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Dancing Shadows

The following is an interview by Siobhan Brooks from her book about sex workers of color called, ďDancing Shadows: Interviews with Men and Women of Color Sex Workers,Ē which she is currently looking to publish.

[Chapter 16]

Tyra is a mixed (Black and white) transsexual woman.† She has been a prostitute for fifteen years, and has done porn films.† In this interview she talks about her life as a transgender woman of color in relation to her transition, being of mixed race, education, being HIV positive, and barriers she has come across in trying to find other type of work.

Siobhan Brooks: Where are you from?

Tyra:† ††† I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but I was raised in California most of my life.

SB:† ††††††† When did you start going through your transition process as being transgendered?

T:†††† †††††† I can remember wearing my sisterís clothes at ages seven and eight.† But when I totally made the transition, when I started taking hormones and all, that was when I was twenty-one.† I was already cross-dressing.

SB:†† †††††† What side effects did you have while taking hormones?

T:††† ††††††† Oh, yes.† Mood swings, morning sickness.† Iíve just had my kidney tested, and Iíll get the test results soon.† Hormones can destroy your kidney or your liver.†

SB:† ††††††† How long did these side-effects last?

T:††† ††††††† About two weeks.

SB:† ††††††† Are you postop or preop?

T:†††† †††††† Iím preop.†

SB:† ††††††† What was your familyís reaction to you coming out as transgender?† Do you think they knew that, or do you think they confused that with being gay?

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T:†† †††††††† They confused it with being gay.† They kind of knew all along, (smile) but when they thought I was gay they didnít accept me for a while, and finally they did.† I then started taking the hormones and all of that came along with prostitution.†

SB:† ††††††† How did you get into prostitution?

T:††† ††††††† I did it when I was like sixteen or seventeen for fun.† I was having sex with guys, then I realized that they would give me money, so I took the money.† When I make the transition to being a transsexual thatís when I really started doing it, and I did because I had to.† My family didnít agree with the idea of me being gay anyway, so when I started my transition they cut me off [financially].† When they did that I was dramatized, I didnít know what to do.† Before, I knew that if I needed to I could run home for a place to stay or if I needed some money.† But then, all of the sudden, they just said, ďno.Ē†† So, I needed money, and a place to live, and I went out on the stroll.† From that day on itís been that way.† Iím thirty one now.

SB: †††††††† Do you prostitute only in the Bay Area?

T:††† ††††††† Iíve worked all around the country.† But now itís been mainly in San Francisco because I was busted in Oakland, and they [the police] put me on this program called SOAP.† If they bust you for prostitution, and they give you SOAP for two years, if youíre caught in any known area for prostitution, they can take you to jail.† The first time they catch you, itís for fifteen days.† After that the time just goes up and up- sometimes they even give you double time.† So, I left Oakland alone.† When I first came to the Bay Area this is where I worked---San Francisco.†

SB:† ††††††† Were you ever arrested in San Francisco?

T:††† ††††††† Yeah, but they let me go in an hour or two.† But it wasnít for prostitution, they were doing a sweep, and they picked me up.† An undercover cop arrested me.

SB:† ††††††† What is the basic procedure when the police bust prostitutes on a sweep?

T:†††† †††††† They just come out in a paddy wagon and if youíre just standing around or if you look like a hooker, theyíll just throw you in the paddy wagon.† Undercover cops usually pose as Johns.† If you get them as ďJohnsĒ what they do is try to offer you a price.†† Once you name a price, they bust you for prostitution.† I donít get busted that much because of how long Iíve been working the streets.†

I usually donít get busted by undercover cops.† The last time I was busted in Oakland, it was by an undercover cop with an accent, I always let that accent fool me because I think that theyíre foreigners.† But most cops donít have foreigner accents, because most of them were born in America.

SB:† ††††††† How are safety issues dealt with?† Do you usually go alone?

T:††† ††††††† I usually work alone because if Iím with a whole bunch of women, it will just be more competition.† Many Johns arenít serious about money if there are a lot of women, because they figure that they have all that to look at.† When Iím working by myself and a John approaches me, I know he means business.†

SB:† ††††††† Do you feel pretty safe with the Johns?† Has a John ever been violent towards you?

