I am a LGBTQ Health Equity Advocate here in Wisconsin.
My public work at this time in my life begins with my transition and my own HIV/STI prevention journey, both as an advocate and a young black woman of trans experience. I was introduced to SHEBA (Sister’s Helping Eachother Battle Adversity) with Diverse & Resilient early in my personal transition. They sheltered me, helped me navigate and find myself in community work again. Five years later, I am honored to serve there as a member of The Board of Directors. My mentors Ronnie Grace, Kofi Short, and all the ladies of SHEBA have become a huge support system for me. I have made it my mission to bring new visibility to SHEBA.
I was encouraged to apply for work with SAPG (Statewide Action Planning Group) for HIV/AIDS of WI and after two years of service with this amazing group, I have become the first Trans Woman of Color to be Co-Chair Elect. I am a part of the Inclusive Restroom Working Group with The Equal Rights Commission of Milwaukee. We are working to pass an ordinance that all current City-owned, gendered bathrooms become more accessible, gender-neutral facilities and establish a new building code for the future.
I am soon to complete two years of Public Allies MKE service, placed with two incredible feminist organizations: Health Connections Inc, and Planned Parenthood of WI. It has been my honor to serve our city through HIV/STI Prevention Counseling, PrEP advocacy, giving sexual health/trans-affirming health care referrals, leading trainings, engaging youth, organizing events, moderating panel discussions, presenting at conferences, and being a representative of our Black and brown LGBTQ community.
Last year, I was honored with several awards for advocacy, The Gender Reveal Podcast Grantee, Public Allies Class of 2019 Diversity & Inclusion Award, The Bobbie Jean Baker Trans Faith Leadership Award, The Rising Star Award, The Black Trans Advocacy Coalition, and Pridefest MKE Individual of the Year. I also received a mini grant last summer from #MAp4youth with Juvenile Justice to develop queer-centered youth programming in Milwaukee. I have been blessed in my life and work, and those things were envisioned by Marsha P. Johnson many years ago. I won my Pridefest Award on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall.
This community keeps me inspired and willing to be transparent. Last year, I was also an inaugural member of The Black AIDS Institute’s Women’s Ambassadorship Of Biomedical Prevention, and last summer I gave a mainstage PrEP presentation at EssenceFest 2019 surrounded by some incredible advocates. Me: a young, Black trans woman from Milwaukee at the biggest African-American celebration in the country, speaking as a professional educator about PrEP defying multiple stigmas!
I have struggled with depression, anxiety, and dysphoria throughout my life. I have struggled with oversexualization, transmisogyny, work access and pay inequality, and my safety in transition. I see myself as an educator; I think my gift and my weapon against injustice is my visibility. It stems from survival, from the constant scrutiny we face as queer and trans people of color. It stems from my upbringing being unapologetically Black and from my faith-based foundation. I talk to people, but I listen, and I carry their stories with me every day in my work.
Coming from a world where visibility is both a sword and a shield, my dream is to see my advocacy align with my gifts. I am an artist, a singer, and a writer. For me, even my presentation as a trans woman—my choice of fashion, makeup, hair, nails—are all an act of rebellion. I use my visibility to show the beauty of Black trans women and to advocate for body positivity and sexual liberation. I use my visibility to challenge the status quo and what you think I can wear, what you think I can say, and what you think I am capable of doing. You do not own me. You cannot put me in a box, and you cannot erase us and the history that is alive in us—the gender-variant indeginous history that affirms us and says that there is nothing wrong with us because of our sexual identity or gender. Queer and trans bodies are natural, normal, beautiful, and whole. You do not control what God has put inside of me, and that is to be a messenger to women and people like me that society cannot stop the gifts and potential that God has put inside of you as well. I call that my personal ministry.
I struggle with financial stability, housing and work discrimination. I struggle out in public. I struggle with my family and friends, and with romance, communication, and safety. I am a sexual assault survivor, and I have faced my assaulters. I’m doing the best I can with myself. I know you are too. I don’t know where my personal ministry is taking me, but I know that I’m going to use the opportunities I have to fight—even if that’s just being kind eyes in the crowd of someone else’s journey so that they can do the work they are here to do.
I want you to know that the LGBTQ community in Wisconsin is strong and smart. I want you to know that QTPOC are brilliant and resourceful. I want you to know that black trans and women and femmes built the pride movement that was co-opted by the white, gay, male establishment. I want you know that the health, social, and criminal justice despartities Black people and Black queer people face are not just statistics and data. Our struggle is not made up or over-exaggerated. I want you to know that we cannot attain feminist agenda items or Black liberation without centering QTPOC. I challenge you to use your talents for yourself and our community. That is my work: turning lights on in the dark rooms we keep ourselves in.