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EDITORIAL Timeline

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2020: Remembering Amelia

EDITORIAL

Amelia

Remembering My Friend on

Transgender Day of Remembrance

11-20-20

My friend killed herself in 2014. She was my best friend once. People who knew her and who I told about her passing barely had any reaction, or simply were not surprised. I know that the news did not make any impact on their lives and they moved on as soon as they found out the news. Asked me if I was OK, went to dinner, went to the movies, went to a party. It made me angry that no one really cared, it made me not want to tell anyone about it, because of the lackluster reactions I was getting. I was angry that life went on, that my friend was cold and would never have a chance at experiencing anything beautiful like others would. Then I realized that you couldn’t blame any one – not her for taking her own life, not my friends who never knew her the way I did. She was fucking crazy. She alienated a lot of people, she did a lot of stupid things. She reminded me of one of those insane characters out of Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters. Everyone remembers her as this unstable crazy person. The only reminder of that is when I go through the old pictures in my phone, she is never present at any of the big outings, trips to upstate, or even just dinners. Her bat-shit craziness was the exact reason why we stopped being friends, why I cut her off. I had a choice whether to keep this person in my life, this person who is going to continue to flake and not be there when I need her, or take her for who she is. I decided to go with the first.

There is a bigger picture about the whole situation that no one is seeing. You see, she was born a boy. She was born in Croatia. When she was 5, war started. She told me once that while she was playing basketball with other kids in front of her home, someone started shooting at them and taking them out one by one. Later the playground turned into a graveyard. Then there was a whole story of them leaving everything behind and hiding in the back of an army truck in order to flee the country. They ended up in Australia and that’s where Toni grew up. He actually grew up on the streets, because when his parents somehow found out he was gay, they kicked him out of the house. He was only 14. He met some trans girls who took him under his wing. He grew up cross-dressing and having sex for money, did lots of drugs (that he claimed fucked up his whole body for years). At some point he almost transitioned, but was too scared to go through with it at that time.Then he was discovered and signed as a model to one of the local agencies in Australia. Then Q Models signed him and sponsored his visa to the US. That’s where we met.

His whole world was so fucked up that he never made any rational decisions. Once our friendship was over, he admitted that he was still doing heavy drugs and this is why he was never around and so unreliable. The last time I saw him was when he begged me to meet him for lunch before he moved back to Australia. He told me that during one of his fights with his husband, he stabbed him and ended up going to jail. The same day he was finally approved for a green card, but after his arrest it was obviously revoked and now he couldn’t stay in the country. He gained significant weight. He broke the news that he had started hormonal therapy. He already started doing hair removal laser treatments on his face. He said that he finally came to realize why he was doing all these loony things and why he was so unhappy this whole time. He thought he found an answer in becoming a woman. He brought me his Armani boots and told me to keep or sell them, as he was trying to get rid of all the things that would remind him of himself as a boy and that he was moving with nothing more than underwear. He said that he was going to stay with his family and that they said they would support him through the transition, they would go to family therapy with him and pay for his surgeries. He wouldn’t be able to contact me for a while, because his doctor told him that he needed to basically erase the past.

Tear sheets from an editorial Toni and I did back in the day

Couple years later, Amelia reached out to me. She said that she currently was living in the suburbs near London and working as a phone receptionist. Shortly after she moved to her parents’ place, they kicked her out AGAIN. What a fucking surprise. Her parents were still very backwards, even after years of knowing that their son was gay and was living with a man in New York. Theoretically they thought that they would be ready to handle it when she was there, but when they faced her and saw the reality, they couldn’t cope.

She was reaching out to me tirelessly, first by emails, then by sending me messages on WhatsApp, then by calling me. She was always the one contacting me. I would never be the one to text her or call her myself. I think I still had a sour taste in my mouth from when we were friends, and it wasn’t easy for me to just jump right back into a friendship with her. One of the times that we spoke over the phone she told me that she was expecting to “cut off her penis” in a couple of weeks. I had chills.

“Aren’t you scared?,”

I asked her.

“No, I am thrilled, I can’t wait! You have no idea how hard it is to be constantly conscious of your body, of tucking in every 20 minutes, going through the airport security, of wearing a bathing suit. Once when I went to see a doctor, I pointed out that I was a female, when he checked me, he simply walked out of the room and insurance told me they wouldn’t cover my visit, because I lied about my sex.”

