Tuesday, December 7, 2010

“Trans Atlanta: A Look inside an Evolving Community”


The Georgia Voice, a news outlet that focuses on LGBT communities, recently posted a story called “Trans Atlanta: A look inside an Evolving Community.” The post featured an interview with a black transman and discusses trans visibility, violence and discrimination against trans people, trans healthcare concerns, community building, and economic hardships. Also, the story has a list of trans-related definitions at the end of it, which is super-helpful for those who want to learn more about trans issues!

Dana Prosser, the transman interviewed in this story, speaks candidly about the decisions that he must make in order to stay safe on a daily basis. He speaks of the discrimination that he faces as a black man in the South (ranging from people crossing the street to avoid him to racial profiling by the police), and shares that the reality of possibly being arrested and imprisoned factored into his decision to keep his sex listed as “F” (for “female”) on his driver’s license. That way, in case he is ever arrested, he will not be placed in a men’s prison facility, where he would likely be assaulted by the other inmates. Prosser also says that while he doesn’t go around telling everyone that he is a transman, he will tell people if they ask him. “It’s about opening people’s eyes. I want people to know there are different people walking amongst you,” he says, “I am who I am.”

Prosser’s story of being black and trans made me think of Johnson and Henderson’s “Introduction: Queering Black Studies/ ‘Quaring’ Queer Studies.” As Johnson and Henderson note, in the phrase “black queer,” “black” and “queer” mark difference. “‘Queer’ challenges notions of heteronormativity and heterosexism, ‘black’ resists notions of assimilation and absorption. And so we endorse the double cross of affirming the inclusivity mobilized under the sign of “queer” while claiming the racial, historical, and cultural specificity attached to the marker ‘black’” (7). Basically, what the authors are saying is that the words “black queer” identify a different experience than just saying “queer” or “black”. For example, by identifying as trans, Prosser may be seen as being queer (especially in the sense of using the word “queer” as an umbrella term for LGBT folks); however, as he states himself, he is also black. He may not fit in with the black community because he is trans; he may not fit in with the queer community because he is black; and he may not fit into mainstream society because he is black and trans. However, by saying “I am who I am” and expressing a willingness to share more about himself when he wants to, Prosser proudly claims his identity in the face of a society that may devalue his experience, and negotiates his way in a world that can be hostile to him just because of who he is.

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