T:††† ††††††† Oh, yes.† My first night I got my two bottom teeth knocked out by my second John.† Iíve encountered violence all through my years of prostituting.†

SB:† ††††††† What kind of differences have you noticed prostituting as a male before your transition, and prostituting as a transgender woman in relation to money?

T:† ††††††††† I really canít tell because back then I was doing it for fun, I didnít have to do it.† So, I donít think I could because I wasnít serious about it as I am now.† Now I have to do it.

SB:† ††††††† Why do you feel that you have to do it?

T:†††† †††††† For one thing---just being bi-racial and transgender...I mean in this societyóeven in San Franciscoóitís a taboo.† Iím passable to a point, but when I work a job, and after Iíve been there for a while, people find out.† You know, they whisper to each otherójust all kinds of different shit Iíve encountered.† Thatís what leads me back to being a hooker, Ďcause I donít like putting up with the bull.†

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SB:† ††††††† Can you describe an encounter youíve had at a job where you feel like you were forced out for being transgender?

T:† ††††††††† Mmmm...There was a job I worked in St. Louis.† They [the owners of this business] said I was fired for being late, which I was late, but donít think it was that.† Because one of the owners of this place had the hots for me, and his wife knew that, and she was the one that fired me.† I donít know for sure if it was because of my sexuality, it could have just been because he had the hots for me.† It could have been a female thing.† For the most part I havenít been fired from jobs, Iíve quit.† I quit because of people whispering, talking about me, making jokes about me...I just get tired of that.† When they [co-workers] came in they started whispering to each other across the room.† And I know what they were saying because theyíre smiling, looking, and pointing.† Thatís irritating after awhile.†

SB:† ††††††† How did you make the transition from prostitution into porn?†††††

T:††† ††††††† When I work I meet all different types of people: different classes, races.† I had been approached several different times by people [to do porn].† This one guy used to always approach me about it and I was kind of needing the extra money, so I said, ďWhat the hell.Ē† Iím transgendered, Iím out in the street turning tricks.† I mean pornówhat could be worse about that?† (laughs)†† So, I did it, and once I got into it I didnít like it.† They didnít want to pay me what I wanted.† They told me that their clients were looking for white girls.† Also because Iím pre-opt, they wanted me to cum, and get erect like a man.† But if youíre going through hormone therapy, taking estrogen, you canít do that.†† Whereas a lot of transgenders that are in porn can get erect and ejaculate, usually they have had many hormones, silicone, and all that.† So, they can still perform like a ďman.Ē†

SB:† ††††††† So, at this porn place, did you do the film and when you were finished, they said they would pay you, and they wouldnít?

T:††† ††††††† When I first started, I did the film and got educated with my first experience and I was like, ďHey, I want more money.Ē†† They came up with all kinds of different excuses as to why they wouldnít pay me more.† So, I was like, forget it.† I just wonít do it.†

SB: †††††††† So, you donít do porn anymore?

T:††† ††††††† No, I havenít been.† But I met this guy who is like my agent, and he is supposed to be hooking up something where we do our own porn together.† But even without him, I may do that myself.† Porn is a good business, especially when it comes to Black queens.† In Europe they make more money over there, than they do over here.†

SB:† ††††††† Why do you think they make more money in Europe?

T:†††† †††††† I donít know.† I just learned that when I was doing porn, just hearing them [Black queens] talk about it.† Iíve never been to Europe, but it makes me wonder why they want more white queens than Black queens.

SB:† ††††††† You mentioned racism within the porn industry, how else have you encountered racism in relation to clients and making money?

T: †††††††††† Well, many clients donít know Iím Black until they hear me speak.† They usually think Iím Spanish, Indian, or Puerto Rican---even other queens donít always know that Iím Black until I tell them.† The reaction from clients is usually, ďOh, I didnít know thatĒ or ďWell, youíre cool because youíre light and you have straight long hair.Ē† They tell me that I donít really look Black or they ask me what Iím mixed with.†

SB:† ††††††† What is the ethnicity of most of your clients?