About a month later, she was the one calling me again to tell me how her surgery went. She said that she was very happy that she had done it, she was still a bit sore, but now she had to dilate her vagina every day and it actually felt good. She said she was very unhappy with her tits, she looked like a porn star. She found this doctor who makes tits for supermodels and shit. She wanted to redo them, but it would cost $30,000. She said that she wanted to come back to the United States and maybe she would be able to as a new person, as a woman. I said I couldn’t wait to see her and maybe I could come see her in London next year. That was the last time we spoke. Three weeks before her suicide she tried to FaceTime me, but I missed the call and never called her back.

When her ex left me a voicemail in early October of 2013, I did not even suspect that anything bad had happened.

When I called him a day later, he said that

“She killed herself.”

Who is SHE? What? I don’t understand. Who told you? How do you know? What?

He said that he spoke to her several hours before it happened. She seemed fine, and asked him to come see her. She mentioned something about a guy she was seeing in Australia with whom she had a bad conversation. She told me before that her new man wasn’t supportive of her reassignment surgery and he would constantly change his mind, breaking up with her then getting back together. She was drinking. Her ex told me that she went to a store and bought a second bottle of vodka. She killed herself the same way his other ex-boyfriend killed himself – she turned on her car and inhaled exhaust through an attached pipe, carbon monoxide poisoning. They said that if not that, she had so much alcohol in her system, that alone would have killed her.

A flyer from GMHC campaign that Toni modeled for

This is when I started realizing how everything happens for a reason, how ironic and fucked up life is. How maybe if her parents hadn’t kicked her out on the street at such a young age, but instead had accepted and supported their child, how if she had grown up in a loving family that didn’t give a shit about prejudice or what others think, but put their flesh and blood first and foremost, maybe she would be someone else and somewhere else right now, not lying in a coffin? Maybe she would have been a self-sufficient, confident, and strong person who had backing, love, and support of her family. Maybe she would have found a cure for AIDS or cancer? Maybe she would have become a famous person of sorts that would go down in history? Maybe I would have never met her, but she would still be alive and well? How, if all these fucked-up things in her early life hadn’t happened, maybe she wouldn’t be so unbalanced as to throw a knife at her ex-husband and go to jail, having her green card revoked. How, maybe if she had never met her ex-husband, she would have lived a more self-sufficient life instead of going crazy being confined in their Queens apartment and doing drugs all the time. How, if her ex didn’t tell her how his other ex killed himself, Amelia would have not killed herself the same way? How, maybe if she had had more support and someone to lean on while she was going through the change, I wouldn’t even be writing this right now? How, if I had accepted her attempts of friendship earlier, she would have felt that she could call me before she did this stupid thing?

The only photo of Amelia I got to see

What happens when someone dies? You simply never hear from them, they will not return your calls and you will never see them again, smell their scent, or hear their voice in real life. All that’s left is a memory, pictures, and videos. As a boy, Amelia was so beautiful, she walked for lots of famous fashion houses, she shot for Vanity Fair. Did way more things than I could have done as a model. But what of it? Why does that matter anymore? The people that have put her in clothes, taken pictures of her, or shot with her will not ever think of her or how she is doing. Would they really care if they found out? They would probably say “That’s sad.” The point is, no one will ever remember her, she will NOT go down in history, I can count people who will shed tears for her on one hand, she is just another soul lost to the battle of unfair things in life. She was never really given a chance.

Amelia was only 27 years old, and her whole life she struggled to find something to hold on to, to find meaning and happiness. Back when I found out about her death I punched and punched my pillow asking her why the fuck she would do this to herself? Because of a fucking guy that would not even have a drop of remorse about what happened? But obviously that could not be the only reason.

Perhaps she thought that once she went through gender reassignment surgery, her whole life would change for the best. Only thing is, she didn’t realize she couldn’t outrun her demons, especially when they had been implanted within her since early childhood. Yes, it’s fucking cliché, but if, only if, people had known better. If society were not scared of what they don’t know or understand and therefore acted violently towards it. If we were only more forgiving. If we loved our kids the way they were and surrounded them with warmth and support. If only we were more educated on certain matters. If only instead of banning, punishing, making illegal, bullying, or making fun of people that don’t act in a generally accepted way, we built tolerance, understanding, and kinship as a whole human race… Maybe then Amelia would still be alive and happy, just like millions of other souls lost in this constant war for tolerance and acceptance? If only, if only, if only…

Your story didn’t have to be this tragic.

