Monday, January 23, 2012

How (Not) To Write About Black Trans Women

This is a guest post from the always awesome Monica of Transgriot


Karnythia of the Angry Black Woman blog had an interesting post I ran across entitled How To Write About Black Women in which she slammed all the tropes, memes and blanket statements aimed at Black women when others outside our community write about us.  

One group she didn't mention is Black trans women, and here's where I was inspired to pick up the baton and happily run with it where Karnythia left off.  

(Moni cracks knuckles)  

Let's get started with this post, shall we?

Only acknowledge the existence of Black transwomen when we are murdered or the victim of a crime, salaciously involved in some scandal or news story you wish to highlight, during the November 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance, you wish to pump up your Nielsen ratings during sweeps week or you wish to use us to insult Black cis women you hate

Ignore the African descended trans activists who have toiled for decades to represent our community or have eloquently written about those issues for years because only white transwomen do that.  Don't bother quoting Black transwomen on issues of importance to the rainbow community at large, write positive stories about them speaking on trans issues or believe there are engaged Black transfeminine leaders involved in fighting for the human rights of their community and others.     . 
Use a sellout Black gay male drag queen, white trans activists at inside the beltway Gay, Inc organizations or local rainbow community orgs to speak as 'experts' on Black trans lives.

Violate the AP Stylebook guidelines on covering transgender people by misgendering Black transwomen at every opportunity.  When known, mention their old male names even if it isn't germane to the story in order to other them and reinforce the point they weren't originally born female.   

If a Black transwoman is a victim of a hate crime or discrimination, you take the police spokesperson or the right wing anti-trans organization word as gospel truth without questioning if the 'man' they are describing in their press conference is actually a transwoman..  Inject the 'deception meme' into the story, add any criminal record your research may have uncovered if they have one and make certain you use either the mug shot or an unflattering picture of her.  Throw in for good measure without any evidence to back it up shady commentary or your presumption the transperson in question was soliciting 

Quotes of family members or neighbors misgendering that person work for the story as well.   .


When in the process of rebutting a critique a Black transwoman has written, call her 'angry', 'obsessed about race', take digs at her education and demand she produce dissertation level citations to prove her points. If that doesn't work, call her a racist.  If all of the above fails, call her a 'man'.

If you're a cis female or radical feminist do all of the above, flaunt your ability to menstruate, birth them babies and add misogynist to your list of charges. If you're a white transsexual separatist, obsess about surgical status in addition to doing all of the above. 

Position the Black transwoman as the 'unwoman' juxtaposed to cis women and non Black trans women you have anointed with honorary cis privilege.  The Black transwoman doesn't exist except to fulfill the 'tragic transsexual' meme or as martyrs to use in order to fundraise for Gay, Inc organizations.   

They are also handy for browbeating Black civil rights legacy orgs into supporting same gender marriage, taking Black legislators to task to garner support for getting marriage equality laws passed for GL people or ramrod through unjust trans rights laws without public accommodations language.

If Black transwomen object to the erasure or the misuse of their fallen transsisters lives and histories in that manner, accuse them of being divisive, refuse to engage with them, microaggressively engage in tone arguments or lob sexist, bigoted and misgendering comments at them while doing so..

Presume that your cis privileged life and your observations based on collegiate gender theory classes trump the lived experiences and everyday lives of a Black transwoman.  Dismiss it when she states that race matters and aim pre-1963 Dr. King quotes at her while chiding her for not being colorblind   Obsess about the Black transwoman's sexuality and make blanket statements and presumptions that her only interests in life are partying, getting high, getting pumped and turning tricks. 

Make blanket statements and assumptions that she is neither concerned about nor intelligent enough to discuss the human rights issues that affect all transpeople or that she has spirituality, hopes, dreams and aspirations in life just like any other human being on the planet.