The Gatekeeper's Collective (TGC)

IGNITING THE POWER OF BLACK SAME GENDER LOVE

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In our latest dialogue with hetero Brothers, The Gatekeepers Collective and Codify Art, a queer POC artists collective, looked at the role of Buck Breaking during slavery as the potential root of anti-homosexual perspectives among African descended people in a conversation billed as, Buck Breaking & the Myth of Homophobia Among Black People.

As a point of departure for the dialogue, participants watched a video excerpt of a film titled Hidden Colors 4 treating on buck breaking, the practice in which slave holders and overseers (beginning in the Middle Passage), publicly sodomized enslaved African men, in many instances before the entire community, including the African men’s wives and children towards ‘breaking’ them.

In response to the video, participants were asked to take a few minutes to write their reactions.  Then, they reported:

“It’s like, I’m a man having sex with another man…”

“Rape is not about sex, it’s about power…”

“If I was home, I would have turned the TV off…It raises my pulse and [blood] pressure…It enraged me…A lot of the problems that Black men are having today [come from this kind of abuse]…A culture can’t recover from this [level of violence] in one or two generations…What kind of monsters would behave in this way?...I have two grandchildren…I don’t know if I want them to see this…[At the same time] this kind of knowledge can promote healing…”

“It was disgusting…It makes my blood boil…Rape is about power…”

“I have a healthy skepticism…I’m not convinced that this was systematic…”

“It makes a lot of sense…I love this documentary series…I think about Quentin Tarantino films…Django [Unchained] and Pulp Fiction…He always uses issues and images that re-traumatize Black people…It made me think of prison rape…”

Facilitator says, “That makes sense, inasmuch as prison is the modern plantation…”

“Tragic…tragedy…[It] makes sense [as a reinforcement of] white masculinity…”

“If you have a rapist [and a person who’s being raped], it’s sex to the rapist…”

“For me, it get’s back to, we didn’t have rights…”

Facilitator says, “Yes… looked at from the perspective of the prevailing social order, because we were deemed property, as distinct from people, the rape of the Africans wasn’t considered rape at all…They were exercising their rights over their property…which only intensified the dehumanization and humiliation of the enslaved Africans…”

“They knew we were people…”

“History is the story we tell ourselves about ourselves…Black people are the product of rape in America…and the trauma gets passed on [from one generation to the next]…”

Facilitator says, “We rarely talk about slavery…And, in those instances when we do deign to talk about it, the conversation rarely extends beyond the [truism] about our mothers having been raped…But, in a patriarchal society…that is, a society wherein manhood is defined in terms of power, control, and domination over others…and which is undergirded by misogyny…we dare not talk about the fact that homosexuality wasn’t invented at the turn of the 20th Century with [Sigmund] Freud…It has existed throughout nature, and from time immemorial…And, our fathers were used as objects of abuse and of pleasure, the same as our mothers….perhaps making this the ultimate humiliation…”

Black people are the product of rape in America…[And] The trauma gets passed on…”

“The lineage of the homophobia… We’re carrying this traumatized DNA, and that’s a real and present danger…Your representation of self is a way to access power…And, if [I perceive] the White man is the pinnacle [then] I have to do what he does…[In this construction] being feminine is going to lower my social capital…”

“White gay maleness is powerful now…They wield a lot of power…unlike gay people of color…”

“It’s purely about power…not about desire necessarily… Present day…The football player that was killed in the road rage [incident]…[For] the one who shot him, it was about power…”

Facilitator asks, “Hetero Brothers, do you believe Buck Breaking might be the root of some of the most visceral contempt and even hatred towards homosexuals and homosexuality among Black people?”

“I guess, yes…But, it doesn’t have to be…This is a new time…a new era…a lot of people don’t like change…I don’t know what we [have to do to change people’s perspective]…’

“I have this theory about religion and hierarchy… Most of us have been trained that, to get to heaven…[for there to be] a heaven, there has to be a hell…Hierarchy…Women and homosexuals have to fit in…There has to be somebody below…”

“I feel like this is a good lens on this binary…Good person/bad person…gay/straight…I don’t know that there is anything we do that is not about power…Heterosexual identity is a dominant identity, but not necessarily a supported identity…As a dark-skinned Black man in high school, if they said I was gay, I was enraged….I said, “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!”…They couldn’t take away my one privilege…You have to get to a point where you can do that introspection to see who you are and who you want to be…”

“How do we know this history is real? …That this really happened?...”