Please take care of your trans friends.

Alexey Kim

Founder

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EDITORIAL The Mixer Timeline

Trans Women Blossoming

THE MIXER | EDITORIAL

Trans Women Blossoming

“The journey of a Trans Woman is at first internal. She has to come to terms with who she is at the core. “

Miami-born, Bushwick-based photographer and artist Adam Ross (they/them) met Alex, an Ivorian born Trans model, actress, writer and activist at one of the rallies held on the Christopher Street pier; Adam reached out to her about collaborating on a shoot. “She responded with a beautiful idea,” says Adam, who also goes by Gaystrychef, their IG moniker, ”she wanted to embody the idea of Trans Women blossoming into their true selves.” Adam says that Alex also had the idea of including Jael, a Brooklyn-born Trans Person, into the shoot.

Adam continues: “The three of us met at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and spent a beautiful afternoon shooting in and around the flowers. We talked about how as queers, the idea of community is so vital to us all, and how we need to always stand up for each other when facing hatred and oppression. The experience of Trans Black women specifically is one that people need to witness and share, which that day it was my honor to do; I’m incredibly proud of the work that Alex, Jael, and I created together, and of how much of themselves they put into it.

In Our Own Words

Alex and Jael’s portraits by Adam give us a glimpse into the beautiful moments that may come with rebirth, like the evolution of self, love of yourself and the love for others. In Alex and Joel’s own words:

The life expectancy of Trans Women of color is only 35 years old. There is an urge to improve this statistic drastically. As a marginalized group of people, Trans Women of color especially are taught self-hatred from a very young age. We are indoctrinated into the belief that transgenderism is unnatural and ungodly. 

These seeds are planted in the heart of an innocent child whose life experiences are set to be limited and deprived of joy and happiness with thyself. 

Hate and intolerance coming from the external world will only exacerbate one’s negative life experiences. Such negative feelings and deeds are rooted in ignorance, obsolete religious beliefs, and a lack of compassion and kindness in this perfectly imperfect world. 

Trans people are history.

We’ve existed since the dawn of times through different cultures and throughout the world. From the Fa’afafine (boys raised as girls) in Samoa, to the Two-Spirit people (male-bodied with a female gender or female-bodied with a male gender) in Native American culture.

We are not going anywhere. Black Trans People are expected to Dislike themselves, their history, and their legacy. Not today, Not tomorrow, Not Next Year… WE ARE HERE! And we’ve always been.

This photoshoot at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden was inspired from the concept of Trans Women blossoming into their True, authentic selves. The journey of a Trans Woman is at first internal. She has to come to terms with who she is at the core. Internally, She has to align the truth of her heart with her testosterone-induced brain. The Trans Woman experiences anxieties at different levels varying from one individual to the other. These are mainly focused but not only limited to the matter of misgendering, on a daily basis by folks that aren’t fully aware of her inner gender identity. Medical transition comes into place to alleviate such anxieties and relieve the Trans Woman of a weight She no longer needs to carry: The man She knew She wasn’t.

Once She blossoms into her True self, the Trans Woman is ready to fully live her life like the woman She was always meant to be.”

Is an Ivorian-born Trans model, actress, writer and activist. She’s a firm believer that Trans women need to not merely survive, but to thrive, just like other women. Her creative work includes producing and celebrating Queer Arts as a Whole. She’s also invested in HIV/AIDS advocacy and writing. Her writing has the ultimate goal of educating non-LGBTQ+ people and allies on LGBTQ+ issues and challenges needing to be addressed for change. Her writing also has healing purposes pertaining to her personal journey toward self-discovery, self-acceptance, and self-love. She uses her own life experience and lessons learned along the way as a canvas to inspire, empower, and ignite courage in others to live their authentic lives with fierce passion, joy, and happiness.

A Brooklyn-born Trans Person, drowned in traditions of Conditioning that no longer serves her or US in the “The New Earth,” has chosen to live OUT LOUD. She is in essence and aroma, Divine Feminine Energy. She understands the significance of Black History as well as Trans/Two-Spirited/LGBTQ+ culture. Her drive and inspiration is her Mother and all the female figures who represent women’s empowerment. She’s on a journey of discovery and mastery of her TRANS LIFE.

gaystrychef
Adam Ross

Photographer

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Videos

Conversations: What Are We Doing To Protect Black Trans Women? (Part II)

Categories
EDITORIAL Timeline

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

EDITORIAL | 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.”

