CONVERSATIONS

Living In A Dangerous Body, Or What Are We Doing To Protect Black Trans Women?

(Part II)

Conversations is a series of stories involving heart-to-heart talks that touch upon provocative subjects and bring them to life.

Remy Black is a drag performer, singer and a black trans woman. In the first part of our Conversations we spoke to Remy about religion and spirituality, the culture of drag, creating spaces for trans women and the reality of "living in a dangerous body." Catch up on it here.

In the second part of our sit-down discussion we touched upon many other sensitive subjects seen through Remy's eye, like her journey towards becoming a sex worker, her dreams and goals on becoming an artists, on realizing her trans identity, and who should be given the microphone to speak on behalf of their community.

On Sex Work

SWK: You told me you're a sex worker because you chose to be, but there are also very minimal options for trans women to find work. What kind of experience did you have with that?

Remy: So I was pursuing a PhD, prior to transitioning, in Clinical Psychology. I had gone through some life circumstances, I was basically really smart. The most reasonable thing for me to do would be to pursue a career in academia and secure that bag. So I applied to PhD programs. I ended up going to WVU – they were paying me to go there. When I started transitioning, I realized that being a trans woman in the profession that I have chosen, was definitely not going to work. I'm dealing with people and I'm dealing with people's emotional vulnerabilities. People are already coming with assumptions about trans people and so I was censored and it was basically advised that I present male at all times, and this is while I was on hormones literally growing tits, right?

So I'm sitting here, growing these tits and these people made me work in a prison, and they were like:

“You have to dress like a dude there.”

But nobody was convinced, and all the inmates just wanted to fuck me and it was just like this weird thing.

I am kind of a hermit. I don't leave my home unless I need to because I don't like to deal with the people out there. Everywhere I go they either are trying to fuck me or they are trying to clock me, some of them are trying to get violent. People fucking misgender me all day. And it's just really fucking annoying. So then you have that mixed into a professional setting, when I’m trying to make my money and it's just like too much to deal with. So could I go get a job at H&M? Yeah, probably. But I’ll be misgendered all day. How many people do I encounter at a fucking retail job, like maybe a couple hundred people a day or something? Most of those people, if they're not queer, they don't have contacts for trans identity. So existing in that is really difficult, so I choose not to.

I also am able to make a decent amount of money doing what I do and you know, there's options for trans women with desirable bodies, and I happen to be one of those people and I'm also a very sexually liberated person.

So, I don't fucking care, yeah I'll do porn, yeah I'll suck your dick, yeah I’ll fucking, you know, dick this dude down. You're giving me $300? Yeah I’ll fuck you and then I'll go about my business. Right? So, you know, I'll probably see a client today. Maybe I'll make a hundred fifty. Maybe I'll make $300 today. That's an hour of my time. And then that's it. You're not making $300 today [speaking to me]. And so I can basically live the life that allows me to experience less transmisogynistic violence both in physical and spiritual and metaphysical ways.

On Being An Artist

Remy: But you know, that's not my long-term goal this year specifically. I am intending upon being recognized as an artist outside of just a drag career, outside of my body and sex.

So I have a couple things on the books this year that I'm really fucking pumped about.

So, HBO is doing this documentary called Wigstock. There was a former Wigstock documentary made back in 1994 when Lady Bunny did the first festival. And so they wanted to revisit the drag community in Brooklyn and show like the evolution of drag through this community specifically. And they chose a couple people to follow in this documentary. And one of those people is my friend Charlene.

She's a writer. She's a drag queen, she’s a thinker, a really powerful figure in the Brooklyn queer community, definitely. And she has been doing it for quite some time. So like 2014 maybe.

So, the documentary will feature her and her work in her community. And being someone who's been best friends with her for like a decade now, our stories are intertwined in a lot of ways that were relevant to this film and some of that was highlighted and put into the film. As well as some of my performance, some of me talking and dancing and shit. So I’m going to be in the HBO documentary, that is probably going to be a pretty seminal piece of drag film work. You know, we have Paris Is Burning, the original Wigstock. It was directed by Chris Moukarbel who just did Lady Gaga’s Five Foot Two and won a Golden Globe for that. So this is his next project. And funny enough he and I, and Charlene really, met through the connection to the Tennessee queer community that I was telling you about. So it's just like this weird small little family. So that’s on the horizon.

I will maybe be doing this off-Broadway situation, this queer production of Hair the musical, which would give the world an opportunity to hear my voice, and bitch that's all I fucking need. That’s all I fucking need – is an opportunity for the world to hear my voice. And then I'm also working on producing some of my own music. So I'm working on transitioning out of sex work and drag. Not transitioning out of, but more so expanding my repertoire. It would be nice to be known as a musical performance artist and not just a voice on Facebook or a drag queen in Miami.

Who Are We Giving The Microphone To?

Remy: There's been some news publications about the Miami queer scene, you know, that have had a bunch of the young drag queens talk about gender and talking about their scene and whatever, and I see these lines getting crossed, right? These 18-, 19-year-olds, 20-, 21-year-old kids, because of their social media followings, are being viewed and positioned as leaders in discourse on trans identity and on gender and I'm like. Okay. Okay. I've literally written research papers at the PhD level on this. You know what I'm saying?