Facilitator says, “You’re looking for what is called primary source materials [to verify the alleged violations]…”

 “I think it’s real…The idea of literature delegitimizing history [is dangerous]…[As if] If it wasn’t written down, it didn’t happen…We should be able to accept the truths that are told, and ancestral [legacies, including] memory…I work in technology, and look at language as the oldest technology…”

“[But, there’s a danger that] it leaves the door open to anybody being able to say anything…Trump was clocked at lying more than 70% of the time…”

“My parents got remarried back in the early ‘90s and I was a young teen, and my dad said that in church, ‘I remember Mothers Day being the most attended day, and Fathers Day being the least attended day’…[There was an urgent push to] get fathers back to being the heads of their households…”

“[I question the reliability of] These translations of these stories, and these folk[s]y stories…”

Facilitator says, “it’s vital that we remember that, not only is ours is an oral tradition, meaning, that was the primary means by which we passed on our history but, for the first few hundred years here, reading and writing were criminal offenses for Africans…And, it is highly unlikely that slaveholders or overseers would have documented their barbarity, cum savagery…”

“The White man has a method to tell his history…you have to use your tools…[I wonder] if you should look to their traditions for people to tell [you] who you are…”

“I don’t think it’s productive to see ourselves as totally other…”

“We’re talking about a people who had no literacy…There was no way for them to read [or write]…”

“You can feel vibrations from intrinsic truth…Look at all the people we’ve held up as truth tellers…We’re being asked to look internally to have [faith in our innate capacity to discern truth]…”

Facilitator says, “The challenge in talking about this stuff is that it involves risking acknowledging… that is, revisiting…our having been utterly powerless…and having been violated in savage fashion in the face of our powerlessness…This is dangerous duty, and we have been courageous here…We are particularly indebted to our hetero Brothers for having had the courage to march their hetero ass asses up in here…” [Laughter] “The question is, do we think this exploration can be [a] useful [healing device] for more of the community?”

[The community agree, and commit to continuing the dialogue.]



Focusing on the role sexual trauma plays in many same gender loving (SGL) Black men’s sexual decision-making, TGC welcomed therapist, Lionel Shockness to help facilitate a dialogue in which the men considered the notion of Homosex, the Blessing.

The dialogue began with a discussion of the film, Moonlight in which participants argued about the extent to which the film-makers had succeeded in depicting an SGL love story, or indeed, an SGL story at all.

“The film showed how the bullying and belittling of [the principal characters] didn’t allow what was really going on [within them] to blossom, to exist…”

Co-facilitator says, [I work with] adult survivors of sexual abuse and neglect…[In therapy,] most people don’t present with trauma…they present with depression, with anger…It’s usually not until nine or ten months into the process that they present with those issues…I grew up being bullied…I was hit…I internalized that…[I] thought something was wrong with me…There was a sense of self-hatred…I hated the way I looked…the way I spoke…”

Facilitator says, “In fact, the statement about how the bullying and belittling didn’t allow the characters in the film to become who they were is the perfect segue for our discussion…Do you, or have you experienced sex as a blessing?

“What does this ‘blessing’ mean?”

Facilitator says, “Well, for example, I remember actually believing my sexuality was a curse…that it made me wrong in the world…And, I hated myself [for it]…And, it was only after years of therapy that I came to understand that I had internalized myths and lies about my sexuality, and I began to develop a different relationship to my sexuality, and with it, to sex…So, the question is, do you, or have you gloried in sex?...Do you experience unbridled ecstasy?...Do you feel free in it?...And, when it’s over, do you feel good about it?”

“Yes…It’s exhilarating…it eases tension…”

“When I was growing up, the reason I got married was I wanted to express my masculinity…There were 11 of us…in Queens…After we were married, we went to [a resort] where my wife caught me in a compromising position with a male cousin…I was so ashamed and humiliated, I walked from upstate New York to the George Washington Bridge…I decided I couldn’t jump…And, I had to learn that they were wrong about my sex…That it’s natural…They tell us it’s wrong, but it’s natural…Yes, definitely, it’s a blessing…”

“Yes…[it’s] good…great even…the older I get, the more I experience sex as a gift…As a younger man, I remember feeling cursed…I remember having bad experiences…It was too much to have to prove you belong in the world…all the shenanigans you have to go through…I remember being sleepy on a flight, and talking to this woman about a guy I was in love with, and having to change the pronoun…’he,’ to ‘she’…and, as I got sleepier, the ‘she’ turning to ‘he’, and feeling mortified…And, having to go through all these shenanigans [to feel safe in the world]…”

Co-facilitator says, “There is a school of thought that says we all have a trauma, or a trauma story surrounding sex…”

“Not at all [do I see sex as a blessing]…Hate is not an emotion that I recognize feeling often…I caution myself, ‘don’t hate’…[But,] Sex has robbed me of what I am…Sex has been so incredibly developed [in my life], I wish I was impotent …Sexually, I find myself to be a great performer…I want to please people, and I watch myself…[My attitude is] I’m going to treat you as an animal, physical function…it’s not something I find uplifting…It stops me from dealing with something [real]…”

Where, if at all, is intimacy a player in your sex?

