by Cheryl Courtney-Evans
posted Dec. 14, 2012
Recently there was a death of a transgender woman in our community. Notice was sent out of a planned memorial service by her family in the city where she lived (this was not the family she was born to, but we all know this one is every bit as important to a transperson's life and survival). Someone else who knew her only very superficially, knew of her through a previous life as a performer, and wanting to pay tribute to her [as he is a transgender ally and supporter], posted another announcement with a picture from her performer past. Known only to those closest to her, this woman had wanted to forget her performer beginnings; she had worked hard, gotten a degree and begun a life of public service to the community that anyone could be proud of. So this contradiction of what so many of the general community knew of her and her closest, grieving local family knew, caused some consternation and friction between those concerned [the "performer" announcements have since been removed, as the poster whose heart was in the right place, had no intention of hurting her local family further].
This incident weighed on my mind and reminded me of the conundrum that continually faces the transgender community (particularly those of us from lower income backgrounds). How do we face survival in a society that leaves us with feelings of "no alternative", yet survive or succeed in manners that we can be proud of (particularly when societal judging is so pervasive as to cause us to judge ourselves negatively)? I feel that we have to get beyond judging ourselves! Let's look at a few "notables" who have also come from humble beginnings...
J. K. Rowling, author of the "Harry Potter" series of books-to-become-movies, lived on social security, until circumstance got her the breaks and attention she needed to become the millionaire she is today. Madonna, singer-dancer-entrepreneur, worked as a waitress in a Dunkin' Donuts before the breaks that led to her fame and fortune. Maya Angelou was a pimp, prostitute, night-club dancer and performer, before her intelligence, communication skills and way with words/verse took her to honorary degrees and speaking at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Oprah Winfrey, who was sexually abused for years while a girl and lived in poverty, persevered and now is arguably the richest African American woman in the world. Tyler Perry, noted playwright, actor, producer and millionaire comes from a time when he "lived out of his car". Before becoming the "Drag Race" producer he is now, RuPaul was a relatively unknown in the Georgia drag club scene. My point is, IT'S NOT HOW ONE BEGINS THE JOURNEY, IT'S HOW THEY END IT THAT MATTERS.
The life of the average lower income transgender individual, particularly when she (or he, as in the case of transgender men) is African American, all too often results in an "unorthodox" means of living; the same society that forces this way of life on them, then judges them so consistently that they often come to the point where they judge themselves negatively. This is a travesty and a tragedy that needs correcting. First of all, who has the authority to judge? Additionally, rather than be ashamed of their pasts, shouldn't these transgender people be applauded for transcending them?
In my opinion, a transgender woman or man who manages to overcome the obstacles, discrimination and stigma that suppresses their success in life should be given even more recognition and celebration than anyone else, for whom living has started on an equal footing in society. Why shouldn't their whole life be celebrated at their death? Their lives of adversity have often equipped them better than most to cope (consider how the "privileged" jump from 10-story windows at a stock market crash, while the "underprivileged" merely stock up on Raman noodles and beans while tightening their belts a little more). Why not celebrate the fact that a transperson overcame adversity to become "significant" in the world?
I may not be "somebody", but when I die I have no problem with people knowing the whole woman that I have become; the fact that I was forced to live a street life before becoming informed on the socio-political nature of my life and committing myself to playing a role in changing it for myself and other transgender individuals should not matter. It's a part of my life that's made me who I am. So I'll say it once again [it bears repeating]: It's not how one begins the journey, it's how they end it that matters.
Welcome to the blog that is intended for education, information, entertainment, news and advancement...and it's all about the Transgender community! If you're a transgender individual, I hope it provides you with all of the above as well as empowerment; if you're not a transgender, hopefully this blog will help in giving you a better understanding of the transgender community and that community's issues, achievements/abilities, "temperaments" and diversity. Overall, I hope your visit proves to be an interesting one.
Remember: "Communication is the Doorway through which Understanding may Walk."