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.

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

Categories
EDITORIAL Timeline

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

EDITORIAL | CONVERSATIONS


Living In A Dangerous Body,

Or What Are We Doing To Protect Black Trans Women?

(Part I)

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

Conversations project started about a year ago with a very uncomfortable situation, that became a learning experience, when I attended my first drag party in Miami. I took photos of a trans woman, named Remy Black, who performed in the nude and got them published on an online queer blog without asking her permission. She reached out to me the next day and asked to have a conversation about consent. I was mortified, but the way that Remy approached the situation was very mature, and we resolved the conflict in a matter of minutes.

At that time, I had no idea why, but I asked Remy to do an interview with me next time I would be visiting Miami. I sort of liked having an open discussion about “an uncomfortable subject” with a stranger.

I felt that both of us were more open with each other, as our purpose wasn’t to make a first good impression; it was rather about sharing how we really feel about a situation.

We talked for about an hour, about everything queer and trans related, and it felt so right. It felt nice to hear and be heard, not to judge or be judged. I learned a great deal on the subject of what it is to be a trans woman of color – and I thought that I already knew a great deal about it. I found that the information Remy presented to me made me understand things so much better on a human-to-human basis.

In this conversation Remy gives us a glimpse into the reality of being in a “dangerous body,” as she refers to it.

Religion & Spirituality

I arrived at Remy’s house in Miami in the early afternoon. I was a bit nervous, as the last time we spoke was when I was confronted with posting her nude photos online without her consent. After a couple of unanswered calls, she finally picks up the phone and says she is going to be right out. One minute later, she opens the door of her front gate and greets me with the brightest, widest smile: “Hi! Welcome to the House of Cummies!” She gives me a quick tour around her property with a large front, side, and backyard, while explaining that all three people who live here (including herself) are sex workers, hence the House of Cummies name. She takes me through the back of the house to her kitchen, gives me a glass of water filled with ice, and proceeds to give me a tour of the house, which ends in her room. “I lived on this couch for months before I was able to move into this room and now look how fucking cute it is!,” she exclaims. Her room is very cute indeed – it is neat, everything has its own place. I notice a Buddha statue: “Are you into?..”

Remy: I studied traditional Tibetan Buddhism for three years. I took my bodhisattva vows, I was on my way to be a monk, that’s a whole other story – do I consider myself a practicing Buddhist? No, not really.

SWK: What made you change your mind?

Remy: I found that the flaws that I find in most organized religions were still inherent in Buddhism, the way that they stratify gender, how I was being taught, where I was being taught… It was not in line with commitments to my own self and to my own truth, so it felt at times like I was allowing another system to take control over the way that I express and understand myself. In Tibetan Buddhism, specifically, it’s very rigid. When most people think of Buddhism, they think, “Oh prayer and meditation and monk shit.” When you get into Tibetan Buddhism you are heavily involved in ritual, and at the position that I was in as an ordained bodhisattva, I had a lot of expectations and commitments and responsibilities that I quite frankly wasn’t ready to uphold. I found that I was using that path as a way of escaping from the parts of reality that I didn’t enjoy.

Drag Culture: Perception VS Reality

Remy: But yeah, I got my own vanity set up, my butters and my oils, all these spaces have      different intentions, like this is my sex space, because I’m a sex worker.

SWK: “What about this?” I point at a microphone sitting on a windowsill. “Do you sing?”

Remy: I am a singer. Singing is actually my primary talent, it’s my first talent, it’s my best talent. It’s what I want to be famous for. But somehow I found myself doing drag, now I’m this drag queen and recently I sort of made an announcement that I am done doing drag and it was mostly because I don’t like the culture of drag, I really don’t like being associated with it.

SWK: Why is that?

“…My access point

to a queer identity

is not so much

about the fact

that I suck cock,

as much as it is the fact

that I am black.”

Remy: I love doing drag, I think drag is a really powerful performance art and I love that it’s an avenue for really anyone to have a moment on a stage to do whatever it is that they want to do.

When I think of drag I think of open-ended performance art and expression, and I really enjoy that. There’s a culture of drag around the country that has been influenced by the way that RuPaul’s Drag Race has shaped our understanding of what drag is and who gets to do drag, what is qualified as good drag versus bad drag.

