Courage For Change: My Journey As A Black Transgender Man

I just recently attended the 13th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) commemorating the violent deaths of transgender people across the world. I was absolutely blown away by the keynote address given by U.S. Congressman Alcee Hastings, but for me the evening’s emotional impact began several months back when on a trip to New York I visited the Stonewall Inn (Birth Place of the LGBT Movement In The U.S.) for the first time which I found odd considering that I was born, raised, came out in that city, and I had attended Stonewall 25 (celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising).

As I entered the dark and narrow bar, I felt this energy course through my veins that was electric, and I could still feel the energy of revolution in the midst of the cocktail social hosted by HRC. As I began to tour the inn I took special notice of the historical photographs. Images of people who did not conform to traditional roles, men not only not afraid of, but flaunting their femininity, and I Got It!

As a person who was struggling with my own gender identity, and being afraid of being perceived as a freak (which duh, being a black, female-bodied cross-dresser with a bald head, 37 piercings and 14 tattoos didn’t make me freaky already!). I was afraid that presenting my truest self, as a man, would be the one thing that people could not handle...the thing that would push people over the edge and away from me. But as I looked at those images on the wall of transgendered womyn who were so daring to be themselves at a point and time when it was much less safe to do so than now, I thought to myself that we would not be where we are if they hadn’t dared to be who they are. I also felt the responsibility to live authentically so that next generation see’s possibilities. So I made the decision that night to fully, and publicly live in my truth no matter what.
 I write this for my beloved, family, friends, and my community. As I am reflectively headed toward my 40th year on this planet and taking stock of what I desire for this part of my journey to look like; I realize that I can no longer live in a fear that has keep me  from expressing myself fully as myself; as a transitioning transgendered man.

Transitioning from a black feminist dyke (from a lesbian separatist age) to Black transman (who is still a feminist) I get isn’t something that many who know me saw coming, but as my Dad said “who would really be surprised “?

I have often said that being born female bodied raised in a single parent household in a environment that lacked strong male representation but was rich in strong female role models probably saved my life.  Because of the tenacity of the womyn I witnessed growing up, I knew that I could carve my own path and that path has lead me to a fuller understanding of myself. So, I will forever value, adore, and appreciate the power of the feminine.

I sat in the Transgender Day of Remembrance service listening to Congressman Hastings’ impassioned words as he reflected on the change he has seen South Florida, and particularly Broward County as it has transitioned from segregated to progressive, and the price paid by the oppressed and their oppressors for that change. I got once again that oppression, in all of its forms, is inter-connected and that our actual fear of change is the very link to all forms of oppression.

I also realized that whether it’s conservatives who want to “protect the sanctity of marriage,” or  it’s the feminist lesbians who have known me as a part of this community for years and have expressed unwillingness to shift to male pronouns, the fear of change is a common link for us as a species. Sure if there is no change than there is not the challenge of changing, but then as well there is not the empowerment of growth either.  It is our fears that keep us in the strongest most fortified prison of ourselves with no necessity for armed guards, iron bars Or steel doors while we play Warden over the liberty, justice, and happiness of other’s.

As citizens we declare in the pledge of allegiance a land with liberty and justice for all, but spiritually I don’t think that we get that we are entitled to certain inalienable rights as a unique, divine, unrepeatable creations we are entitled to joy, happiness, and fulfillment. Most times fulfillment is on the other side of change and the lesson in change is releasing our attachments to people, places, and things, because our level of challenge with change is proportionate to level of attachment to a particular outcome.  The courage to CHANGE the things we can is not just a catchy line in a prayer it is a constantly unfolding mandate to continue to manifest our fullest ever evolving selves.

My family is not losing the experience of me as a daughter/sister, my womyn sister/friends are not losing the experience of me as a feminist womyn, and the community is not losing the experience of me as a “strong dyke”; but the new experiences of my now manifesting self would value the opportunity to be known as the man I feel blessed to be becoming.

My Dad told me he felt that for him “it’s not about who shows up at the table, but what they bring to the table.” Phil Wilson a leader I so value said, “People can’t love us if they don’t know us” and Congressman Hastings concluded his address that night with a call for guts. So I answer the call of these men who I hold dear to have the guts to let people know who I am by bringing my fullest self to the table. May we all manifest courage for change.

Bishop S.F. Makalani-MaHee is a Minister/Performing Artist.  He makes his home in the South Florida area.

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