‘There are SGL men, or even hetero men and women who are on the planet valuing intimate relationships…who want to spend time talking, and sharing, and being with each other…”

“There are still SGL men who are being attacked by AIDS…Sex for the sake of sex kills intimacy…It can put an end to intimacy…”

Facilitator says, “While not all of us have necessarily, many of us may have experienced sexual traumas, that is, traumas during the course of sexual intercourse…But, all of us have experienced trauma around our sexualities…Felt persecuted or abused for being other than heterosexual…And, as we broached last time, that kind of trauma, if it goes unattended, can make sex sickly, instead of celebratory…Was sex ever enjoyable to you?”

“In a mechanical way…But, that’s not where I live…If I was able to not have it, I wouldn’t…I think it’s a function, like being hungry, like being thirsty…When I was a kid, I didn’t like the way I looked, how I felt, how I spoke…When I went to school, I trained myself sit in my seat and not move all day, not even to go to the bathroom [so that no one would look at me]…[I always wondered,] why do I have the responsibility to defend the way I look… feel… speak?...I didn’t choose this nose, these lips…For me, I find [sex] to be a distraction…”

Co-facilitator says, “If you sat with yourself and started to unpack that through a lens of compassion, it would be interesting what you found…”

“I don’t feel comfortable talking about sex…There were times when it was good…A few times when I experienced it when I was younger…[Now] it feels dirty and it’s not something I enjoy…There is some trauma in there that I associate with sex… There were times when I was wondering if something was wrong with me…There are quite a few traumas…”

Co-facilitator says, “I think trauma gets placed on all of us Black and Brown men…[The new documentary film] The 13th [Amendment]…[looks at how] to be Black and Brown in America…the system is designed to make you go crazy…”

“I felt, in a way, that [my sexuality] made me different from everyone else, and it made me feel like a weirdo…”

“When I was in my twenties, I wanted sex as bad as the next person…It was like a sport…As I get older, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be…It can be painful…What my mind wanted wasn’t always he way it played out…The person I was with wanted more than I wanted [and, I accommodated him] and they were happy, and I wasn’t happy…”

“What is sex for?”

Facilitator says, “That’s a great question…For some…particularly those of the Evangelical stripe, let’s say…they would say it’s for procreation… And that is certainly why Mother Nature hot-wired sex into humankind as a drive…propagation of the species…But, for those of us who are homosexually-wired, what is sex for?...As a way celebrating our connection to each other…as a means of communication…as a means of deriving intimacy?...I would say, it’s the ultimate experience in human intimacy…”

“[I think sex is for] the blessings we’ve been talking about…for stress relief…it can be therapeutic…”

Co-facilitator says, “It takes a lot of work to sustain that…”

“For me, intimacy does not equal sex…for me, intimacy has nothing to do with it…”

“[For] Ninety percent of the people on Jacked, A4A, [and all the sex apps]…intimacy kills the sex…”

Facilitator says, “Our sex has been demonized as abomination, as degenerate, perverted, and some other wrong stuff…And, it has quite literally been criminalized through sodomy laws, and more recently, through HIV criminalization…There are several states in which, starting back in the ‘90s, if someone knowingly infected another person, they could be imprisoned…And, that may be right, but, the point is… our sex is being criminalized all over again…and, our sex having been criminalized for our whole lives can be traumatic…That criminalization and that trauma is what can make sex for so many homosexually-wired men a furtive, clandestine activity…an activity that is sought out anonymously…and devoid of intimacy…And, it is by that criminalization, that many of us  have been robbed our capacity for sexual  intimacy…and, possibly, intimacy more generally…Sexual intimacy is one of the most essential gifts of being human…It’s a gift we give to each other… It’s like [my man] said about the characters in the movie, Moonlight…they weren’t allowed to be…to blossom into who they really were…to love as they loved…And, it is incumbent on us to reclaim what has been stolen from us…”

“If intimacy is so important as part of our experience, and sex is so important, what if we get them in different places?”

“In a mature. loving relationship, people get that no one person can bring everything to the party…”

“But, the truth is, this has very little to do with your environment…It has to do with who you are…There is a story about an old columbine…These birds who have spots on their wings, and who wouldn’t spread their wings and fly because they didn’t want their spots to be seen…It’s unfortunate that the dots have made me feel insecure and unable to fly…Part of being here is to remind me that I am supposed to fly…You don’t want to cheat yourself out of a life…I still have the dots and I recoil from life…You are preventing me from being…”

Facilitator says, “They can only prevent you from being if you give them your permission....It’s time we take back that permission…”
“Until you understand the information you got, you will be a victim to it…”

Co-facilitator says, “Not being in jail, or crazy, or sleeping on the trains, you’re a step ahead of the game…Having this conversation is a blessing.”