That influences, then, the mentality of the audience and what they are expecting to see from drag. So in South Florida you have a large culture of battle drag. It’s these lip-sync battles and, you know, a lot of the drag queens are very young, they are kids. They are 21, 22, and I’m 29 years old. I’m going to be 30 in a month. It felt weird to be in the position in my life where I’m almost 30 competing against 20-year-old kids lip-syncing to pop songs. That’s not what I do, that’s not what I like to do, that’s not the kind of performer that I am. I would much prefer to sing Nina Simone songs all day.

Not that I don’t like pop songs, but I think that there is a drive towards what is relevant, or perceived as relevant culturally, to the young queer community, and I find myself just uninterested in most of that, because my access point to a queer identity is not so much about the fact that I suck cock, as much as it is the fact that I am black.

More than even being a trans woman, my queerness has always started at being a black person, and so when I see queer communities built around this nebulous word “queer,” I’m like, what does that mean? And why do I have to sign up and subscribe to your definition of “queer,” if your definition of “queer” includes people that are my oppressors?

Gender Identity

SWK: Why do you think people generally want to put everything into a box?

Remy: I think it helps to know who your community is and who you’re aligning yourself with and who your oppressors are and who your companions are.

SWK: Talking to you right now just confirms that in our generation, there is more to it than just putting something in a box and compartmentalizing it. I think there are more blurred lines at the moment and people are understanding that it’s ok to have these blurred lines and it’s ok not to belong to a certain box, even if you are a queer person.

Remy: I think it’s wonderful to live at a time when people are expressing themselves in ways that defy the boxes that we’ve been conditioned to go into. Exploration is fun and creative and can be really spiritually enriching, but I think that, at times, there is an urgency to feel the need to redefine yourself, even if that redefinition is “I don’t go by any labels.” And so I feel, in a lot of ways, that this rise of the queer community is really sometimes enmeshed with the privilege to be able to explore gender in this way which isn’t a reality for everyone.

“…I don’t have access to male privilege and that’s what being a woman means to me.”

There are certain spaces in which it’s safer to explore gender identity than it is in other spaces. For those who don’t have access to safe spaces to explore identity, I feel like it’s nice that these people have access to the resources and communities to explore their gender in these ways and then go back after the night is finished and assume whatever gender identity is convenient for their day life.

I don’t mean for my statements to ever invalidate non-binary identity, because in ways I understand myself in that context, but I am a woman, and so it’s been challenging for me to be able to say, “No, I’m not exploring my gender.”

I mean, I guess we all are, but I am a woman, I am a trans woman, I am a woman who has a penis, I am a woman who has a natural estrogen deficiency. And so when people see me and my association with queerness or queer nightlife or drag, my identity becomes associated with this queer clusterfuck thing happening, “Oh you’re a drag queen? Cool, so what’s your boy name?” Like no no no, I’m a woman.

My name is Remy Black, period. Sometimes I get onstage and I sing, sometimes I get onstage and I lip sync, sometimes I dance, sometimes I drink coffee, but at all times my name is Remy Black and I’m a woman. So, you know, it’s not so much that I feel some sort of way about people explain their gender identities in whatever ways they choose.

It’s just that some people assume womanhood for a moment in time that is fun or cute in whatever ways they think of being a woman is, and then they go back to not holding or claiming that identity, and that to me is just something that I don’t understand.

I don’t understand, because I don’t have access to male privilege, and that’s what being a woman means to me. And so when people assume that I have the ability to do that when my reality is really different, it’s a little frustrating.

And so my desire to distance myself from the queer community doesn’t come from disliking the queer community. It comes from not wanting my womanhood to be compromised or invalidated by my association with queers.

Dangerous Body

SWK: So that event that brought us together…

You performed. Your performance was so fucking powerful, and then at the end when you took off all your clothes and you just stood there, for me, the message was, “I’m fucking beautiful, I accept myself the way that I am.” So when I sent the photos from the event to the magazine and got it published, I got a message from you about it the next day. I was fucking mortified.

Remy: To me it’s water off a duck’s back. I thought your photos were beautiful and I was very happy that you captured that moment. There were certain photos that I thought were less flattering and as a performer and as a trans woman existing in a body with which I experience a lot of dysphoria… To have my body broadcast to people I don’t know, to a community who I have not chosen to show my body to, that’s more of a boundary. It was just like who’s going to be looking at the pictures of my dick? 

