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A Conversation On Being Transgender In The Black Community: Check Out This Week's Episode Of ESSENCE Live

On this edition of ESSENCE Live's 'Kitchen Table Talk,' we explore what it means to be a transgender woman or man in the Black community. Check out the powerful discussion, as we discuss challenges, family, proper pronouns and identifications and how cis-identifying people can be proper allies to our brothers and sisters.

SHOW TRANSCRIPT

[MUSIC] Welcome to Essence Live. I'm Senior News and Culture Editor Christina Coleman and I have a question for you. How did you feel when you saw this Essence cover? Empowered because all types of black women are represented? Or did you feel in some type of way that Essence included a transgender woman like Laverne Cox? Well, regardless of your stance today's Kitchen Table Talk is for you. We're talking all about what it means to be black and transgender, how to handle gender identity issues with our young people and where does the transgender movement fit within the black women's movement. Same thing or totally different? Send us your comments right now on social media by using #ESSENCELIVE, of you can email us at ESSENCELIVE@ESSENCE.COM. So in the kitchen with me today are some very special guests, clinician Sacred Walker, who calls herself a high fin ****, trans man and founder of Aqua Talent Jay Mace III. Author and lifestyle expert Ty Alexander, executive director of the trans woman and color collective Lords Ashley Hunter who is gender non conforming and non binary. And lastly Chef Ceasar owner of Savory Bites who is behind me whipping up some yummy treats to go with our convo. Okay let's get right into it. Trans issues have become more mainstream. Extreme. But for some it maybe too much too soon. Most recently in Dave Chappell's Netflix special he said trans people should be more patient and that it will take awhile for people to become really educated on the subject. But does he have a point? Point. Tyler start with you. Really start with me? [LAUGH] Well did you watch the special? I do ->> Yeah. ->> Watch the special and I was more bothered by his lack of comedy that his actual comments. I didn't think it was the right funny. And I thought some of the trans jokes just some of the very. Politically incorrect comedy wasn't that funny. I kinda get where he's coming from just by how long a movement may take. But I don't think it's right to assume that just because this is kind of a new movement, that it should only take 60 years, or Right. 20 years. I think that's kind of setting us back in what a movement means to everyone, if you will, you know what I mean? Yeah. So more over, I'm bothered that he wasn't funny. Listen I got my thoughts, we gonna talk about that right now. [LAUGH] Lawrence, do you feel accepted by the black community as a trans woman? Well first of all acceptance is not something that I seek from anyone to validate my identity So I hope that answers what you're asking and acceptance was never apart of the plan. And Mase, what about you as a trans-man? Do other men who were born man accept you? What have those challenges been? So I think similarly, in the same vein as what Laurel is saying, I don't think I'm ever searching for everyone to accept or completely Understand exactly what my experience is. I think I'm fortunate enough that I've, as we think about the length of all these different movements and all the different radical black trends, activists and [UNKNOWN] over hundreds of years on this continent and beyond right, and in Africa and in different parts of the world. I am so grateful for all the trans people of color that have Taking me under their wings, helping me understand what that movement and that legacy looks like. Yeah, with clarity comes understanding. Absolutely, absolutely. I think we had a conversation beforehand. I was just kind of big burst of the different terminology that kind of comes with. Unfortunately I don't have any like trans friends, so all of the Because all of the things I learn are from the internet. It's kind of interesting to hear these terms exist, so again clarity is good, that's why we have this conversation, so I am a cis-woman If that's how you identify I don't know how I identify (laughter) I've never questioned it, it wasn't something that, almost to me being black. I'm black and I happen to be a woman. What kind of woman? I'm a nice woman, I'm a mean woman, I can be a, you know what I mean? [LAUGH] It's all types of other adjectives I can add to that, but at the end of the day, I'm just a woman. And we're gonna get to that terminology and the pronouns later, which is a necessary conversation. But Sacred, I wanna bring you in. What kind of issues do your patients come to you with? You know, all kinds. Especially for young people who are transitioning. I find that now more than ever, often times the young people know more than their parents do. And it's really important for us to hold spaces, because the trends that we saw, even in the US transgender survey that came out in 2015, When we found from that was that families are the keys to holding safe spaces for young people. It helps reduce their risk, it helps to prevent, oftentimes, suicidal ideation. Because young people are saying, where do I feel safe? I can't go to school and feel safe, I can't go to the bathroom of my choice, right? And I come home, and I feel uncomfortable. And so it's really, really important for us to support families, especially black families, to keep them united so that the young person doesn't go out into the world feeling uncomfortable. Mm-hm. And speaking of family, I'd like to know from [UNKNOWN] and from [UNKNOWN] what was it like Presenting your true self to your family and your friends. What challenges did you face there if any? Yeah, so one thing that's kind of coming up for me even as I'm here talking about supporting specifically black families. Because the reality is that I think a