laverne cox

Este é um texto escrito por Laverne Cox, Transexual Afro-Americana, em que ela fala justamente de sua trans identidade em relação a sua vivência de mulher negra.

estes são alguns de seus pensamentos sobre ser uma trans-mulher negra.

sege o texto em inglês, quando o  tivermos disponível em português o blog será atualizado.


“Ain’t I a woman.’  This is a phrase that’s been popping up in my head a lot lately.  It’s a phrase we all know, of course, from the famous Sojourner Truth speech of the same title.  This is a phrase that evokes for me the historic devaluation of black womanhood in America.  Ms. Truth said in 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio:

That man over there says that women need to be helped

into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have

the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into

carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best

place! And ain’t I a woman?

She continues on:

I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold

off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s

grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

It’s a phrase that one of my favorite writers bell hooks appropriates for the title of her

first book, “Ain’t I a woman:  Black Women and Feminism”.  In this book she talked about

how black women were shut out of the first wave of the feminist movement.  She located this

shut out again within a history of devaluation of black womanhood within a white racist

cultural context.

Ain’t I a woman?  Ain’t I a woman?  This phrase has almost haunted me lately. Certainly as

a transgender woman that is the question isn’t it. Am I a woman?  But ain’t I a woman?

In a gender binary world

trans women can’t be women. But one of the important lessons of feminism is that that category

of woman is not a biological imperative.  Feminist and queer theorist Judith Butler opens

her famous book “Gender Trouble”

with the well known Simone De Beauvoir quote  “One is not born a woman but

rather becomes one.”  Butler adds that within De Beauvoir’s analysis, the one who becomes a

woman is not necessarily female.  She adds,”…it follows that woman itself is a term

in process, a becoming, a constructing that cannot rightfully be said to originate or to end.”

Ain’t I a woman.

I site this Butler moment not to be pretentious or academic.  But I feel this process of

becoming in my life. I’ve always felt in my heart that I’m a girl and now a woman.  For

years my feelings were more of identification than experience.  I remember being in a women’s

studies class in college feeling so connected to the issues that were being discussed.  I

was very androgynous at the time.  Most of the other women in the class perceived me as a

very effeminate, very effeminate gay man. As much as I identified as a woman, at the time the

other women in

the class just saw me as a man with the potential to oppress.  I recall referring to one of the

women in class as honey and everyone getting on me about that.

LIving for 10 years as a woman in the world, I feel as if the womanhood I’ve always felt inside

has finally been actualized outwardly.  Yet so many still would disavow that womanhood because

of my transgender status.  Obviously I know I can occupy multiple spaces. I can be trans

and a woman, but I’m also a black woman.  There’s a pain that that history engenders that is

very real in the lives of black women right here and now in America.  It’s a pain that’s

similar to the sentiments that compelled Sojourner Truth to ask, “Ain’t I a woman” over 150

years ago.  It’s something that black women in America know if we look around at images

and mindsets that devalue us.  But we know it more because we feel it in looks and looks away

and the tones in people’s voices, in fashion magazines and other media representations.

I can’t help but recall a moment I saw on The Tyra Banks show.

She did a show on how racial perceptions effected attracted.  There was one moment when she

asked all the men on stage to stand beside the woman they fantasized about sexually. There

were women of multiple races onstage. No one

stood beside the black woman.  She then asked who would you want to marry and take home to

your family. Only another black man chose the black woman.  Though I’ve experienced a lot

of men who fantasize about me sexually there was something about this moment

that felt real to me that I somehow identified with.  I was kind of shocked that no one

chose the black woman on one level but on another I wasn’t. Even as I’ve been sexually

objectified by men I’ve simultaneously been devalued by them. We know these two things can co-exist.

But racial objectification takes on a really interesting dimension in the body of a trans

woman, particularly in the case of a black trans woman.  In America it’s common knowledge

that historically in the white supremacist imagination there has been a fascination with

the black male penis.  The fact that black men’s penis’s were often cut off picked and sold

after they were lynched is a testiment to that.