I also think that the trans body in general is sensational and it provokes.

Most people just have never seen someone with tits and a dick naked in front of them. You know what I mean? And I think it’s important to show – this is what my trans body looks like, it looks different from any of the other bodies that you’ve encountered and there is beauty in that, there’s eroticism in that, just like there are in any other bodies, but my performance that night was about the danger of being in my body.

What you saw as a celebration of the beauty of my body was absolutely there and that was implied. It was a secondary message; the primary message was the reason that I’m wearing white and covered in blood is this idea of being in this very dangerous body.

Being a black trans woman is very dangerous and I always want to remind people of that because I think that we become over-concerned with viewing trans identity as exciting, as sexy, as cool, as edgy.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that I think a lot of people want to be cool and sexy and outrageous and sensational and so they flirt around trans identity as a way of accessing coolness mojo – the juice. They are like, “Oh I’m cool. I’m not like those other cis people, fuck cis people, I’m queer.” And it’s like okay. Alright. My experience is not that I’m trying to be cool, I’m trying to exist and my reality is a very dangerous one. I have been physically assaulted for being trans. There were five black trans women murdered in the state of Florida in 2018. Murdered. They were all black, they were all trans women.

So when I’m onstage when I’m going to those communities, wherever I am, I’m always aware that yeah, it is fun to party, it’s totally fun to celebrate queerness, but what are we doing to protect black trans women? Because black trans women are always dying. It’s not light-skinned trans women who are dying. I’m sorry.

“I think it’s important

to show – this is what my trans body looks like, it looks different from any of the other bodies that you’ve encountered and there is beauty in that…”

It’s the black trans women who are being murdered and it’s happening in this state and every other state.

So for me, I like my performance in equal parts to be a celebration of my beauty like yes, bitch, I am out here living and I look like this. I look good. I’m fucking happy.

I love the skin that I’m in, but I’m always aware and I want you to be aware that this is dangerous and at any point I could be murdered for this shit. So, I want to encourage the community to be mindful of that and hopefully encourage them to find ways to really hold space for black people, for trans women, for those who exist in dangerous bodies.

And while I want to also hold space for everyone’s clear expressions, right? And so when we do this big queer wash, where everyone’s welcome, as long as you say you’re queer it doesn’t really matter, we’re open to everybody, and then everybody gets a rainbow brush stroke across and like we’re all like in this, you know, nebulous queer thing. It’s like, okay that’s cute. But when we leave here, you’re going to take your makeup off and go back to your boy job and I’m going to be a threat of fucking dying. I’m going to be responding to fucking calls from my ad of clients trying to come fucking pay me for sex because I’m a black trans sex worker…

I think that I could approach in a way that would make me more popular and a way that would make people more likely to wanna approach me, but I’m less interested in participating in the fun as much as I am interested in challenging the narrative.

Creating Spaces For Trans Women

Remy: I’ve had fun. You know, I’m 30, I’ve had so much fun and you know what? I still have lots of fun. But you know what, I’m sober, I don’t do that shit anymore. If I was fucked up on cocaine and fucking drinking, bitch yaaaahssss [screams]. But I’m sitting there like, “What do y’all think about black people? Do y’all really host spaces for black people? When was the last time y’all let a black person speak? Do you know we are getting murdered?” And people are like “Remy, stop!”

We’re getting murdered! Y’all gagged from me when I gave you shows, don’t be coming to my funeral like, “Oh my God, Remy was such a light.” Y’all didn’t do shit! Y’all wanna give me $50 to come to Miami, I live in Ft. Lauderdale. I’m not coming there for $50 to pour my fucking heart out on the stage and slay harder than the rest of y’all bitches, for what, for $50? Nah, because I know you pay your out-of-towners $150. So if you wanted to really show some support for black trans lives, I think you could probably get some more money. I think you could figure it out. Redistribute resources, honey. Instead of spending all your money on drugs, spend some money… Like I don’t know… Supporting the girls. You know, if I go on Grindr right now and go to the Trans Tribe, I’ll see all the fucking girls working, right? All the fucking trans girls who are escorts like myself.