T:†††† †††††† White.† Some of my clients are Black, but I mostly chose white clients usually because Black clients are too cheap.† They usually want more for less money, from time to time Iíll have Black clients, but most of my clients are white.†

SB:† ††††††† What class background are your white clients from?

T:†††† †††††† Anywhere to poor men, to someone who works in an office in a corporation, to someone from Hollywood.† Iíve dated all different kinds of men: married, gay.† Iíve even dated a woman.†† Iíve dated couples.

SB: †††††††† How was your experience with the woman?

T:†† †††††††† She found out I wasnít a [genetic] woman.† We didnít actually have sex.† We kissed, touched, fondled, and hugged.† Thatís why Iím not with her anymore because she wanted a genetic woman.† This woman, who was Filipina, had become a regular; she wanted to experience being with a woman, so she approached me one night.† At first I didnít notice her because I was talking to some guys, and the guys told me that she was trying to pick me up.† That night we hugged, kissed, and talked; she paid me.† We exchanged numbers and she paid to see me everyday.† We never had sex because I knew that she knew I wasnít [a genetic woman], so we didnít.† I had a feeling she felt I was a guy.† After a while she dumped me, I thought that she would love the fact that Iím transgender, but she didnít.† I havenít seen her since.

SB: †††††††† Has that been the case when you tell people that you arenít a genetic woman- that people are turned off?

T:† ††††††††† Yes, a majority of people are turned off, especially the men.† Once the men find out Iím transgender, itís like, ďOh, itís been nice knowing you.† Youíre a real nice person, but I canít do it.Ē† When they say they canít do it, I donít think they mean that they canít do it sexually, because I know they could.† They mean socially, they canít have me as a girlfriend.

SB:† ††††††† Do your Johns know that youíre transgender?

T:††† ††††††† Most of them do now, but not all the time.† When I first started prostituting I wouldnít tell them, but since Iíve been working in San Francisco I tell them.†

SB:† ††††††† Why wouldnít you tell Johns that youíre transgender?

T:†††† †††††† Because they wouldnít date me, or they felt they could get it cheaper.†

SB:† ††††††† What have you found the overall attitude among the Black community in relation to sex workers and transgender people?

T: †††††††††† [Laughs] Of course, darling.† I get more prejudice from them then any other culture.†

SB:† ††††††† [Smiling] Well, I know that, but people reading this book might not know that.

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T:†††† †††††† Theyíre very homophobic, but I get a lot of men that tell me that I make them real upset.† Itís usually something in them, because Iíve had the very same men approach me when we were alone somewhere else.† It also depends onóand I hate to say thisóit often depends on the class of the Black people Iím dealing with.† Poor Black people let me have it, the middle class is kind of fifty-fifty, but the Black people with moneyóthe rich Blacksóthey donít care Ďcause theyíre enjoying life anyway.† They still wouldnít have me as their wife or girlfriend, itís still taboo.† They would accept a murderer before they would accept a transgender person, weíre at the bottom of the token pole.† You donít get any lower than a Black queen or a Black gay or lesbian.

I have more problems with other Black transgender women, those relationships havenít been working out too well, and I would just as well let them go.† A lot of Black transgender women have low self-esteem, and a lot [of] problems.† They tend to hurt people around them.

The ones that Iíve encountered come from broken homes, poor homes, uneducated homes.† I canít deal [with] them; it becomes a problem.† I try to be friends with them, but itís hard.† Iíve also encountered hostility because Iím mixed.† They notice that before they notice Iím transgender.† Many of them arenít that passable to pass into mainstream as a genetic woman, so they have low self-esteem or a chip on their shoulder.† But I can pass, so they take their anger out on me.†† Now, I keep my distance from many Black transgender women.

SB:† ††††††† Thatís too bad.† It seems there should be more of a stronger community.

T:†††† †††††† But itís not.† We catch so much hell as Black transgender women, from society, and the Black community within itself, until they just lash out at each other instead of putting that energy into something positive. †I refuse to be a part of that.

