On April 17th, 2015 Bruce Jenner made history when he sat down with Diane Sawyer and announced "I am a woman."
I know many are going to blast me for saying "he", but throughout the interview he referred to himself with the male pronoun. He causally talked about his role as a father and as the gold medal athlete that many grew up knowing.
The reason I am going into detail about this is because I have been reprimanded many times because I screw up pronouns when it comes to transgender people. I am a gay black man who is a female impersonator who came up in an era when drag queens and transsexuals were showgirls. There was no difference in that world. We all hit the stage and gave what we offered as entertainment.
I have known boys with breasts who identified as gay men and I have known females with penises who identified as straight women. So, to me the word "tranny" really had no effect. It doesn't apply because our gender is between our ears, just like our sexuality is between our ears.
I have had sex with both men and women. I honestly believe that there is someone for everyone out there that will make you question your own sexuality. Whether you act upon that question is up to you. So, if sexuality is fluid then gender definitely has to be.
And while I stood up with the Transgender Community when they fought RuPaul's Drag Race for using the term, "tranny mail" I was torn. My good friend, Lady Bunny stood with the show and wrote a great blog about the history of the word "tranny". Many felt that this was just excessive "political correctness policing". But the truth of the matter with Drag Race is that Ru and the producers seem to have issues with a transsexual winning the competition. And anyone who had competed in this type of pageant will tell you that most competitions are biased towards transsexuals. There are a few pageants that specifically require that you are male and without enhancements, but big pageants like Jim Flint's Miss Continental definitely have a history of crowning transsexuals (not exclusively, but the majority of the time).
While watching the Jenner interview, I understood a lot of what Bruce described. For example, at one point he said that he just wanted to wear his nail polish until it chipped. For him, that is a very feminine experience. For me, I don't feel like I'm Jade Elektra until I have my earrings on. As a child, I would sneak into my grandmother's room and put on her "ear-bobs" (as she called her clip-on earrings). For me, that is a very feminine experience. But does that make me transgendered? Absolutely not! I know that I am male and enjoy being male. I like creating the illusion for stage, but that's as far as it goes.
Do I have a female side? Damn right! Most of us have both sides; it's what you do with that energy and how much it means to you. I don't claim to understand what it is to be a female in a male body. But I do know that Bruce's interview is going to upset and has already upset many transsexuals around the world.
I was surprised at the comments and posts I read after the interview aired. Many are upset because he wasn't in a dress and didn't use the pronoun of "she" or "her" while referring to himself.
I guess the thing that bothers me about all this is the bashing of a transsexual by other transsexuals. Isn't there enough coming from the opposition? I mea, I understand being upset that his experience as a transsexual is not the most common, but he is not your "Average Joe". He was hailed as "The World's Greatest Athlete". He was the guy on the Wheaties box. He's been in the public eye since the 70s.
Of course he has never had the hard experiences that most transgender people have had to endure. Prostitution, trapped in to doing drag shows because there aren't many job opportunities for those who are transgender, the black market silicone treatments….there's a lot to deal with and think about.
I read one comment from one friend who said "why wait so late in life?" followed by "these are things you do when you are young." Um….not everyone has that opportunity. Bruce was an athlete in the 70s. I'm sure he knew about Renée Richards and her struggle as a transgendered female in professional tennis. Plus the internal struggle of dealing with how your parents and family are going to handle this…..we are all on our own journey. And we all come to that fork in the road where we have to decide to be our authentic selves.
Now…I know a few are going to have issues with what I am about to say, but I think it should be brought up.
One of my biggest issues with some of our transsexual sisters is that folks like Janet Mock seem to want us to completely forget about the person they were before they transitioned. And here's where I believe the bashing of Bruce by transsexuals reaches a boiling point. Bruce is not trying to forget that he was born a man. And if he gets all this press as Bruce Jenner then it opens the door on your past and what your DNA will be read as a thousand years later if they dig you up. And this comes back around to your gender being between your ears.
When Miss Mock was on CNN being interviewed by Piers Morgan (see below) to promote her book "Redefining Realness", she sat, nodded and smiled. There were no major protests during the interview about the mention of her life before transitioning. It aired later and she took to twitter to blast him for doing his job. New ground was being broken on the transgender frontier. Piers was doing what any good journalist would do…..researching his subject and guest.
In my opinion, Janet did a disservice to the cause by her actions. This would give pause to inviting her to speak on other TV shows. TV hosts were afraid to have her on because they didn't want the backlash that she caused for Piers. Interesting that he lost his job shortly after that interview and twitter exchange. She went on The Daily Show with John Stewart to explain her side, but it just made a lot of people turn off when it came to the subject of transsexuals.
Sometimes you have to think about the bigger picture and the long run. In this world of sound bites and tweets on the internet, platforms are given and taken away in seconds. I'm sure Miss Mock is still touring and speaking at events and colleges, but just think if that exchange had gone better. Where else could she be speaking right now? Would she be in a better position to help the transgender voice?
I am excited about the future because more and more people are standing in their truth. And I loved the interview with Bruce. Wasn't crazy about finding out he is a Republican, but even that could be a plus because this might make some Republicans show some diversity on LGBT issues.
But as I had to point out to another transgender friend, there are many transsexuals out there who don't want to be the "T" in "LGBT". They believe that they are straight and have nothing to do with the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Communities. But that can't be true. If sexuality is fluid then there are plenty of people who live their lives between their ears. I know two transsexual males who are living as a gay couple and raising a child. So, that blows that thinking out of the water.
You can't speak for everyone. For those who are fortunate to have transitioned and pass, your experience is not that of everyone's. Someone like Janet Mock has not lived the life of Rajee Narinessingh. And just like the conservative gym gay men who want to distance themselves from the flamboyant twink gay boys on Pride Day, the transsexuals who live as passing women can't sweep the late in life transsexual who does not have the resources to transition as you did under the carpet.
We are all in this together. We are the LGBT Community and we all need each other in this fight for equality. This in-fighting between the groups is a distraction from what needs to be done.
I feel that Bruce's interview is just as important as when Christine Jorgensen stepped off that plane in 1953 on US soil. Bruce Jenner is now a pioneer of change for the Transgender Community. Just like when Rock Hudson became the first Hollywood celebrity to come out as having AIDS. This was a very important moment in history. These events brought about change and we all want this world to change for the better.
So, when I read comments on some transsexuals' pages that dissed Bruce for his very courageous and important step out of the closet the only thing I can think of is something that we used to say back in the 90s about the "trannys" who were feeling their oats….."Gyrl, stop being a faggot in a dress!" If you have spent all this time and money to be a woman and you are living comfortably and no one spooks your tea on the train, then be a lady and let the other gyrls live their lives. Thank you Bruce and I truly hope that will change the world by sharing your story. You have already changed the conversation.