That history is alive and well in new forms today. The black male penis has taken on mythic

proportions in America.  It remains  an object of fear and fascination.  But what happens in this

cultural context when a black woman is in possession  of that mythic penis? Does it have the

same mythic dimensions once it is “feminized”?  I recall being at a tranny party.  There was a guy

I considered attractive who I saw talking to all these asian girls throughout the night. I

smiled at him a few times and nothing. Later in the evening one of these girls I knew

introduced us.  I jokingly said, “Hi you’re cute but you clearly don’t find me attracitve.”

He said, “No I find you very attractive but you’re intimidating.”  I was fascinated.  I

had been told that I was intimidating before.  So I wanted to know what about me he found

intimidating.  “He said well you have a perfect body, you’re stunning and you’re probably

bigger than me.”

I was shocked and Rupauled (as the gurls would say) that he would even go there.  He was white.

I still find it startling.  I mention this story to highlight the complex realities

of the black transsexual body and identity historically and how that history informs how we are

seen and experienced today. Would he find a nontrans black woman as intimidating, His

racist conceptions of the black male penis were clearly displaced onto me.  This racism was

also clearly based on his own insecurities about himself as most prejudice is born out of

personal insecurity.

Finding myself beautiful in a

culture where white female standards of beauty are still the norm, I continue to find

challenging.  I’ve been told I’m beautiful for years and haven’t really believed in my heart

that I am. I have issues of my features being “feminine enough” to meet the standards of

my own harsh

critical eye as well as the perceptions of others.  For years walking down the street and

not passing meaning not being perceived as a nontrans woman , for example, meant for me in my

mind that I’m not “pretty enough.”  As I’ve evolved and grown I’ve

realized that passing and pretty have nothing to do with each other.  But the many times I’ve

contemplated facial feminization surgery (FFS), I’m saddened to confess but part of

my desires to look more “beautiful”, more feminine were to look more white.  I’m starting to cry

as I write this.  It’s hard to admit even to myself this intense level of self hatred centered

around my race.  And luckily I can’t afford FFS.  I’m in a place now where I feel beautiful

as a black woman. It’s something I continue to struggle with.

But the kind of devaluation of black womanhood that would make me not embrace my own beauty is

the legacy that has caused the black female body to be the site of so much exploitation.  That

history mingled with the history of the exploitative myth of the black male penis are the

histories that are marked and transgressed by the reality of my body.  Even with this complex

conversion, I still assert, Ain’t I a woman.

In the context of a materialist feminist discourse, we know bodies matter.  But we also know

that our bodies are not our destiny.  We are more than our bodies. It’s this very spiritual

concept that got my slave ancestors through the horrors of that experience, knowing that we

are more than our bodies, finding a space to transcend this material we’re living in. But as

a liberatory stance it’s important for black people to reclaim our bodies, historically sold

raped, lynched, generally devalued as not beautiful and savage even.  But as we reclaim

our bodies it’s important not to buy into the racialized mythology about them.  My transsexual

body often sought only as a site of sexual conquest and objectification is an interesting

potential site for the subversion of that racist history.  So many of the issues that plague

African American culture today are rooted in my assessment in an uncritical relationship by

both many black men and women to Patriachy or institutionalized sexism.  This system is

inherently heterosexist, homophobic and, of course, transphobic.

It is my contention that the embracing of the black transsexual woman as a woman in black

culture is an important first step to dismantling the prominence of patriachy in black thinking

which ultimately oppresses all of us.  Black men trying to live up to a racist concept of

thugged out masculinity is literally killing them.  It’s actually my belief that embracing

transgender identities as a whole in this country and finally dismantling the gender binary

system benefits all of us.  Dr. Jamie Koufman, the noted laryngeal surgeon said something

during a panel discussion for “The Advocate” magazine that I was recently a part of that I found so

profound.  She said, “We are all transgender.  None of us fits the gender binary model.”

The gender revolution I often imagine and talk about is really about us liberating ourselves

from the oppression of expectations based on this gender model that none of us really fits anyway.

Ain’t I a woman? Black America, my brothers and sisters.  I love you and claim you.  Do you love

and claim me as the black woman I am?  My trans identity doesn’t make me any less black.

Acknowlegding me and my complex identity is an opportunity for us to reconnect to that dream

of liberation that doesn’t exclude but is about all oppressed people joining together to have

a united voice, united in love and the possibility of deliverance.  Ain’t I a woman.

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