Isis King submits her 7 Questions Video to WeHappyTrans.com, and I’m honored that she’s allowed us into her life and journey to womanhood from the very beginning.
I’m also humbled to call her my dear sister.
It’s rare that trans women are given the mic to speak about our experiences on our own terms, and it’s an even rarer occurrence when we women of color get to share space with one another and truth tell in a public space.
I’m proud of the nearly 10 minutes I shared with Isis King, who came into the media’s focus when she was recruited to compete on Cycle 11 of America’s Next Top Model in 2008. I’m proud to call Isis my dear sister and to be able to speak with her about our public lives.
I’d like to use this space to clarify three things:
1. Isis mentioned Laverne Cox as one of the only examples she’s known of trans women like herself on television. I’d like to highlight the fact that other sisters are and have also represented on television: Carmen Carrera, Candis Cayne, Jamie Clayton, Nina Poon, Harmony Santana and Nong Ariyaphon Southiphong.
2. I made a statement about our responsibility to educate others about our experiences. I said, “You have to use your life as a teaching moment.” It’s a personal choice to do so, and it’s a responsibility that I take on, but it is NOT our job to educate people about us. I was reminded of this when I read Janani Balasubramanian’s essay “Brown Silence,” where she so eloquently writes: “Not everyone’s education needs to be our responsibility all the time…Our words and energy should also be conserved.”
3. I also said the dehumanization of trans women in the media “leads to trans women hurting themselves in a way that they feel they don’t deserve more.” Instead, I’d like to add that the systematic dehumanization of trans women through words, images and the lack thereof of words and images that represent the totality of our experiences actually is what contributes to others seeing us as less than human therefore justifying the violence, battery, criminalization and murders we face.
Finally, I hope conversations like these continue to happen, and that they happen with a wide array of women, because it’s only in hearing a plethora of our voices do we paint a more realistic portrait of womanhood.
Over the past three weeks, I had the pleasure of editing Isis King’s America’s Next Top Model: All-Stars blog posts for PEOPLE.com. In last night’s episode (in which she was sadly eliminated), Isis’s fellow All Star Camille McDonald (cycle 2) made it a point to say she, not Isis, is a “real woman.”
What exactly is a “real woman”? I genuinely wish we could get it in our heads that gender identity is a matter beyond body. It’s on the level of soul.
And no soul is “fake.”
One of the many WTF? moments I experienced while watching Don Lemon interview Chaz Bono, Laverne Cox, Isis King and Harmony Santana on The Joy Behar Show’s groundbreaking transgender panel, where the CNN host asked Bono, “You’re a dude now, you have facial hair and everything to go along with it. I mean do you like that? Is it cool?”