Culture Right Society, Atlanta, Georgia discussed on The Secret Lives of Black Women
Device. Bitch magazine Buzzfeed and Huffington Post. I am so excited to meet rebel and to get this conversation started. So let's just jump right in. Let's do it. We are here with you. Know Media Racquel Willis. I'll lotion our hands as we just discussed the fear of Ash. Yes no one wants to be ashy and these street literally. Everyone at this table right now is rubbing lotion into their hands. I'm like I had enough that I'm like bring it up my forearms arms because I'm just my body's part just really feels like the blackest thing we've ever done on this show. I love black lady moment of all of us just like going with the low. Yeah itself care itself. Payer Sodas not about motion repel you and then episode is about you. I'm like there's so many things that I want to talk to you about. I like am wondering where to begin. I mean I think we start at the beginning. I mean you are a transgender rights activists your writer and I WanNa know. How did you get started with this? Work it actually is really weird to me to consider that my career right because I think the a lot of times activism has become something that people latch onto for visibility right or latch onto Avalaible for cloud or whatever you can think of right and I think there's there's something that rubs me the wrong way about thinking of my career's activism. I think in my career as a time and nonprofits as a time in media as an editor now at out magazine Executive Editor But it's weird to think of my activism as my career. I don't know I don't know what the line it's like tied to it right because I think that activism is so expansive like I think we get into this idea that it is something so limited it is just being on the streets into a bullhorn. You Know Martin With Stop. And all of that is beautiful and powerful and important and we've seen through history. How those kinds of direct actions have shifted Culture Right Society but activism is so many different things organizing can come in so many different forms my thing. Israeli people need to find what their passion is and Organiz within it right. So if you're a writer. Are you writing about things that can liberate other folks? You know if you are a teacher. Are you teaching things that can liberate other folks right? Are you using your curriculum with these lessons of social justice these lessons around elevating blackness and Brown and Queer and and different types of bodies and disability all of these different things? So you're trans. Yes yet and I mean is it okay by ask about the beginnings of you deciding to go on this journey. Yeah I mean I appreciate this question. I think that Like your gender isn't really the choice right or your identity isn't really the choice. The choice is whether you're gonNA live in it and for me. I mean I grew up in a very traditional southern family and the judge and went to college college enjoyed. I spent the first twenty five years of my life in Georgia. You know and so I really see my suther ness of a strong important part of my identity and I was raised Catholic right so there are so many layers I mean and then you talk about being a young black person born to pretty traditional parents who were middle class. I mean you know I I joke about being you know. The huxtables by some standards. Right my mom was a had a doctrine of an education and and you know advocated adults for thirty or so years. My Dad was a professional as well and later went back to get his masters. Then become a professor as well so I had that kind of background where I had privileges and I also had you know obviously those levels of repression. I mean being black right being a budding queer and Trans Person So it took me a while to get to that point where I was like. Oh No you know. There's something else going on over here. It's not just that you know. I'm a feminine would call me or that. I was gay right even though I knew I was attracted to men. No there was something fundamentally different about my experience in gender and when I got to college and found the language and found other people Who had similar experiences. It was on like it was time for me to like figure out where I fit on the gender spectrum figure out of I could even see a future right because there were a lot of decisions I had to make You know when I was in college and trying to come into my identity because I also did not have visions of a trans person who had a professional life right or who had a family and who was loving right had a partner and had these healthy experiences. We just. We're not seeing that. Yeah what age did you start expressing your gender identity? So it's funny you ask that because I felt like I was unintentionally expressing my foods ender throughout my entire life right like I think we get so hung up on what people wear. If someone's face is down which you know of course. It's so much more than that. I felt like mind. Gender was so tired and how I was expressing myself And that's why people would call me a feminine or call me slurs and I just can never hide it right like you know we hear about these folks who are like yeah I was. I was pushing it up and and really deepen than closet like no people knew something was going on with me. We didn't quite know what was different about My experience and I didn't know but I I felt like I was always kind of living my gender even when I wasn't trying to And I will say when I got to college. That's when I got the education around. What are the options medically right? What are things that I actually want to do for myself? physically right whether it be you know a hormonal journey or surgical journey. Yea I I. It's been beautiful to kind of witness Our expansion and understanding on gender and and our sexual identity. When you question asks one