TransAtlantic People and Trans Identity


Trans identity occupies a prominent space in contemporary society. Whether it is statistics that designate the trans collective as a “high risk” group, or the rise of popular series that document the trans experience, the contemporary climate has awarded the trans community a notable visibility. Black male transition to feminine identity remains at the core of this visibility. Particularly, black male transition to feminine ideals occupies a celebratory space in contemporary culture. Though a contemporary fixture, this praxis is hardly anything new. In fact, Dr. Francis Cress Wesling, in The Isis Papers, contended that precluding black masculinity functions as insurance to a white supremacist society. 

Actress Charlize Theron, who is an adopted “mother” to two black children, delineates this process as beginning quire early. Theron’s eldest “child” Jackson was born a boy, however, Theron informed the public as that at age two, Jackson informed her that he was a girl not a boy. She has since taken to adorning the child in dresses and allowing Jackson to wear hair extensions. To Theron’s claim, I would like to articulate what appears evident: Jackson probably thinks that he is white also. 

While communication is a core attribute to any relationship, guidance is essential in the parent-child dynamic.  Guidance does not mean dictating emotions or identity. It does, however, mean working with your child through trauma. White adoption of black children embodies a traumatic experience. This experience in itself, as Dr. Christina Sharpe argues in In the Wake:On Blackness and Being, is a trans* encounter that mirrors the transitory experience African endured in their journey over the transatlantic seas. Sharpe cites terror as central to this transition and transformation. This terror is, of course, the transatlantic slave trade which birthed what Franz Fanon called the master-slave dynamic. Theron’s scenario, which personifies the master-slave dynamic behind the veil of a parent-child relationship, reveals that blacks cannot properly respond to terror when espoused, in any capacity, to the terrorist. 

This terrorism takes on a varied form with regards to Dwayne Wade’s daughter Zaya. The media inundated Wade with praise following his support for Zaya’s transition. The issue here is obvious. Had Zaya started a pro-black organization, or even opted to attend an HBCU, her story would not prove newsworthy. Just as in the case with Jackson, the media basks in black males who resign from black masculinity. This case also represents unconfronted terror. Here, I reference the very public divorce Wade has with his children’s mother, a divorce that ended with a mother’s separation from her children. This scenario proves quite similar to Janet Mock’s early detachment from her mother, a detachment that also preceded her transition. 

Now, I want to state that I am neither a parent nor a person with a background in psychology. With this being said my observations are not a diagnosis, but I do wish to indicate a persistent relationship between absence and abjection displaced onto black identity. We, as a people, are consistently nudged by a racist society to define ourself in absence, a praxis evidenced in the provided examples where young black males select a female identity over a male identity following overt trauma. White hegemonic forces mutilate the terror of anti-black trauma to launch an attack on black children. Thus, it remains imperative that we as a people do not conflate escapism with identity politics. Providing and requiring black children to fully conceptualize race and racism before making any identity decisions would yield paramount results for the black community. 

I want to state that I support the black collective’s shift away from conventional gender, because gender is inherently anti-black. Traditional African clothing does not correspond to western gender conventions, thus, it is commendable when those of the African diaspora reach for their roots and defy gender as a means to actualize an elevated cultural consciousness. This, however, is not what is going on here. The described behavior is not a shift away from gender; it is a shift toward a white ideal in a manner that threatens the reproductivity the black collective needs to sustain as a human species. This praxis is also the result of propaganda used to encourage black children to be any and everything that will preclude their liberation. Here, I speak to a contemporary climate that propogates black male transition as liberation while continuing to politically, socially, and physically castigate any black man for seeking to hone his place as the global “alpha” male.

Nevertheless, the anticipated pushback is a necessary consequence to draw attention to the ways in which the white media maintains epistemological control over the black narrative, which inevitably threatens black ontological authority. Nevertheless, physical and cognitive genocide is not something to take lightly. 

Moreover, while it remains our communal obligation to guide our children; it is also crucial that we as a collective employ our younger generations as a guide back to spaces and places that we must reconcile in order to advance. But, it is we that must connect the dots, not them

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