lot of what's missing in conversations around black trans people is that when we think in the US and Western spaces about transness we're always defaulting to whiteness, right? And so a lot of the resources that exist are not culturally competent to deal with how black trans people have existed and continue to exist. I would say for my family, I got some very different reactions. I would say some of them were very lovely I would say some of them were really not [LAUGH] but now I've been out for like 13 years and everyone got their stuff together. Yeah, that's important. So everyone we're just getting started with this conversation but we're gonna take a quick moment to see what chef caesar has prepared for us. So, what's the first dish? So we have some- So excited. Steak and sweet potato hash bites. Mm. My. Yes. [APPLAUSE] So this is a nice, little elevated take on a brunch item. Thank you. You're quite welcome. Okay, and what is that again, one more time? Steak and sweet potato has bites. Mm. With an egg yolk vinegar That's popping. Okay, coming up I wanna talk a little about the backlash that Chimamunda and Gozi and a DJ received when she spoke about transgender women and feminism. So keep sending us your comments using #essencelive. More on Essence Live's kitchen table talk is up next. [INAUDIBLE] [MUSIC] Check out the Beauty Carnival at the Beauty and Style Expo. You'll get free product giveaways. Complimentary style consultations. Mini-makeovers, and much more. You can pre-register for the free expos by downloading the Essence Festival app right now. And buy your tickets for the Superdome concert. Series. See y'all in NOLA baby! You are watching Essence Live's Kitchen Table Talk. I'm senior news and culture editor Christina Coleman and today's kitchen talk is well under way as we discuss transgender issues in the black community. In the kitchen with me today are clinician and [UNKNOWN] **** Sacred Walker, also CEO of Kuumba Health. Jay Mace III who is a trans man, Tai Alexander who is an author and lifestyle expert, and trans man Lourdes Ashley Hunter. And Jeff Cesar who is making us some delicious appetizers, plus. Cuz we can't forget about all of you watching. You have already left some really good comments on social media, so keep them coming using the hashtag #essencelive, or you can email us at essencelive@essence.com. Okay, so let's dig a little deeper on today's topic. Recently, activist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie faced a lot of backlash when she said this in a interview for Britain's Channel 4 news. Let's take a look. So when people talk about are transwomen women? My feeling is transwomen are transwomen. I think if you've lived in the world as a man, with the privileges that the world accords to men. And then sort of change, switch gender, It's difficult for me to accept that then we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman who has lived from the beginning in the world as a woman and who has not been accorded those privileges that men are. I don't think it's a good thing to conflict Everything into one. Mm. So Chimamanda later clarified her comments but people still dragged her on social media, as you all saw. Mari Staphstrom wrote on Facebook, I am a trans woman, a feminist, and I support you 100% Chimamanda. It isn't transphobic to acknowledge the simple truth that there are differences between women and trans women. Molly Weinberg felt similarly. She posted, sometimes CIS women have issues you don't have, same as you have issues we don't have. Maybe try listening to us instead of speaking over us. But Nic Wyara wasn't here for it. She wrote on [UNKNOWN] Facebook page, stop speaking for trans women. It's really not that hard. You cannot be an ally to LGBTQ people and be transphobic. So what do you feel, being in th position you are of how you identify, what did you feel about (inaudible) comments. I don't necessarily think they were transphobic, only because I do partly agree with her, I do believe as a black woman, my movement As a black woman is different from any other movement, whether it's a white woman, whether it's a transwoman, whether it's black men. I think the movement is different and far too often black women have been attached to every single movement. I always question when is it just our time to have our rights and have our moment, if you will. Do you know what I mean? I feel like we're always attached to something, or we're always someone's ally, or we're always. Just being a friend of others. And at some point, I would like for black women to just be that, if that makes sense. Okay, and Lourdes, I really am interested in hearing what you have to say about her comments. Well firstly, I am a black woman, just in response. So, for me, I'm black before I'm anything else. And I think that it's important how we frame inquiries and that they're framed with context. I appreciate Chimamanda's comments regarding the particular issue, because she's speaking of a particular experience. Trans people are not monoliths. As someone who has identified and been affirmed as trans since I was born, I was never socialized as male. So when you talk about male privilege, that is not something that I have experienced. As a trans woman, I've been attacked for being who I am, violently, in school, all throughout life. And so, I think what is happening here, is we're looking at a singular narrative Maybe one so that it's more similar to Caitlyn Jenner who was socialized as a male, lived their life in this particular identity and also had that very specific privilege that Chimamanda's speaking of. At 65 years old when you transition, yes, you have been socialized As male, but even still, being trans, that socialization does not really interpret or conflate to someone who identifies and is affirmed as a man. The biggest thing that I feel is I actually wanna interrogate this idea of all this backlash that Chimamanda's gotten because I don't think that the backlash of getting laid out in