SB:† ††††††† You havenít heard of COYOTE, right?

T:†††† †††††† No.

SB:† ††††††† [I tell her about COYOTE after the interview] Do you think you would ever go to some kind of conference about sex workers?† Usually at these conferences there arenít that many women of color.

T:†† †††††††† Maybe.† It would depend on how my pocket book looked. If I werenít in need of any money, then yeah, I would go just out of curiosity.†

SB:† ††††††† Do you think itís true that most transgender women are prostitutes?

T:†††† †††††† In the Black community I think thatís true because most of the time they come from broken homes.† Often their families donít want anything to do with them, and theyíre poor because of that.

SB:†† †††††† If you felt that you had another outlet to make money besides prostitution, would you take it?

T:††† ††††††† Yeah, but I would have to be economically stable in order to make that change.†

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SB:† ††††††† How much money do you make?

T:††† ††††††† It varies.† Sometimes itís slow, other times itís good.† Sometimes I donít date them, I just clip (pick pocket) a John .† I may have got $700, $60, or $5.† There have been times where I didnít make anything, then Iíve had times where Iíve actually worked and made about $900.† It depends on what mood Iím in.† Sometimes Iím juiced to go out and work, other times it makes me sick to my stomach.† Sometimes I get very angry and violentóthatís when I take what I want.†

SB:† ††††††† Do you like your job?

T:††† ††††††† No, I donít like itóperiod.† I do it because I have to, and now itís probably become a habit.††† Iíve never liked it.† Iíve had some clients that Iíve enjoyed, but itís not right for me.† Iím not saying prostitution isnít right, itís just not right for me.† I think they should legalize it, I think prostitution should be a womanís choice, but I donít feel I have a choice.

SB:† ††††††† If you did have a choice what kind of job would you see yourself doing?

T:††† ††††††† I donít know, thereís so many things that I want to do.† I kind of got lost, Iím 31 years old.† I had a lot of goals when I first started off, but I just got lost in the shuffle, just going through the bullshit of life being transgender.†

SB:† ††††††† How does one get lost in the shuffle?† How does that actually happen?

T:††† ††††††† Drugs, having different boyfriends, just working the streets period.† Having quick fast money.

SB:† ††††††† What were your goals when you first started?

T:††† ††††††† I wanted to do many things.† I was an honor roll student in high school, I was very active in school.† Iíve had some college.† I hadnít really made up my mind what I wanted to do, Iím good a lot of different things, at least I was then.† I havenít exercised my brain in so long, Iím not sure where my skills are at now.†

SB:† ††††††† What college did you go to?

T:††† ††††††† Well, I went to Santa Rosa Junior College, and Santa Monica Junior College.† I was still trying to apply myself, and thatís when I was going through my transition, and my sexualityóit was very difficult.† Thatís why I didnít stay in school because I wasnít getting any support mentally at the school or at home.† Everything was new to me. †When youíre transgender, itís like you were born a woman all your life, and suddenly youíre starting a whole new life.† It might hit you at the age of 17, 18, or 19.†† I was just interested in becoming more of a woman and meeting men, because I didnít have my family there to support me, and be there for me.

SB:† ††††††† Do you feel like you were finding support in these men you were dating?

T:††† ††††††† No.† Well, some of them, but not really.† I found support in other girls that were like me.† They showed me about the streets, and taught me about becoming more of a woman, which normally your Mom would teach you that when youíre a little girl.†

SB:† ††††††† What did you find difficult in terms of adjustment from your pervious gender, to becoming transgender?

T:††††† ††††† The way people look at me.† The reaction from society, I didnít find it difficult to make the transition.† I never thought I was a woman, and when I was little I used to think that I did want to be a woman.†† Now Iím at the pointóand I have been for some timeówhere Iíll never be a woman.† I am comfortable not having a complete sex change because most of the sex changes they [transgender women] have donít work.† You canít have a baby; you canít climax.† So, what the hell do I need with a pussy?† Iíll still look the same.† I can still go to the beach, I go to the beach wearing a two-piece bathing suit, and no one [will] give me a second look.† Well, they do, but not more then usual.† There are also a lot of men who like bodies like mine, but theyíre in the closet.† Especially, when it comes to Black men, and thatís mainly what I prefer: Black men.† Iíve been in a relationship for seven years, and this man is still in the closet.† Only his sister and Mom know about me, but not his friends.††

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SB: †††††††† Do you feel you lost a since of male privilege when you made the transition into being a woman in terms of experiencing violence, economic privilege?