Join

The Gatekeepers Collective
With Therapist, Lionel Shockness

On

Friday, November 4

@

8 PM

As we look at

HOMOSEX, the BLESSING Part II

A sex-positive celebration of same gender loving male intimacy

RAW SEX, REAL(?) TALK

At the most recent Gatekeepers Collective, Brothers took up RAW SEX, REAL(?) TALK, Part I.  More than 35 years since the advent of the HIV epidemic, same gender loving (SGL) Black men are still the sole group among which incidence continues to increase at alarming rates every year.

As ever, The Gatekeepers Collective (TGC) is intent upon engaging Brothers in frank, open, and solutions-focused dialogue about where we are in relationship to living our best and most powerful lives…Both, how we come to be where we are and, to the extent that we are not where we want to be, how to get there.

With respect to issues of our sex, the question is, to what extent is raw sex a celebration of same gender loving male intimacy.  And, if it’s truly a celebration then, will it involve putting ourselves-and-each-other at risk for HIV/STIs?

TGC operates from the conviction that it’s well past time we began celebrating, even reveling in the magic of same gender loving Black male sex and sexuality.  And with that:

Facilitator asks: To what extent is sex a celebration for you?
“What do you mean by celebration?”

Facilitator says: “Glorying in ecstasy…reveling in delight…exalting in the wonder of the connection, and the sensations sparked by the connection…”

“Love making…”

“It could be euphoria…”

Facilitator says: “It could be a lot of things…But, it isn’t necessarily celebratory…I remember for my part, for a long time I was deeply conflicted about my sex…In many instances, sex was a furtive, clandestine act about which I felt shame and guilt after the fact…Because I believed the myths that my sex was dirty…deviant…depraved… perverse…sinful…and some other wrong stuff…And that my sex made me those things too…And, it took a lot of work for me to arrive at a different relationship to myself and my sex…So that, by my last relationship…sex was cosmic…I mean, I would be talking to God during sex…and meaning it…The question is, what is it for you?”
“It’s always a celebration…if this is somebody you taking your time with…For me, I don’t do hookups…I gotta’ really know you, and like you…I celebrate it cause I like me…So, when it happens, it’s going down…”

“I’m with a group with my grandson…”

Facilitator asks: “Your grandson is SGL?”
“Yes…and he’s in a group…[And, I told them] it’s natural…there’s nothing better…They’ve indoctrinated us to believe [that our sex] is wrong…”

“It took me almost ten years to re-acclimate myself to having sex without Miss Tina…[the nickname for] crystal meth…I mostly have sex by myself now…I’m listening to this Brother talking about making love and saying, ‘Huh?’…”

“It’s the most beautiful thing in the world…”

“Celebration?...I’m going to have to take that to my therapist…I look at celebration as a reward for having earned something…”

“I place a very high value on relationships…As much as we say, it’s natural and celebratory, I place a very high value on it because of the high value I place on relationships…I always think of the opposite…Even in the act…How would I feel if this person wasn’t here…”

 “For me, it’s contextual…For me, to have sex, it’s special…I don’t know if I would go to the extreme to say it’s celebratory…It depends on how I feel about the person…”

“Young kids today are coming from all over and asking people, paying people to infect them so that they can get $328 per month, and an apartment for life…It sure beats [the streets]… HASA for All [the HIV/AIDS Services Administration program] has just been approved…”

Facilitator says: “I believe that trend is called bug chasing…”

“Yes…”

“When I meet people sometimes, I have sex, and I don’t feel anything…a lot of times I don’t connect well with the person and it becomes routine…”

When might you opt not to use protection with a partner?

“I have to be honest…since I’ve become [HIV-] positive, that’s the only way to go…Sometimes, I coyly put down a condom, and if the man doesn’t put it on, then you know what you’re getting into…There’s just something about that skin on skin contact, and giving and receiving the seed…Like Greek knowledge…You know that’s how they thought of it, as giving knowledge [to their partners]…And, I’m grateful I can be honest and freer myself…”

“I prefer to use a condom…”

“I do that most of the time…”
Facilitator asks: “What percentage of the time would you say you use condoms during sex?”

“Probably eighty-five percent of the time…”

Facilitator asks: “And, when you don’t, what going on?”

“Sometimes I’m scared [my partner will opt out]…And sometimes, I just don’t care…”

Facilitator says: “That’s honest…So, where does that leave us?”