Twitter is the same thing as the types of levels of oppression that lots of black women and trans-fem people face. And so these are like very false equivalencies of just, she's being attacked. It's like, no, what we were talking about. The existence of the ways that as Lourdes was even talking about. The physical ways in which black trans-fem people and black trans women are attacked In our own community, [LAUGH] as well as outside of the community, cuz we still are, as black trans people, we still are victims of state violence. [LAUGH] And even more so, right, especially when you're talking about black transfem, and black trans [UNKNOWN] people. And so this place in which people feel like the need to protect her over some stuff that is not gonna lose her income, not gonna make her lose her house, not gonna- Or her Or her life, right? And so that's, so that thing needs to shift, right? This thing about feelings and theory cuz this is not a theory. It's about people's actual lived experiences. Right. I did a blog on Chimamanda, I was telling you this before, on what she talks about the danger of the simple story. And what she's talking about, or pointing out, are the diverse voices. I mean, that's really what, she's a storyteller. She's not saying that I am going to represent The whole community of anything. She specifically said, I am passionate, just like I'm passionate about racial justice, sexual ethics. She's saying, I'm passionate about feminism, but do not have me speak for everyone. But one thing that I want to point out. I was thinking back to, well, how does this relate to the family? And I was thinking back to growing up in a Jamaican household. We had a family member that was a young boy who loved to play with art. And every single time he would pick up a paint brush, everyone in the family would run over, stop that, you're acting like a little girl. And would beat him. That young man grew up learning the minute that I pick up a paintbrush, I have the right to have harm happen to me. Because I'm pushing down my femininity. So I just wanted to invite that into the conversation that sometimes we have this divide. And we don't think about outside of the box a little bit, how do we as a black community Respond to even out children when they do anything that looks like, you're acting as a boy or a girl. Okay we're gonna keep the conversation going after a quick break. Plus I still wanna hear from you. If you're watching us on Facebook, post your comments or just weigh in using the #ESSENCELIVE. We'll be right back with more of Essence Live's Kitchen Table Talk. [MUSIC] I Am Not Your Negro, it's a new film, but it's a documentary film. It's worth seeing and it's extremely well done. Secondly, I would probably say maybe Do The Right Thing. I think Do The Right Thing is a good one. It shows some accurate racial tension unlike any other movie and it's not Gangster. And then Paid in Full, I'm going to say Paid in Full there because you get to see some of me so [LAUGH]. Dude the second album will need to be bigger than the first album. Otherwise he's going to look like a fool. I think people should watch the breaks now that experience the journey of the characters that are involved. And also to go back in time a little bit. To the roots of some of the hip hop that's around now has stemmed out of that era then. But most importantly I think it's a character driven show. The series goes more in-depth. And I think that [MUSIC] People would be captivated mainly by that. And the music, of course the music, will premier. Doing the music.is just, it really takes us back. [SOUND] Welcome back to Essence Live. I'm senior news and culture editor Christina Coleman, and today's Kitchen Table Talk is all about transition. In the kitchen with me today are CEO of Kumba Health, Sacred Walker. Founder of Awkward Talent and poet, Jay Mace III. Author and lifestyle expert, Ty Alexander. And Executive Director of the Trans Women of Color Collective, Lords Ashley Hunter. And shoutout to Chef Caesar who's preparing another appetizer for us I cannot wait to taste what he is making, a sister is hungry. Remember to chime in on this discussion using #EssenceLive or you can email us at essencelive@essence.com. Okay, let's talk about a touchy subject. Gender reassignment surgery. Where did the decision to have surgery fit into your transitions? Does anyone wanna weigh in on the surgery Aspect. I think that surgery is something that is personal and is something that each individual trans person decides upon. Surgery is not an indicator of someone being trans. I think we also have to think about how colonization has told us how we need to show up. What is beautiful, what is acceptable as men and women. And a lot of time trans folk are really just trying to live their own lives and fit in the best way they can. And so, sometimes surgery happens sometimes it's not even an issue for trans people. Some people don't want surgery at all. And so, For me, it's really in the visual choice for folk. Yeah. Mm-hm. And I think, going back again, thinking about pre-colonization, right? So the reality is, with or without surgery, ever since people have been attempting gender roles to genitalia, and there have been trans people on this planet. So we've existed for thousands upon thousands of years with or without surgery, period. And so, there's also this way in which a lot of non-trans people and cisgender people will try to wait, before they believe someone, about who they are. And sort of getting people to a place of, I am who exactly I say I am. Regardless of whether I choose not to, or what I will do with my body. Now, what are your thoughts? In understanding trans issues, has the issue of, or the subject of surgery ever come up in your conversations? I don't understand it to be honest. I don't, when I think about trans women I don't understand if your a trans woman I don't understand why you wouldn't become a woman. Like if your opting to feel the part of what it means