in a minute I wondering when you enter your career in journalism because I'm reading about you so that your father staff really was a catalyst for your transition but also your career and were you thinking of you know you mentioned earlier which is so powerful for me of like how you didn't imagine a possibility of like some like in the world and that impact like a not only my going to be journalists as I'm dealing with this transition but I'm going to cover issues that spread awareness about my experience so other people are informed and no. Yeah I mean I was committed. You know I came in to college experience knowing that I wanted to deepen my understanding of of storytelling and use the media Asa Tool to make things a little bit better for people who are like me who grew up isolated grow up in New York or Atlanta for that matter. I grew up in Augusta Georgia and and although there are a solid amount of folks they are. I mean that's the has the second largest population in the state there. It's still felt like a smaller southern experience so I didn't know other algae Q. Folks for the most part there are a few obviously like teachers that people speculated about but they were never going to say anything because they might lose their jobs and so when I graduated from college I did not find any job prospects in New York. I tried and I found myself working in a very small newspaper in an even smaller town in Georgia called Monroe Georgia and I was in the cloth You know so all that first job I was in the closet about being queer about being trans And you know I maybe. People had assumptions or whatever they never brought sumptious to me. My understanding was like no one really knew partly because you know there are so many ways in which you have to comport your salve to be at that point what we're calling being passable right so that people wouldn't try and clock you're Trans Ness But then also I just felt like people. There is a certain level of ignorance. That was blissful right even for me like people weren't as verse and Trans Identity and Trans folks and so it was a little bit easier to navigate in some regards but it was hurting me on the inside. It right as deeply as I wanted to. About Social Justice Issues. I even had an editor who he was my boss who you know would basically try and steer me to write less liberal right or less progressive and that hurt you know it was hard. I couldn't really be my full south in that meant that I was only telling part of my story but I could only tell parts of the stories that I was interested in as well. What help push you through that moment to live in the fullness of your truth both journalistically and personally a few things so a personal moment I was asked to cover the first drag show that they had in that county and I actually. I mean I knew the whole community like in that kind of I Guess Tri County Radius. And I really had to pretend like I didn't really know what was going on. Draft show asking. I'm like drag was fabulous and so I had to do that. And so I'm like interviewing these folks that I totally know girl because I mean you like. They didn't know that I had to do that. And and anyway I mean I think even when I was my career being fresh out of journalism school this whole idea of objectivity right and not inserting yourself into the story. That was a mask for me to not really be my full south and so still. That was one experience right. The kind of you know bringing off fraudulent And then I would say the large are calling came from what was happening in the movement. You know this was a time you know. When the murder of people like Trayvon Martin were happening? Mike Brown People were shutting down highways Atlanta and other places. This is very recent RECCO. It's yes it's still pretty recent right. It felt like a lifetime ago. I think to some people but particularly for black folks like that was yesterday You know just yesterday and so that was That was what I was was witnessing but again I mean also wasn't just yesterday because this was what twenty thirteen two thousand fourteen so even now I mean thinking about it I was what like six years ago Six or so years ago so I mean I I was seeing that and I was like how in the World Am. I wasting my energy trying to fit into another grabs for these people to keep my job and survive. It's bigger than that. It's bigger than me and the semblance of survival and so what also happened was I am at this point. I had I was a few months in a new job in Atlanta as a media publisher for A website called. How stuff works again. Not Related to any of the liberation work that I was really interested in. But it kept me afloat And I also Read about the death of Leila alcorn. Who was a young trans girl who died by suicide And this was two thousand fourteen and so she. It was interesting because with her case she had written suicide note and she had Scheduled to be published on Tumbler pads after her. Death happened and so it was so interesting. Because you know I think there a report reports about it and then the note came out right and so everyone could read what she had written and she basically said how she couldn't see a future for herself after Trans Person and so. I did a video on Youtube when I ran and I was like ugly crying about what had happened to Leela what was happening period because there was the death of. Alon nettles had happened about a year before that another while. She's a Black Trans woman. Who was murdered and so all of that was happening and I was like. I have to be present and fully in this moment so I don't look back years from now wondering why I wasn't using my energy for what I knew to be right. This is so powerful. We have to take a break but when we come back. I really want to ask you because your transition to living your expressing yourself fully has been so recent. I.