“I remember when it [HIV/AIDS] started…and now, I’m on and off [with using condoms]…”

“Now they’ve got Truvada [to help seronegative people safe]…Truvada…[aka PrEP, aka Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis] is $2,983 per bottle*…And, there’s another new [antiretroviral medication] called Genvoya…”

“I used to use condoms…I’ve been celibate for a number of years…If I found someone who I wanted to be with, I would again…”

“Now, with undetectable viral loads for those of us who are positive, negotiating safety is something of a new frontier…”

“There is no universal threshold regarding [what constitutes an] undetectable viral load…”

Facilitator says: I think the standard is fewer than fifty copies of HIV in the blood plasma for at least six months…”

“Having raw sex for me is pleasurable…Would I call it risky?...Yes…[But,] If I’m feeling it in the moment…Chances are, if it’s going to happen, it would be in the park…[Because] I have condoms in the house…”

“In my relationships, we make agreements…In my last relationship, for instance, we agreed to not have sex for ninety days…[And,] We both got tested together…”

“I try to stay away from sex as much as I can…I don’t have much experience with same-sex sex…I’ve been in traumatizing [same-sex] situations…I think it’s going to take some time for me to heal…It’s not very…I find people very attractive…I have the urge…But, I try to avoid [sex]…”

Facilitator says: “Thank you for that acknowledgement…That you realize that you have been traumatized is important…For that realization, your capacity to commence a healing process is apparent…In the same way you’ve mustered the courage to acknowledge your trauma, and that you experience attraction to men…a powerful next step for you might be seeking out therapeutic support to address the trauma…If you desire it, you deserve to experience sex as a celebration of your beautiful humanity… In fact, many of us go through our entire lives without recognizing that we have been traumatized around our sexuality…And, not only through physical violations, which many of us have experienced, but for regular assaults on our sexuality because of myths and lies we are told about our sexuality every day of our lives…And that trauma can make sex sickly, instead of celebratory…We’ll continue this, shall we?…”

The group says: “Yes.”

* The cost for Truvada tablet (100 mg-150 mg) is around $1,564 for a supply of 30 tablets, depending on the pharmacy you visit. Prices are for cash paying customers only and are not valid with insurance plans. – Drugs.com
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Join The Gatekeepers Collective as we join forces with the Schomburg Center for

First Fridays: LGBTQ Black Pride Edition

Friday, June 3, 2016 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM (EDT)

Election 2016

EMBRACING, EXPANDING, & CELEBRATING GENDER IDENTITY:
A Dialogue with Sisters of Trans ExperienceCo-facilitated by Kiara St. James

During April’s Gatekeepers Collective forum participants continued their focus on demystifying Trans experience.  

The evening began with the Facilitator introducing The Gatekeepers Collective (TGC) as an Afri-centric same gender loving (SGL), gay, and bisexual Black men’s self-reclamation and community development center which grew out of and builds upon work begun in the early 2000s with the Black Men’s Xchange-New York.  Gatekeepers, he reminded the group, is a West African construct, describing people who live on the margins of society, and whose charge is to facilitate community members’ delivering their respective gifts to the community.

Then, the Co-facilitator shared that early on in her transitioning process in New York, she sought out support in Black gay organization spaces, discovering about most that,“They weren’t just transphobic, they were straight up homophobic…If you weren’t oozing masculinity, they didn’t see you…”  

This work, she continued, “is about building intersectional spaces…Before Christianity and Islam, third gender folk [as they were called] were considered the gatekeepers…I grew up feeling condemned…Though I never did drugs, I always felt like I was supposed to be with them [people with substance use disorders] because they were condemned, [treated as] abomination…My family was so homo and transphobic that [as a child] I had to be taken away from my family…I was put in foster care…I was burned [multiple times]… traumatized…and if you don’t recognize trauma, you think it’s normal…”

Amid a harrowing journey, including exploitation and abuse as a young trans woman in New York, messages coming from other trans women included, “You need to get a lot of surge [surgeries] if you want to be attractive to the boys…Bonnie White, my north star, is now at the NIH [National Institutes of Health]…We’ve been traumatized…Black women are primarily killed by Black men…‘Where else you gonna’ go?’…[people tell you when you’re being abused and exploited by men], ‘You’re a chick with a dick’ and other derogatory terms [many trans folk use to define themselves]…They’re constantly being preyed upon by men…[I tell them,] A man doesn’t validate you, you validate you…It’s really an uphill conversation I’m having with them…”

Facilitator says, “It’s terrifying to think how, we all need acknowledgement, affirmation, validation, affection, respect…All of us…Every single one of us…And I think about how many Cisgender women [women who identify with the gender to which they were born] go through their entire lives in abusive relationships because they’ve been trained to look for validation from men, and have no systems of support [from which they might receive validation and resources to deliver them from the abuse]…I think of how many Cisgender SGL brothers look for validation from other men…and for [Trans] people, many of whose entire existence is defined by rejection…It’s almost as if, how could they not be desperate for validation from men…Yes, an uphill conversation, indeed…”

He continues, “The reason The Gatekeepers Collective exists is to foster healing and balance…first among ourselves and each other, and then, in the entire Black community…Towards that end, it is imperative that we engage with each other to learn about one another and forge connections with each other, as you say, create intersectional spaces…Bearing this in mind, I’d like to start by asking everyone…” Are we present to femme phobia in our experience?