So it is really weird for me to have these kids on the cover of magazines. You know what I’m saying? People don't understand why that frustrates me and then they see my outrage and they are saying, why is she always mad. I’m not mad, I’m really not, I think that we just need to be careful. That's all, because there's national attention to...

SWK: Who we are giving the microphone to, and who we are giving voice to.

Remy: Who we are giving the microphone to. Exactly. That’s all, that’s all. Are we giving the voice to any black people? Are we giving the microphone to any sex workers? Those are two communities that, of course, I rally for, because I'm a member of them. 

SWK: Well, this is exactly why I wanted to give you the microphone.

Remy: Thank you and I’m glad that you did.

"When I say that I'm a woman, you know, sometimes I don't really have a clear idea of what that means. Other than that I had actively engaged in the process of revolting against the manhood and the assumptions of maleness that I was born into, but what it doesn't mean is that I'm invested in the traditional gender roles or understandings of womanhood as it is dictated by cis-normative society."

On Realizing Her Trans Identity

Remy: And you know what, one of the greatest ironies in life is that as long as heterosexuals keep producing children, which they will, because they believe that that is their purpose in life, they will continue to produce queer people, period. Like, homosexuals are made from straight people or from people that need to be straight at least. At the very end of the day as long as you continue to produce life, you will produce it with all of the complexities of life. The sooner that we can come to appreciate that... And I've had to learn to appreciate that within myself and I think that a lot of my own understanding of my trans identity comes from an attempt to hold space for all of the dynamics of my being.

When I say that I'm a woman, you know, sometimes I don't really have a clear idea of what that means. Other than that I had actively engaged in the process of revolting against the manhood and the assumptions of maleness that I was born into, but what it doesn't mean is that I'm invested in the traditional gender roles or understandings of womanhood as it is dictated by cis-normative society.

I'm not trying to affirm the binary, but I am trying to affirm the fact that I am claiming space as a woman, you know what I mean? I'm not doing that temporarily, I've been doing that for years now and I'm going to continue to do that going forward.

SWK: How did you come down to that realization?

Remy: It was a process honey, I’ll tell you literally what happened. I was watching Charlene Incarnate in Brooklyn, New York on acid going into 2016 right? I was on this heavy fucking trip cuz that was my first time in a queer community, ever. I’d been to a gay bar, but I’d never seen a queer community. I’ve seen queer people. But not the whole gathering of them and it was in Charlene's home, which was a very large space. And so I’m like, you know helping my friend get ready for her show, and I was like helping as a part of her number. She was doing this number called “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.” But it was done by Natalie Cole instead of The Beatles and so I had this light that I was shining on her – it was a spotlight.

In the beginning there's this monologue and it goes:

“As we continue along on our time machine, we pass the many different eras of time. Times when ladies were very very special, like Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Venus the goddess of love, and who do we have for the future? You'll never, ever guess.”

And then the number starts.

*Remy starts singing

“Picture yourself in Nevada.”

And it's like the whole gag, at least the way that she played it. I understood, because I know her and I also am intuitive. I’m like, she's announcing herself as what we have for the future and in a trans body. She's making a statement about trans women being that woman who we have for the future and she’s positioning herself in the narrative of a trans woman.

So then when I also came to my trans identity it was kind of the same thing. I was like, oh there's layers to this shit. So not only I’m a cocksucker, I’m also not a man. Well that makes sense, you know what I mean? So then it was like.

“Well, I don't know, is my cocksucking that strange or is that just something that girls do? Girls like to suck dick, girls like dudes, I like dudes.”

My concept, my queerness evolved with every layer that unfolds. And I'm probably still discovering the truth of who I am daily. Like I learn new things about myself, I unlearn habits and I am just trying to live as honestly and as authentically as possible and I try to be considerate of others. I think it's important to know your truth and to live your truth and to broadcast your truth, but I also think it is important to be considerate of where other people are.

On Seign Beyond The Veil

I think that without a real-life spiritual commitment outside of this scene, outside of that, is really difficult to really progress beyond the veil, right? Because you're really still plugged into the immediacy of the community and the moment that you are experiencing. For some who have professions within the community, then that gets tied up with monetary gain and capitalism, and then we get back to recreating those structures that really, we are trying to break apart, but it's because the foundation isn't there.

It can't just be about

“I want to be able to wear whatever I want.”

It has to really be on an empathic level,

“I want to take on the role to be, essentially the villain of society, to troll all of these concepts, to break all of them down.”

And I know that that is dangerous, but I'm making it my life's work. Not just because I want to be cool, not just because it's fun, but because I'm trying to better the future for the kids, for the world. Do you know what I mean? To make more space. So when I look at somebody in the scene, I'm always assessing, like are you trying to be cool and famous or are you trying to change the world? Who knows? And it’s a process.

SWK: To me you seem very liberated and open and you're very, obviously, intelligent about realizing your path and how you're living your life. Why didn't you just pretend to be straight and you know, please your parents, live by what the community wants from you?

*Remy laughs

Remy: Do the thing, right? Be in the box.

It’s just I never had any other desire than to be honest with myself. I've only ever wanted to be me as authentically as possible. That’s always been important.

If you would like to support Remy on her journey, you can donate to her Patreon account here. Please support, protect, speak up for and cherish our trans sisters of color.

Alexey Kim

Founder

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