to be a woman, I Dressing that way or acting that way, whatever that means, then if you had the opportunity and you could afford it what would stop you from not having the surgery? I mean that's a misnomer because we're equating vagina with womanhood. You know, we're equating these I mean, as a woman, that's the only thing that I know. As a woman- But you also say it, like how folks dress, how folks carry themselves. And those are socially constructed. Throughout time, they have changed. The role of a woman, the role of a man, has been changed throughout time. And it's also socially constructed. I can't say that how I feels as a woman is socially constructed. How I feel, as a woman, is how I feel as a woman, period. No one, socially, no one is giving these messages to make me feel like a woman. I feel like a woman every day beyond that. So the view there is just different for me. So what are those messages, through, what are those messages that tell you that you're a woman? And where do they originate? There are no messages. I wake up everyday and I am a woman, that's it for me. Same with me. And I'm not saying that it isn't for you, but you chose to be that way. I could choose to be a man today and now I'm identifying as a man. But I think that's where my disconnect is. What I have chosen is to reject. The notion that society tells me how I can- But in choosing that everyday- Let me finish. I choose to wake up as my authentic self. Which is a woman, visually, to me. Well that's to you, right? Cuz I'm non binary, I'm a gender abolitionist, I understand how gender as a social construct continues to oppress. Not just trans people, but all people. And how many times have you been in a room in which trans people were talking, and you had to listen, period? Cuz [UNKNOWN] conversation, so as I'm listening to the conversation- With the exception of today, I've never had an in-depth conversation with anyone, trans Outside of that. So, again, in this moment my views are being challenged. But even when I think of how I feel about being a woman, it's just how I feel. I get how you feel about not Having to conform to what society says male, woman, I understand that. That's not my stance. I can still feel that this is, I am a woman, this is how I feel. But how you feel is something completely different, and I can sympathize and I can respect that. And that's it. But I think that it has to go beyond conversation, it has to go with [UNKNOWN] people actually believing and accepting The analogy I always use is like when you were a kid, you learn one plus one equals two, at some point you learned that division, you learned fractions, you learned all this stuff and you decide whether math is for you, right? At a certain point. We do not expect someone at a kindergarten level of math to have the same conversation as math, as we do an astrophysicist. And yet we expect us to have the same conversation about gender, it's not possible because [UNKNOWN] people had Conceptualizing and thinking about challenging people's notion of gender to survive. Right? Absolutely. Absolutely. Otherwise we wouldn't be here. Right? And so we've been doing this and doing this work on ourselves and we as folks need to get into the work. Actively engage in elevation of your conciousness. We talk about, since people, and you also mentioned- Why does that always sound so derogatory to me though? Even in how it's used in sentences. Just gathering it. It just sounds like not a good word. Like those cis people they don't understand who we are. Versus just maybe nontrans, like we don't say nontrans. That's an actual word, like you can Google it, C-I-S. But in how you're using it, it just doesn't feel inviting to me. It also gives power to trans people. Because often times, trans people are othered. And to be trans is to be othered, to be outed, to be different. There's something that I say. Trans people navigating dominated spaces is violence, slain, and weight because we always have to justify why we're sitting at the table. And this is not even an experience that's indicative to trans people. Black women, let me tell you about it. Black men, tell me how you always have to Speak 10 times, 20 times, just to show up in a space. Yeah. And so that is a relatable experience. You're not gonna understand everything about trans people in our conversation. The best takeaway is that we are humans, we deserve humanity, we do not deserve to be murdered for how we show up. Need better access to housing, healthcare, jobs, and education. Just like everybody at this table right? Yes, yes. You know, when we think about it at the end of the day, when you're two-years-old, you're first exploring your body. You're like okay, what is my body part? Somebody is telling you what your body part is and then at four, Then you'd begin to learn. Okay, well this is how you show up as this, and this is how you show up as that. And if you think of it as non binary, it's almost like, okay, well at four years old. If you had a parent that said, baby, how are you You show up is how you show up. If you think of it that way it's not okay, wait. No, no, no you want to be a nurse? You're a little boy, you need to stop that. You can only be a doctor. It's just saying you're not tracking children. That's So just think of it that way. These are conversations that the black community have been talking about for years. It's just now coming to a head. All right, well I'm starving. That conversation. [LAUGH] Chef Cesar, we're ready to eat. What is the next dish? So right now we have my signature rice. And pasta. My. And three bean falafels. My. We are going to dig into here. Thank you all for joining me. These are conversations that we need to have to heal our community. So thank you so much for joining us and I hope we have more of these conversations. Thank you to our viewers streaming us live on Essence.com and Facebook Live. Tune in next week for an all new Essence Live. I'm Christina Coleman. Thanks for watching. [MUSIC]