Beyond defining femme phobia as a fear of femininity, the conversation continues…

“[As a child] I had a partner…”  “A lover?”  “Yes…And, he and I used to dress up down in the basement…And, one day my father came down and caught us and said, ‘You must never do that!’…It’s how we were trained…We weren’t permitted to anything that was considered feminine…I couldn’t [even] wear red…[By the time I grew up] I remember hanging out at the Audre Lorde Center, and Transgenders seemed to be much more on target than any other organizations I ever hung out with, except for the Panthers…They had numbers and goals…What we need to do as Black people is having our own schools…”

“I used to hate white women…I thought, ‘Oh, they’re so entitled…And [then,] I had to check myself…[I thought] they were supposed to be nicer than their white male counterparts because [for having been oppressed by them,] they should have had more empathy…I remember being a kid and just going about my business, and people saying to me, ‘Stop switching!’…Switching? I was just walking…[But,] I stopped switching…I started watching the way I did everything I did…And, I became very femme phobic…Even now, I have a friend whose very our there with his feminine energy, and when I’m walking down the street with him, sometimes I catch myself [because] I feel afraid of what other people are going to think …”

Co-facilitator says, “A lot of that plays into gender policing that all of us grew up with…that we were indoctrinated with…”
Someone asks, “What does cisgender mean?”

“Cis is a Latin prefix meaning on this side of…or, on the other side of…it means the opposite of trans…so, anything that has not transitioned is cis…”

Facilitator says, “People who identify as the gender they were born with are called cisgender…”

Co-facilitator continues, “We’ve appropriated the term [cisgender] to change the dynamic about trans women…People ask, ‘Are you a biological woman?’…[And some will respond], ‘Yes, I am’…After I transitioned, I found it was the [cisgender Black] women who encouraged the men to be violent…Guys, especially Black men, because they’re more self conscious, become very careful…Women, we monitor each other…Cis women do it, Trans women do it…It’s just something women do…[They’ll say to a trans woman,] ‘Oh, I didn’t know you were that way’…I think it’s part of our collective Black experience of trauma…”

Facilitator says, “I think you’re spot on about the [expressions of] violence growing out of our collective Black experience of trauma…It’s striking how you say women are the ones who encourage Black men to be violent, and the men are more self conscious…It would seem clear that the Black men’s self consciousness might have to do with feeling threatened around the construct of manhood, and, how a woman, seeing his attraction to another woman who the community refuses to acknowledge as a woman, might call his [so-called] manliness into question…But, I wonder if the monitoring you ascribe to Black women is a function of nature, or if it might not be something else that you all have been indoctrinated to do?...”

“We have to start defining some of the language…Are we using the right terms?...As gatekeepers, if we’re going to be supportive [of Trans family], we need to use the right language…[During the last caucus] We heard a [Trans] Brother saying he identified as a man of trans experience…So, what should we say?...”

Co-Facilitator says, “I see the parallels between my Black identity and my trans identity…[It’s like] moving from colored, to Black, to African American…How people identify, it varies…Today I said I’m a woman of Trans experience, but if someone said Transgender, I don’t have a problem with it…[We should] assume good will…If they use the wrong terminology…Even if they use the wrong terminology a second time…By the third time, you might have to say…[But,] it’s a learning process for all of us…”

“I remember growing up in South America…I was being taught to love women…And men who were prostitutes…who dressed as women…We would be taught to hate that…[Once we were in the red light district together and] my mother said, ‘If I had a son like this, I would prefer to see him dead’…She was a good woman…She never hurt anyone [and yet, she could espouse this toxic idea]…As a young man, I moved to Rio…I had a job…I was hanging out with one of my co-workers and we passed by a group of Trans prostitutes and he said, ‘Don’t look at them. Don’t speak to them. Ever…ever…ever…That was the view I had of them…We are judging each other…We are taught to discriminate against each other…And, it’s wrong…”

Co-facilitator says, “Brazil has one of the highest rates of Trans women who are murdered…The national average is like four-times the [the next highest rate]…And Trans women are blamed for their own murders…[A common trope is] ‘That’s what she gets for tricking him into thinking she was a woman’…This [extends] to gay men too…There is also sometimes jealousy among gay men of others who are attracted to Trans women…Amanda Milan was a north star of mine…She was the first one to give me a place to stay [when I was emerging from being exploited]…She was out with this gay guy who liked her, and his friend [another gay guy] who liked him…And the friend was jealous that he was attracted to this trans woman, and he stabbed her in the neck and she bled to death in front of Port Authority…There are all these divisions we create…for instance, so-called Butch Queens are the mortal enemies of Fem Queens…when I came to New York, I never wanted to be a Trans woman, I always wanted to be a Fem Queen…[To me] Fem Queens were like goddesses coming down from heaven…There’s also a lot of Gender Non-Conforming folks…There are intersections between femininity and hyper-femininity…I don’t look down on any [of us]…[And, don’t be mistaken] In the trans community, there is homophobia…”

