social media, performing arts, and advocacy campaigns to create content that gives people and communities transformative artistic ways to be seen and heard. Please support by donating and sharing. If there are other ways you think you might be able to support this initiative, contact me. Thanks for your time. *waves*
Star-Farmer’s Grace Initiative is a Black Trans Women Inc led initiative to support our Texas Trans community by ending the pipeline to pre-trial detention and ultimately mass incarceration. The inspiration to start this initiative was the unnecessary death of Layleen Polanco, who was arrested in April 2019 and held for non violent offense charges.Polanco was arrested for nonviolent offenses and only had to stay in jail because she could not afford the $500 bail. Although the corrections staff could not authorize solitary confinement for Polanco because of her seizure disorder, they put her into solitary confinement anyway. Although officers knew of her epilepsy and that Polanco had already suffered multiple seizures. Her third seizure happened and the guards laughed at her and left her unmonitored locked in a cell on the floor. This is not a case of a mistake or a medical problem that slipped through the cracks. This was a thought-out decision to put a person in a situation where the risks of injury and death were obvious and known. We, as community leaders, could not help but think about how she was only in jail at the mercy of this transphobic negligence of the State because she couldn’t afford $500 dollar.
This kind of negligence is an ongoing problem we have seen for decades. The fund is named after 2 Black trans women. One is inmate activist Dee Farmer. Dee Farmer is the Black trans woman who spearheaded one of the most important trans victories you never heard of. The Farmer v. Brennan case. of 1989, where Farmer sued prison officials after she was beat and gang raped due to their negligence and in ability to keep her safe of a Terre Haute prison. The case changed the legal landscape for prison assault cases and the public dialogue about rape in prison for all gender and gender identities. It lead to the Prison Rape Elimination Act, PREA, being made into law. Although Dee Farmer had done all that work to protect trans women in prison, 30 year later Passion Star found herself in the same exact situation in a Texas prison. With The PREA Act, Passion was able to sue the Texas Dept of Criminal Justice and won her lawsuit. Do you see a pattern here? These two Black trans women resilience and drive made this Trans led intergenerational #MeToo moment deserves reverence as our fund’s namesake.
We are Black, queer, trans, young, elder, and immigrant. The history of jails, prisons, and detention centers do not take care of our people.We know that black trans women have a disproportionate contact with the criminal justice system and they have higher levels of abuse in prison and jails. Here is some more information about trans women’s experience in jail.
We want to do whatever we can to keep our community members out of situations like Layleen, Passion and Dee’s. So we are leading a tactical bail out strategy to free as many Black trans women as possible with non-violence offenses. We know that Black trans women are pillars and caretakers of the Queer community. We know that without infrastructure to help them do that, its can lead them being vulnerable and isolated to the whims of the State . They can serve no one being locked up in the system. In addition to bailing out community members, we also provide support services, fellowship programs, and training opportunities. We do this in order to support their growth and development of their leadership without the shame that may come from being people who have experienced incarceration. With this initiative, we are also conducting research and documenting how bail devastates our communities through statistical reporting, ethical story sourcing and sharing, and archiving.
In regards to the Grapevine mess: As a Black Trans woman, the demographic of people that have the most shared oppression with me is Cis Black Women. There is a particularly pointed pressure to defend and be in alliance with them. Not out of obligation, but from loyalty rooted in integrity, understanding, and familial history. Cis Black Women have saved/enriched/guided my life many times…particularly uneducated/queer/hood/country/sexually free ones. They have been comrades in battle intellectually and physically from academia to street brawls.
They have been an integral part of my survival.
But now that I have said all that
Let keep it real
They have also been an integral part of my harm.
No, Black Cis Women don’t owe BlackTrans Women shit…EXCEPT to stop their contribution to our oppression. If you are sitting around our bullies/abusers/oppressors and joining in the transphobic rhetoric…translation: sitting around black cis men calling us men and invalidating our womanhood. If you are telling some one we are trans while we are minding our own business on a train, at the grocery store, in class, wherever and that starts a public ridicule of us. You are causing us harm and solidifying the causes of our deaths. You cosigning the dehumanization. No, you are not the murder, but you are part of the push that make them think that its ok to harm us.
If you are upholding patriarchal rules of masculinity…. i.e. saying stuff like “a real man doesn’t date a trans woman because a real man knows they aren’t really women” then you are adding to our harm. If you are upholding that womanhood is based on reproduction…you are narrowing womanhood down to body parts and placing exclusive value in what those body parts can do. Isn’t that what men do to you? Didn’t men delegate your value to the heirs you could produce for them? Doesn’t that make women who have infertility issues feel less than a woman too? That is causing all of us to harm and not pulling the powerful towards thinking of women outside of being objects here to give them orgasm and babies.
I feel like we live in a both/and world
where I can call our police brutality against black men while calling out Black men for killing cis and trans women ..and expect them to work to change both
I can see and acknowledge that yt women are oppressed by patriarchy but I also call out how Karens weaponize their whiteness…. and expect them to fight to stop both from continuing.
I can acknowledge the homophobia that gay men come up against while at the same time call out the misogyny that they uphold…and I expect them to simultaneously dismantle the norms that allow for both to be valid critiques.
So although we are going through our various layers of oppression. I’m not expecting cis Black women to be mules and dismantle all of the systems for us…. BUT I am expecting them to be comrades in that struggle. This is a cis dominant world, so ignore accountability is adding to the oppression from a place of complacency and privilege. I’m expecting you to see my humanity and work to not add to the trans demise.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.