T:†† †††††††† I feel I have more privileges now being a woman because most men think with their dicks.† I donít care how much money they have, or how educated they are, they think with their fucking cocks.† If I can see that I can manipulate that, I will.

SB:† ††††††† Do you feel your life changed living as a woman?

T:†††† †††††† No, because Iíve never lived as a man.† I remember being small and people would tell my mom that she had the prettiest little girl, and my mom would get defensive and say, ďHe ainít no girl!† Thatís my little boy.Ē† Maybe at one point I lived as a gay man, but I didnít like that either.† Gay men want a man, but Iíve always looked like a woman.

SB:†† †††††† What kind of people do you socially date?

T:††††† ††††† Black men.† Iíve dated poor men, rich men, dope dealers, thugs, ex-cons.† [Laughs]† Iíve dated all kinds of men.†

SB:† ††††††† Were all these men accepting of you being transgender?

T:†† †††††††† Well, in most of these cases I was their secret.† Most of these men think they are straight, or in the closet.

SB:†† †††††† Do you feel closer to openly queer Black men as oppose to straight Black men?

T:†††† †††††† Iím close to Black gays and lesbians.† I have met some straight Black women that I get along with.†

SB:†† †††††† What is your family background in relation to class?

T:††††† ††††† My family is middle-class, but very dysfunctional.† My mom is a lesbian and her parents died when she was very young.†† My mom went through a lot of problems when I was growing up, and my father is white, but Iíve never seen him.†† So, he was never there, and my mom wasnít either because she left to explore her sexuality.†† You know, all of that bullshit, Ďcause this was in the 60s.† When I was twelve and thirteen I used to wonder why there were so many women in the house, why didnít she have any men around [smile]†† I was having these sexual feelings towards men myself, so I wondered.†† I was raised by my great-great aunt.†† I call her my grandmother, and she did the best she could.† But I never suffered for anything financial.

When I was cut off from my family, that just dramatized me.† I spoke to my father once on the phone, and he said to me, ďIf I had been there I wonder if you would have ended up the way you did!Ē but I knew I would have.†† I knew I was different since I was five years old, I knew I liked boys.† I was also molested by some boys at thirteen and fourteen, but even before then I knew I was different.† A lot of people would think that because you were raped or molested or your father wasnít there, thatís why youíre the way you are.† But that wasnít the Ďcause, I had cousins and uncles around me.† My grandmother use to think that because my mom was queer one of her children would be, but I think thatís a bunch of shit.† Because if thatís the case, then which one of my motherís parents were?†

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SB:†† †††††† Did your mom ever tell you she was a lesbian?

T:†††† †††††† No, my grandmother told me in a negative way and it bothered me.† Even though I had these [queer] feelings within myself, I didnít like it.† Everybody wants their parents to be perfect parents, so I didnít like the fact that my mother was a lesbian.† I didnít speak to her for a long time.† My mother accepted me for what people assumed was my being gay, but she wouldnít accept me for being a queen.† She had friends who were queens, but she couldnít accept me on that level.† I think she has accepted me now.† I still keep in contact with her.†

SB:† ††††††† But she doesnít financially help you out?

T:††† ††††††† Oh, hell no.† Sheís struggling herself.†† My grandmother financially raised me, but my mother had a lot of problems.† Sheís a Black woman, lesbian from the South, both her parents are dead, and the family members that raised her are mostly alcoholics.† She probably shouldnít have had any children, but she did.

SB:† ††††††† Are you an only child?

T:††† ††††††† No, I have a brother and two sisters.† She gave up one of my sisters for adoption, I had always thought I was the oldest before I found this out.

SB:†† †††††† How have your siblings accepted you being transgender?