“I can’t accept or understand how someone [Trans] can say I am an actual biological female…That’s something that can never be true…”

Co-facilitator says, “Thank you for your honesty…Most of my [Trans] girlfriends, and my [Trans] man friends say, ‘I’m a man of Trans experience,’ or, ‘I’m a woman of Trans experience’…It all comes down to [the fact that] people have the right to self-identify [as they will]…We have to start respecting each others’ right to self-identify…How I identify, is how I identify, just as the way you identify is the way you identify…”

Facilitator says, “We can’t [reasonably] say we’re invested in self-determination...but only for some people…while standing in the path of others’ right to identify as they will…”

“So, I can say I’m white and, and people will have to just accept that?...I remember us watching the documentary on Blacks in Latin America, and your response to [people identifying as white] was quite different…I find that if that standard was applied to race it wouldn’t stand, and that your saying that its acceptable for some people to self-identify and not others is a double standard…To me, it’s a question of accepting reality…No matter how many hormones someone takes, that will never make them a biological woman, or a biological man…”

Facilitator says, “The point about the Blacks in Latin America who were identifying as white was that, they were doing so because of [their] colonization… They’re two different facets and aspects of experience…race, and sexual identity…internal and external…While both race and sexual identity might be said to be social constructs, race is a social construct that was created [from without] to stratify people, and to justify exploiting and dehumanizing people, whereas, sexual identity [is more of a reflection of an internal experience, that] involves one’s sense of one’s self in the world…My understanding of it is an experience wherein I was born male but know myself to be a woman in this male body in which I feel trapped…I am inside this body, which does not reflect who I am…Is that right?” he asks.  Co-facilitator nods agreement.

“I think we need to look at human kind’s need to claim and name…If we can’t put it in a box [then, we don’t know what to do with it]…The conquerors said, divide and conquer…When I first came out, I avoided flamboyant people because I was [afraid of guilt by association]…[But then] with me having to suppress [my natural impulses] began manifesting in self-hatred…There was a movie called Sankofa, which means you have to look back to go forward…I don’t really understand transsexualism, but my Christian self says love…[The question is] do I have the courage and knowledge of self to be able to love [people who are different from me]…”

“The more people who become in tune with who they are, the more laws and rights will be advanced…I agree that we have to respect people’s rights, but people have to accept themselves and their reality…”

“When I hear, I don’t understand homosexuality, my response is, ‘You don’t have to understand what it’s like [for a man] to kiss another man…Just understand that, that’s how I roll, and respect it…If you’re seeking to understand, there [should be] more questions than statements…There’s a huge false equivalency to equate race with sexual identity…A huge false equivalency…”

“It wouldn’t matter if it didn’t impact on anyone else…It does have an impact…on society…Society has to make room for placement of this new group…”

 Co-facilitator says, “It’s not for you to accept, it’s for you to respect…When your right to not accept [my differentness] interferes with my right to get a job, that’s a problem…How do we start tolerating each other on the way to accepting each other?...I’m not here to change your mind…In Senegal, all people have to do is accuse you, and the whole village can come down and stone you…I have the right to exist…I have the right to self determination…Enough of you putting a stigma on me…We live in a diverse world…A lot of times, as Black folk, we think we all have to assimilate and have to have the same thoughts…We don’t…”

Facilitator says, “TGC exists to facilitate healing so that we can learn to accept, respect, and love ourselves…When we know who we are, and respect and love ourselves, it’s easy to make room for people who are different than we are…We’re not threatened by other people’s differentness…Part of restoring balance and harmony to the collective, that is the gatekeepers’ charge, involves facilitating acceptance, respect, and empathy for all of us…We’ve got a lot of work to do…”

EMBRACING, EXPANDING, AND CELEBRATING GENDER IDENTITY



·      Where gender and sexuality are different, what are we to make of that difference(s)?

·      In what, if any ways do Black Transgender women’s interests intersect with Cis gender SGL, gay, and bisexual Black men’s?

·      How can SGL, gay, and bisexual Black men facilitate acceptance, respect, and empathy for Trans women in the larger Black community?

To answer these and other questions,

Join

The Gatekeepers Collective

@

JMG’s Safe Space

On

Friday, April 1

@

8 PM

In February, The Gatekeepers Collective were joined by engineer, ethnographer, and economics analyst, James Felton Keith and financial management specialist, Tamara Cantave in a dialogue on Building Economic Power in Black and SGLBT Communities.

Facilitator, Richard Pelzer opened the evening screening a 20” Ted Talk titled, My Black Year in which Harvard MBA, Maggie Anderson, (who also studied Constitutional law under Professor Barack Obama), talks about an experiment in which she, her husband John Anderson and their family, attempted to “buy Black” for a year.  Since then she has become leader of the conscious consumerism movement, “uniting consumers, corporations, and the quality Black businesses that can rescue struggling communities and provide role models to Black youth.” 