“…before I was a fucking gay boy, before I was a trans woman, before I was a gender-nonconforming being, I was always black and I was always queer…”

I guarantee none of them are coming to these parties. None of them are coming to the queer parties. Cuz I don’t even think they know how to access those spaces and if they did access those spaces, I don’t know that those spaces would really know how to take people who are really struggling.

Like I’m fucking sucking dick to get by, you know what I mean? Like do y’all hold space for me outside of the sensational like yeah, real party and wearing cool costumes and assuming gender identities that are radical and awesome? But I don’t know. I will also acknowledge that I’m highly critical while also not having deep personal connections with most of the people in the community that you were talking about.

So I am not here to like rag on them and be like “Y’all aren’t doing it right” but I’m skeptical of any communities that call themselves queer, especially if they don’t seem to have a political mission that is specifically embedded in uplifting the lives of black people. That’s the queerest thing to do to me, period. Cuz before I was a fucking gay boy, before I was a trans woman, before I was a gender-nonconforming being, I was always black and I was always queer, and the same queers who were supposed to all be joining this ship because we are all cocksuckers, it’s like no y’all were shitting on me then and y’all shit on me now. So I’m glad we’re all in this queer little umbrella. But have y’all addressed your anti-blackness?

Jump to Part II after the video below.

Alexey Kim

Founder

Categories
Videos

Conversations: What Are We Doing To Protect Back Trans Women? Part I

Categories
Videos

The 20th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance

Categories
Videos

The Annual Trans March During Atlanta Pride

Categories
Activisim Events Pride

“You Are Loved” at The Annual Trans March in Atlanta, GA

EVENTS | PRIDE

10-12-19

TRANS MARCH IN ATLANTA

The Annual Trans March in Atlanta celebrates the visibility of the trans and non-binary community, while remembering lives lost due to violence.

sidewalkkilla

Trans rights and issues have always been close to home, as for most of my life I have struggled with my own identity. When I was a child, I loved playing dress-up in my mom’s closet. When I got into my teenage years, I still loved doing it, only now her heels fit me just right. When I was home alone, I would carefully pick out my favorite items from her wardrobe, put them on, and prance around the house, imagining I was a girl. Up until my early 30s, I was still pondering if it would be sensible for me to transition, but last year I made a conscious decision to stay with the gender I was assigned at birth. When I got to Atlanta for their 49th Annual Pride celebrations, I looked up the events that were going to take place over the weekend, and I saw that a Trans March was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. It was a no-brainer that I would put it on my list of the events to attend.

The Annual Trans March in Atlanta first began in 2009. The March celebrates and uplifts the visibility of the trans and non-binary community, while also addressing issues facing the trans community – from discrimination in the workplace, to the growing number of hate crimes and trans murders. This year, the Trans March honored trans lives lost in 2019. So far, at least 22 trans or gender non-conforming people, mostly Black trans women, were reported murdered this year, according to the HRC. A trans woman, Roxsana Hernández, died earlier this year in ICE custody due to AIDS complications while seeking asylum from trans prosecution in El Salvador, while another trans woman, Layleen Polanco, died in Rikers Island prison due to complications from epilepsy. Johana Medina Leon was one more victim that died due to health complications while in ICE custody shortly after her release.

By the time I got to the Charles Allen Gate of Piedmont Park, where the parade was supposed to take off, I saw no sign of the march. I was sort of caught off-guard, as I didn’t realize that other things would be happening at the park at the same time. Rainbow flags were everywhere and the queer people congregated as far as the eye could see. A huge stage was set up in the middle of a large field and I noticed a poster with the weekend’s lineup. Kesha, slated to perform later that evening, headined the festival.

I started making my way through the park, trying to find the missing Trans March. I made it all the way across the park with no luck in locating it, but I stopped in front of a field strewn with what looked like colorful blankets. Upon closer investigation I realized that they were all handmade memorial quilts for queer people who had passed away from AIDS. “Happy Pride!,” I heard a voice say. There were two men standing behind me. One was in his 20s, while the other one was a couple decades older. “My name is Ben,” the younger guy introduced himself. He told me that this was his first Pride. After a couple more minutes of conversation I excused myself, but not before Ben flirtatiously announced that I had kissable lips. Happy that I could land a Southern dick, I started walking along the field, looking through more of the memorial quilts.