T:††††† ††††† My sister isnít wrapped too tight [laughs].† My mother had x-rays while she was pregnant with her, and took a lot of drug prescriptions.† I donít think she likes it, but she accepts me.† She used to look up to me a lot because my mother was gone.† I donít really know how she feels, but we donít argue or fight.† My brother loves me and accepts me, but I know he doesnít like me being transgender.† He used to look up to me, and I know he would like for me to be his big brother and go out with a bunch of hoís and his friends [we both laugh]†† You know, that bullshit.† But I know he loves and accepts me.† Sometimes when he gets out of line I have to put him in check because Iím older than him.† We have a big age difference and he used to admire me as a man.† I use to model as a man, and heís seen how girls used to look at me, and lust after me.† Suddenly, I just left and returned with long hair and titties, ass and hips, telling him to call me Tyra.

SB: †††††††† How do you deal with stress?

T:††† ††††††† I laugh a lot, I smoke pot to calm me down.† I used to fear people finding out what I was, it used to wear me out.† But now I donít care because Iím happy with who I am.† The only thing they can really say is that Iím a man, because the majority of the time they donít know Iím a hooker.† And if they do, I donít give a fuck, Ďcause men explore transgender sexually anyway.† Most men are in the closet anyway, once they find out that youíre transgender all they want to do is have a session with you and get it over with.† When many Black queens do have a relationship with a man, [the men] have usually been in and out of prison, or theyíre poor.† I deserve more than that, Iím accustomed to living one way Ė I †was raised to live one way.† Thatís probably the reason that pushes me to prostitution.

SB:† ††††††† Do you find it hard to have relationships with men?

T:††††††††††† Of course.† I could have married a rich man and lived up on the hills if it wasnít for this cock I have between my legs.†† If society would accept transgenders, I wouldnít be a hooker.

SB:†† †††††† Do you find empowerment in your job?

T:†††† †††††† Yeah, Iím in total control of the situation. I can say when itís time to stop, and they pay me.†† Sometimes I feel like Iím not empowered, and they just used me and went home to their wife and gave her the fur coat, the diamonds, or the new Porsche---after they laid up with me and sucked dick or fucked or whatever, and gave me $150 or 200 dollars.

SB:† ††††††† What would you like to be doing ten years from now?† Do you see yourself still prostituting?

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T:††† ††††††† I see myself prostituting until I leave the man Iím with now, and get me a better man, or this man starts making more money.† The man Iím with now is a poor Black man.† Iíve been with him for seven years.† He knew me before I was hustling, I couldnít live the way we were living before.† Even though he works full time, and Iím unemployed, heíll have his hand stuck out for car fare, bills.† He works in a furniture store, his job is really physical, he moves around a lot of furniture.† Before I met him I had stopped prostituting and got a job as a bartender, I was still living with my mother.† When I met him he was on crack, and I had just cleaned up my act.† He later cleaned up his act and got a job, but it still wasnít enough to live on. HeH††

He gets paid kimbles and bits, he doesnít provide any stability for me to make that change in my life. Iíve tried with him to change our situation, but it didnít work. Iíve had the opportunity to be with someone else who would provide me with that stability, but I didnít love them.† I donít know when Iíll get that stability, and if I ever get it, I know I want my own business.† I donít want to work for anyone else, especially not a white man.† Iím independent, I would never want to depend on a man giving me money, Ďcause just as he can give it to me, he can take it away from me.†† My family was the first ones to take money away from me, I donít want to go through that again.†† Thatís why Iím still hookiní. ††

SB: †††††††† Do you feel as if youíre supporting both you and your man in this relationship?

T:†† †††††††† No, not really.† Heís just doesnít know how to manage money; heís older than me and just comes to me when heís broke.† I only work when I really need money: when a bill needs to be paid, when I want a new outfit, food, some pot.†

SB: †††††††† How does it feel psychology to be bumped down a class?† How would you define your current class?†

T:†† †††††††† Oh, Iím poor, honey!† [laughs]† Ainít no shame in that.† Iím dramatized, but I deal with it or else I would be go crazy or be dead.† Iím still here.††††

SB:† ††††††† I ask that question because I know many Black people donít want to identify as poor because of the negative images and stereotypes already existing about poor Black people. †Have you thought about going back to school?