Following the screening, James Felton Keith shared with the group that he knows Maggie and John Anderson, offering that, “Their experiment was noble.” Then citing his own pedigree, Keith told the assembled that, before attending Harvard, he trained as an engineer at Tuskeegee University, and under “ex-special forces guys, who showed me how power works.”

He proposed that there are two schools of thought, “technological determinants, and social constructivists.” "Most people," he continued, "are social constructivists [who] think that culture drives everything…[and that] they can change the world through good community alone…I’m a technological determinist [who believes that] technology drives culture, not the other way around…[All] the language that we use is an agreement [on how we conceptualize the world]…Capitalism is the culture that is built around [this agreement]…Building economic power in SGL/LGBT communities…when we talk about how we transfer power…the best thing we can do is identify more ways to have an ownership stake in the changing world…[Towards achieving ] ownership…what we have a lack of in the same gender loving (SGL) community that every other community that migrates in[to our communities] gets, is subsidies…”

A participant says, “We have to assure that these ideas are not just ideas…”

Keith continued, “One cool thing that exists in 2016 is that we can quantify people’s intrinsic value through data, so they can be indemnified…[I] helped start the LGBT Chamber of Commerce in Detroit [because] the LGBT community had no equity…A chamber of commerce is a great way to rally economic activism…We built [on] an old economic model to infiltrate every [community]…as economic activists…I incubate companies…as a reluctant bully, thinking, how can we take back some of the intrinsic value?...[Among things] You need to be acknowledging [include] 1) Only through institutions can you distribute wealth…2) Organizing as a community…and 3) [You must] Establish a mechanism to extract value…Every data point you create is intellectual property…You must build institutions to organize the community… ”

“We don’t own, we don’t have capital, and we don’t invest…,” one person says.

Keith responds, “If we really believe people have intrinsic value, you have to wrap a fence around it…”

Someone else says, “The [TED talk] video is important…But, something critical that’s being missed is…Yes, it’s important that we seek higher education and expand our professional skills to generate more money…[But,] As we become better educated, that only benefits us individually…If the point of that video is to inspire us to [think and act collectively]…The critical dynamic is culture…All the groups that migrate into our communities and establish businesses [and who circulate their dollars in their communities for days and weeks before leaving their communities] all have a strong cultural identity which allows them to  keep their wealth because that is what they value…That’s why Asian money stays with them, because that’s what they value…In economics, it’s called the multiplier effect…If the money circulates in the community 5X [the community’s income increases]…The Indians, the Chinese, and the Jews have a culture that goes back  thousands of years…”

“And we don’t?!...”

“Yes, but our culture was interrupted…”

Tami Cantave shares, “I decided I needed to create my own income stream…I had a 401K [but] your money is in jail until you are 59…Someone introduced my mother to a macro-manager…[The manager began to coach me and] told me I was 'a potential champion'…There are a trillion barrels of oil off the coast of Haiti…Haiti should be the richest country in the world…[But,]We’re not familiar with the rules [Capitalism]…The coach began to describe this game…Players, penalties [etc.,]…We each [must] have a team…Our job is to make money…Our team’s job is to secure it, and run with it…It takes ten players…team mates…I had six, and no coach [1st team player]…2) The accountant is the biggest offensive player (who has to know how to work the taxes)…3) The banker, 4) the real estate agent, 5) the attorney, 6) the retirement agent, 7) the business adviser, 8) the life insurance agent, 9) the health insurance agent, [and,] 10) you are the captain…The tax preparer is [an] offensive player on all but one day, the day s/he prepares your taxes…Do I want a tax preparer, or tax planner who knows how to save me money to take to another member of the team [to invest?]…You may not need to borrow money, but it’s good to have someone on the team who can access it [the banker]…You must own a business that produces passive income [meaning] you can earn money whether you are present at the business or not [business adviser]…[The] Retirement adviser [counsels about] social security [which is not nearly enough to live on]…[Your] Life insurance is the first line of defense…Without protection, if you’ve only death benefits insurance, you’ve been fooled…Income protection [is what] life insurance is for…The health agent [advises about] long-term care [options]…Property and casualty…[The] attorney...proxies, health…wills…etc….”

“We’re never going to have any real wealth until we revisit the thing that slavery took from us…”

“What subsidies are immigrants getting that we don’t have access to [by which they can get business loans and other supports?]…”

“The best defense we have is to build trust…build businesses…”

“There are many African descended people of immigrant [extraction] who are not getting these subsidies…”

“If we wanted to build an SGL Chamber of Commerce, [how would we go about it?...”

“You go to the feds and register there…Then, go to the state and register there…[A] 501(c)6 is a membership-style tax exempt organization with a 501(c)3 under it…In doing that, you can reinvest the wealth you’ve captured…You have to trade with others [as well]…”


Economic Empowerment

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