by Chella Coleman
As I pass people wearing my stylish wigs and what’s viewed as “feminine” clothing, I look and feel like a beautiful transgender female. People on the street, however, treat me as anything but. They say I’m a “black pig in a wig”, dismiss me as a “tranny” or “freak of nature.” People assume they know me or who I am, projecting stereotypes and assumptions on to me. They think they know, but they have no idea; people will never know what lies inside.
As I stand in my room getting prepared to face the day, I call on my ancestors, those who fought in the people’s movement to ensure I would one day be free.
As I try to attain some stability, sitting in possible places of employment dressed as the woman I want the world to perceive me to be, I’m ever so mindful of my feelings, knowing how I feel affects how people see me. But when I hear the words:
”We have already filled the position,” or
“I’m sorry, we are not looking for any new people at this time, but we’ll keep your application on file…”
I know something bigger is at play. I see the new hires just a few days later, always assimilated black and brown non-queer folks. This happens to me all the time, and each time I reach into my belly and channel the same resilient energy my people have always had to. This is not to say it doesn’t get me down; it gets me real down. Money makes the world go ‘round, right? I’m not greedy, I just want to live comfortably, not struggling to pay my bills and buy my groceries. I get by, but barely. While the money is a struggle, I continue to empower myself more and more; I dive into the movement more and more.
Becoming the woman I am today – feeling the way do, living the way I have – has pushed away my family, isolating me even further. I’ve been made to feel like I don’t matter, like my family is no longer mine. I will be welcomed again if I revert back to pretending to be cisgender. There are family members who say, “We accept you,” but do they really?
I scramble to stay in the loop of my family, my one remaining tie being a cousin who tells me more about my mom than I ever knew. This hurts me to my core, but I have found a family who wants me; my resilience and love comes from those who are LGBT and queer-identified. This is my chosen family, they have shown me the love and compassion my unchosen birth family lacks.
I have no “love life” or “relationships”; these things are non-existent in my life. I have had my fill of men who don’t identify as queer, men who say, “I’m looking for a relationship,” but it’s obvious to me they’re just looking to get off. Afterwards they forget about me, or they walk ahead of me, acting as if they don’t know me. What can I say? These are the men I choose.
BGD is a 100% reader-funded, non-profit project. DONATE today and help amplify marginalized voices.
Men come at me spitting rhymes, as if I don’t know what they really want from me. As soon as they find out I am a trans female, the obscenities come.
“I bet you suck a good dick.”
“I don’t want your dick in my ass, but I’ll put my dick in your ass.”
Just thinking of this makes me feel disgusted, as most of the men who say these things to me are brown and black. Like me, they are minorities and define themselves as such, but they fail to realize the fluidity of identity, sexual or otherwise. By treating me this way, they lose out on the gift of connecting, an opportunity to share and receive information and enlightenment. That is a gift from God, Mother Earth, and the universe – those who designed us. It is a missed opportunity for empowerment.
When a person on the street looks at me, confronting me with their assumptions, I break it down for them, explaining I am not going to – and it’s not my job to – conform to their binary. I do not need to be whatever they think a black transgender female should be. I take the time to explain that I channel the spirits of those who fought against enslavement, colonization, and racial and gender biases.
“I am a strong African American who knows my history. I know where my ancestors came from and I know the struggle of my people,” I tell them. I look at these people who approach me on the streets, these people who think they know my life, who assume so much about me, I look them in the eyes and say, “I’m sorry you don’t.”
In these moments, as I stand there facing strangers, I become more aware of the ways in which I’ve struggled and remained in chains, the same chains that have always separated my people from freedom. I have passed through and found my inner strength. I say to these strangers on the street, “The ancestors would be proud of me. Would they be proud of you?
Sincerely, I do not say any of this as a way of belittling or passing judgment; I say these things to educate, to remind them of the ways our people have struggled in order for us to remain strong and free. I want to remind them that perpetuating ignorance keeps them – keeps all of us – in chains. You will never be free if you hold others down.
I believed the lies about myself for far too long, and some of them I still believe. They are lies that have been told to me by a wounded society, and they have resulted in a wounded Chella. I am my own worst enemy, just as I am my own best friend. I select what I chose to believe about myself. I am a powerful, warm-hearted person. I am a beast, freak of nature, not deserving of love. I am a warrior, just like my ancestors who fought for me. I am also weak, not knowing where I fit in life. I believe all of these contradictions. This is how I feel and identify now, but as I walk with others, sit with others, talk with others, it can all change. Who I will be and how I will feel in the future remains unknown. I figure myself out day-by-day. I breathe and release.
I often wonder: had the stars and planets been formed differently, could I have been you and you have been me? I believe in this possibility, so to all of these people I encounter – these employers, these men, these strangers on the street – I say: rise with me. Take your sword out of me and instead, fight the good fight with me. Together let’s remember our transcestors and ancestors.
As I walk these streets, I breathe and release.
Born in Los Angeles, CA, Chella Coleman is an artist seeking to help other folks tell their story. As a trans woman of color, she belongs to many non-profits and hopes to help heal the world through artistic expression.
All work published on BGD is the intellectual property of its writers. Please do not republish anything from this site without express written permission from BGD. For more info, go here.
Get BGD creator Mia McKenzie’s debut literary novel, The Summer We Got Free. It’s the winner of the Lambda Literary Award.
Follow us on Twitter: @blackgirldanger
LIKE us on Facebook