I was in drag for 8 hours and this could never equate to the everyday lived experience of being trans. Christian lives her life as a trans woman of color 247/8/366, this means she navigates a triple conscious (awareness of race, gender, sexuality) daily to survive and safely live visibly. Trans is who she is and drag is what I did for a finite amount period of time and at the end of the night, I couldn’t wait to get out of drag. In fact as soon as I returned to my car, I took of the dress, returned my everyday clothes, I took off my wig and heels and returned to Alexander.
This has opened up a lot of revelations to me about my identity and my allyship to the trans community. Because there is such a scrutiny around doing drag and suppressing trans identities, I am currently battling with empathy and appropriation. Since the show there has been mixed reviews mostly positive from the community that I occupy but there is a lack of understanding from my family trying to come to grips of the implications of drag and my sexual identities (even though gender and sexuality are not related). My aunt was the first person in my family, that I told. I told her because I knew that she would see it on social media. She was mortified and didn’t understand why I would choose to do drag, she couldn’t bring herself to complimenting me because I was her nephew. My mother found my heels from the show in the backseat of my car and decided to investigate. Unflinchingly, I told her that they were mine and informed her that I hosted drag show for charity. This was a major step for me because my mother is severely homophobic and transphobic. I referred both my aunt and mother to The Cis Jungle to present them with the opportunity to further their own understanding of identities and trans lives. I was able to unapologetically take onus of something that I was taught to suppress. The ramifications of these actions are slowly starting manifest. Whether, it is the subtle comments from my aunt, my mom’s passive aggression or the backlash from the trans community concerns that I was appropriating or taking up too much space. I will not apologize for who I am or the way I choose to challenge the gender binary. What I will do is listen more intently to my trans siblings concerns and learn the best way to navigate these gray spaces.
I’ve learned to become so desensitized and numb to various aggressions. One funny fact is no matter how hard I attempt to stand out or set myself apart my black and trans identities seem to overcast, and overshadow those attempts. I’ve never smoked marijuana, or did drugs, or traded sex for money or things I needed. I’ve only ever smoked half of cigarette in my life (at age 21) and I drink but I’ve never so much as been drunk a day in my life and yet I still remain a walking stigma, a walking controversy a moving target. No shade to those who have to do these things or simply choose to do these things, but I didn’t refrain from these things because I wanted to, I refrained from them because I knew that I needed to stay focused, I have to stay sharp and undistracted because as a black person in a white world I have to work twice as hard, as a black woman I have to work three times as hard and as a black trans woman I have to work four times as hard to achieve anything to make it anywhere and to even measure up to my white cis male competitors and even working four times as hard only (maybe) gets me in the same place, but rarely ever ahead. I struggle everyday to portray a message to the world that I often feel is unseen or misinterpreted (i.e. The university newspaper) or I’m constantly policed or my identity is checked (i.e “it’s nice he was able to pretend”).
As I reflect on the drag show and attempt to piece together my final thoughts I look back on the intersections of my identity that I face everyday. The drag show was one night, the conversations about it that followed only lasted a period of time and it may seem as if I read too much into one night and one event but my reality is the conversations continue to go on. While this particular situation may be minimal it’s an example of what happens to me every single day. The drag show is parallel to my life; everyday I face the same intersections. I am referred to or thought to be a drag queen, in media portrayals trans women of color often remain faceless and nameless, society often thinks that a man showing a trans woman any type of attention is doing some sort of good deed or service. With a roaring laugh I accept this, because this is reality, my reality and the same reality for many trans people around me. My reality is, at least in my lifetime, I will never be a part of or see a world that accepts my blackness and transness and raw womanhood for exactly what it is, the real learning curve is for me to learn to accept and cope with thatreality while still attempting to break down those barriers for trans women of color who will follow behind me in years and decades to come.