T:† ††††††††† Iíve tried and thatís when I got sick with HIV.† I canít afford to go to school right now.† I know it would be hard and difficult, but in my heart I really want to.† I never wanted to do this.††††† ††††††††††††††

SB: †††††††† How did contract HIV and how did you find out?

T:††† ††††††† Iím not sure how I got it.† I kind of blamed the man Iím with now because when I first got with him, I heard rumors that he had it.† Weíve been screwing for five years without condoms, so if I had full blown AIDS then Iím sure he has it Ė he has Herpes.† But I stopped blaming him because I had experiences with different men in the past.† Even before AIDS became an epidemic, I was having unsafe sex.† I used to be really angry at him, but I had to let that go.†

I found out about a year and a half ago, and I kind of knew all along I had it because I had friends that died of it.† I didnít get any help until it really took a toll on me.† I had to go to a doctor, my hair fell out, I lost weight, I was pale---I almost died.† I went to UCSF and the doctor---the blond white doctor whom I was afraid of at first, brought me back to life with the new medications.

SB:† ††††††† Did you have a fear of doctors before you went to UCSF?

T:††† ††††††† I didnít want to hear that I had it, even though I knew.† I could feel my body deteriorate.† I didnít have a fear of doctors, but I know many Black people do.† Many Black people donít trust white physicians, but if I want to live Iím going to have to go somewhere.†

SB:† ††††††† During the hype of AIDS in the early 80s did you feel that you had access to knowledge to prevent getting HIV?†

T:† ††††††††† Well, at first it was thought to be just a white gay disease.† I had the knowledge, but being transgender many people think that the men they sleep with are only having sex with women-they think these men arenít prone to getting AIDS.† Thatís how I got it.† I felt that if I had a boyfriend he was only going to be with me, so we didnít need to use condoms.† But I should have always been using condoms.†

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SB: †††††††† Did you use condoms with Johns?

T:††† ††††††† Oh, of course.† I mostly didnít use condoms with men I dated, and a few times I havenít with Johns because I thought they were attractive or I was very intoxicated.† But after I was diagnosed, Iíve always used condoms. ††I donít even give oral sex without one.† I donít care how much money heís spending.†† I donít care how much a nigga Iím dating tells me he loves me Ė itís a no-no.† Now with the man Iím dating now, we use condoms.† When I work, men still want me to have sex with them without a condom, they offer me more money, but I refuse.† When I first found out I was HIV positive I didnít want to live, but I thought of my little niece and the thought of her and my family made me want to live.

SB:† ††††††† Do you think doing outreach to prostitutes makes a difference?

T:†††† †††††† Yeah, it makes a difference everywhere.† They really need to go to high schoolsóespecially the Black ones.† Black youth should be the number one issue.† Black people arenít educated about AIDS because sex is a taboo in our culture, itís not talked about I didnít learn about sex at home, I learned about it from the streets. The church has a lot to do with why Black kids arenít educated about sex.† Black people were converted to Christianity when they were brought here.†† Many young Black people still think AIDS is a [white] gay disease.† They think it wonít happen to them.†† I had a young Black guy try to date me without a condom.† I asked him why he didnít want to use one? †He said it wouldnít feel the same.† Many guys think they can have sex with a woman and use the withdrawal method.† Many Black men are self-destructive anyway because they donít feel like they have much to live for.†

SB: †††††††† How did issues of self-esteem play a role in your HIV status?

T:†† †††††††† I had a low self-esteem about my sexuality, being transgender and how society looks down upon that.† Not being a woman, but just being transgender.† I liked myself as a person, though.† But now that I have HIV it makes me appreciate life more.

Contacting Siobhan Brooks

For Speaking Engagements Contact:†
David S. Neale, Owner, Resource Manager
Black Lavender Resources
Phone: 301-702-2009
Email: BlackLavender1@aol.com

To Contact Siobhan Brooks Directly:

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