A few moments later I noticed a commotion happening towards the right side of where I was walking, and I made my way over there. Pansy Patrol volunteers stood with huge styrofoam pansies and posters that said things like “God Adores You” and “You R Loved,” blocking out another dozen people who held up posters that said “Homo Sex Is Sin” and “Prepare To Meet Thy God.” Several other queer activists barricaded the homophobes with huge poster boards called The Hate Shield, designed by artist Matt Terrell. “The front is a rainbow design, which faces the Pride-goers. The back, which faced the protesters, is covered in mirrored panels, so the anti-LGBTQ protesters see themselves. This mobile soundproof wall also helped reduce protest noise such as megaphones by nearly 25%,” wabe stated.

A trans woman holding up a countdown clock and a sign urging people to donate to THAP said: “Every 15 minutes they protest we raise money for trans housing, to get homelessness off the streets of Atlanta. We’ve raised over $600 so far from pledges from people in the community. The longer they protest, the more money we raise. We are going to turn their hate to love.”

I came up to a woman who was holding up a sign “They Never Miss A Gay Party,” and I asked how did the Pansy Patrol know the religious anti-gay contingent would be there. She said “They are always here!” The only other time I’ve seen Bible-thumping protesters was at Brooklyn Pride earlier this year. But Atlanta’s Pansy Patrol, who came to shield the Pride attendees from the homophobic hatred, did a darn good job drowning them out with songs and chants of love and support.

It was almost time for me to head out to the first day of Afropunk and I started making my way back. A stage that was empty just an hour earlier now featured full-on performances. A local trans activist/performer of Mexican descent, Alissah Brooks, graced the stage and brought out several surprise guests, like Jazmin Balenciaga and Alissah’s best friend, actress, singer and gay rights activist Kat Graham. At the end of the performance, Alissah read the names of the 19 trans women killed before the date of the event: Dana Martin, Jazzaline Ware, Ashanti Carmon, Calire Legato, Muhlaysia Booker, Michelle “Tamika” Washington, Paris Cameron, Chynal Lindsey, Chanel Scurlock, Zoe Spears, Brooklyn Lindsey, Denali Berries Stuckey, Tracy Single, Bubba Walker, Kiki Fantroy, Pebbles LaDime “Dime” Doe, Bailey Reeves, Bee Love Slayter, and Itali Marlowe. Sadly, the next day after Atlanta Pride, one more name of a Black trans woman would be added to the list of murdered trans women this year. Brianna “BB” Hill was fatally shot in Kansas City.

As I started getting closer to the exit gate of the park, I finally caught up with the tail end of the Trans March. It was coming to an end and the marchers were almost at the point where they started. Even though I missed the whole march, I was able to witness other incredible things, like the queer community coming together to protect each other from hate and bigotry and celebrity allies willing to stand in solidarity with members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Moments like these give you hope and show that even though our community can be divided at times, we are still not afraid to speak up, come together, and face our adversaries.

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Alexey Kim

Founder

Categories
Events Pride Timeline

Celebrating WorldPride In Queens, Jackson Heights 2019

EVENTS | PRIDE


Celebrating WorldPride In Queens, Jackson Heights 2019

Queens celebrates WorldPride with a bang: three performance stages; Kristine W as a headliner; and a bunch of politicians, like Senator Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Queens Pride was first held in 1993, when Britney Spears first debuted on The Mickey Mouse Club. Even though this year wasn’t Queens Pride’s anniversary, it’s a super-special year –WorldPride comes to NYC in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising of 1969.

So, Queens Pride decided to go all out ith three performance stages and Kristine W as the headliner. The focus of the festival was to continue the fight for social justice and celebrate the community, while displaying visibility and pride. Senator Chuck Schumer, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer all showed up earlier in the day to show their support, according to PIX 11.

The celebrations were still in full force, even though we got there pretty late. It took us hours to venture out past the first stage – the performances and the faces in the crowd were too compelling. We got to the main stage just in time to catch Kristine W’s last song and were blown away by her energy and powerful voice. Can’t believe that this lady is almost freaking 60! Once the event started wrapping up and the bulk of the people started heading out, that’s when things got more interesting. The most turned-up crowd stayed behind to keep on hanging out on the emptying, trash-filled streets. There were snakes and iguanas passed from head to neck, Subway DJ threw an impromptu twerking party on a busy sidewalk, and a guy with a rolling cart filled with pride flags was still trying to sell his merch. Yeah, WorldPride in Queens was lit.

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Alexey Kim

Founder