Angela D. Odom
I am an avid hiker. I love nature and am often
astounded by both its mystery and its beauty. For instance, on many walks through the forest, I am often amazed at how
trees, after being ravaged by fire, can still develop tender green stems, which evolve into hard strong branches and, once
again, the tree begins to take its place amongst the others in the forest. Its strong root system is what allows this
to happen. If the roots are not horribly damaged, the tree can take form once more. It has been these little walks
through the forest that has caused me to sit as a humble student in its midst, often on the forest floor, to engage in conversation
with its splendor.
It was as a result of such a walk I learned not to be a possessive lover – which has
also been the source of many problems for me – but I continue to believe a possessive lover is one who plucks the flower
from the forest floor, takes it home, gives it an aspirin, and sits back to watch it become limp and die. In the fall
of my years, I have chosen neither to cut nor pull the flower from the forest floor. No, I prefer to enjoy it where
I find it – right where it is, because each day I come to visit I’ll see something new, I’ll take nothing
for granted, and each new phase will be a delight to my eyes. And the next time she blooms, she’ll bring forth
new blossoms; not one will be identical to the other, and the combined aroma will be even sweeter. No, I will not cut
her, take her away, place her in a jar with an aspirin, and watch her go limp and die. There’s no joy in that.
So, you ask. What do the above paragraphs have to do with lesbians, trans men, drag
kings, or labels? Well, quite a bit. On September 28, 2002, Alexander John Goodrum took his own life in a hospital.
Alexander John Goodrum was a Trans Man, a Female-to-Male transgender (FtM), formerly known as a lesbian, bisexual, born a
woman, probably a butch, and may have been clipped from his foundation, placed in a jar, with an aspirin, and left to go limp
and die. Maybe, a lot of the why lies in a word – acceptance -- I don’t know.
I have heard the words over and over again from Trans Women, (Male-to-Female or MtF), who
speak of being lonely and feeling unloved because they are not completely accepted by the gay community and equally so by
the straight community. And then there is that word “sell-out.” I ask who they sold out, because certainly,
they did not sell out themselves. They made the commitment, they accepted the sacrifice, they took the steps mentally,
psychologically, and quite financially to become physically true spirits. So I ask, is it the poison of society’s
non-acceptance that creeps into the roots causing them to slowly die? Were they snipped and taken about for show to
be seen and not touched causing them to go limp and die? Could it be a bit of both? I hope to someday understand
why and what caused Marcelle Cook-Daniels and Alexander John Goodrum to commit suicide.
I am sure some of us can testify to experiences in our youth of putting on our brother’s
trousers, or taping pieces of our mother’s wig under our noses and chins – or like me, it was electrical tape.
Maybe some of us can remember standing over the commode in a failed attempt at urinating into the bowl and not spraying
everything around it – okay well, men do that too so at least we were successful at equally making a mess. Yes,
some of us were even caught trying to explore the “what if” of gender illusion. But, let’s be frank,
didn’t it bring forth a feeling of empowerment? For those minutes or hours you were in drag, you felt different,
you felt strong, you may have even felt powerful.
Tomboy, climbing trees and perhaps like me, felt a sense of pride in being able to propel
yourself over a fence, clearing the top without touching it with your feet. Feeling a sense of power as you climbed
a tree and found some boys could not do what you and the other, stronger boys, were able to do. Easy Bake Ovens, Tea
Sets and Barbie Dolls were not your cup of tea but, your brother’s six shooters at your side and Hot Wheels were more
to your liking? Trust me, I understand and I would have been quite content had it not been for my being unwittingly
and unwillingly enrolled in my mother’s school of charm. If my memory serves me, I believe it was felt little
girls grow to become young ladies and should not be seen trouncing around with boys acting like one. So, I was made
to wear horribly ugly dresses, pleated skirts, and, God forbid, a bra. When my menses finally arrived, I was very upset
to learn this would be with me for many, many years and when the little mosquito bites finally appeared to fill the training
bra I was made to wear, I had to concede defeat – I could not will myself to be a boy. The bending of my will,
however, to become a young lady in my mother’s school of charm, produced at 20, a Diana Ross/Garth Brooks lesbian.
Translation: neither Butch, nor Femme. Today’s label for me would probably be “Kiki.”
Oh, if we could just do away with labels and just let us be. If the boy is effeminate,
you can’t beat it out of him. If the girl is tomboyish, you can buy a dozen dresses and she will still prefer
pants. It does not mean these children are predisposed to be lesbians or gays, but leaving them be helps the roots of
the soul remain strong. Otherwise, roots weakened, suicide is contemplated and could be committed with a knife, a gun,
an overdose of pills or it could be long-term like alcoholism, drug abuse or some other form of self hatred.
It is my belief; we create our own dream of reality. We perpetuate our dream of reality
on others causing them to further perpetuate their dream of reality to others thereby causing ageism, sexism, racism, homophobia,
and all other forms of prejudice. For those who do not subscribe to someone else’s dream of reality, they are
attacked at the root of their soul eventually causing hopelessness and despair. Their blood drips from our hands.
I have learned a little something in my journey through life and that is not to judge. My hands are bloodied enough
from my past stupidity, foolishness, arrogance and ignorance. Though I can be quite the cynic sometimes, albeit playfully
now, I have come to learn to enjoy people where they are, unconditionally. Like June Jordan, what tilts my head in the
opposite of fear is anyone who talks to me: gay, straight, bisexual, butch, femme, kiki, transgender, transsexual, etc.
– it is certainly well with my soul.
So, leave me be on the forest floor where I can catch the gentle rays of the sun with each
sway of the trees above. Kneel and lean in to catch the fragrance from my blossoms. Let my velvety petals caress
your hands, your lips, your cheeks. And, if at next bloom I should produce a different colored blossom, do not cut it
off or despise it. I brought it forth for your delight. It has always been within me to produce. Accept
me where I am, do not pull or tug at my roots, do not snip my blossoms, accept me where I am. Come to me where I am
and we will both be assured, with every dying leaf or blossom, with every new leaf and/or branch, you will always be guaranteed
the fullness of me.
The Patron Saint of FemmeNoir
I believe Christine Tripp has become the Patron Saint, if you will, of FemmeNoir.
On Sunday, September 29, 2002, I felt compelled to revisit a particular website. I resisted this uncomfortable unknowing
because I felt I had done all I needed to do and seen all I needed to see on that particular website. The persistent
force, however, stayed with me throughout the evening and I, always the stubborn Taurean, held my ground until I was tricked
into going back. I had come across a name and thought I saw this person on that particular website. I went back
and, finding it was not the same person, left the site. But, something caught my eye as my browser was exiting.
I immediately returned to the site and there I saw the words “Remembering Alexander John Goodrum.” I clicked
the link and found an African American Trans man. Another African American Trans Man who committed suicide. I
laughed to myself saying to Christine “now he’s there with you and you want me to include him.” So
if you saw the earlier preview page for this month's Leaders/Legends, you now know it has since changed -- the focus changed
because the Patron Saint of FemmeNoir, Christine Adams Tripp, deemed it so.
Hot Topic Links
A Walking Map Through The Oppression Of Trans & Intersex People -- By Diana Courvant, Survivor Project (First Published by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
Guide to Intersex & Trans Terminologies -- By Emi Koyama, Survivor Project
Transgender Participants at U.S. Confab Say 'Little Boxes' Don't Always Fit -- by Katie Szymanski [From The Bay Area Reporter] -- Are you still a lesbian when your female lover transitions? Why is
the h-word (heterosexual) not used in discussions that allegedly include straight-identified transgender people? Would a greater
fluidity of gender eliminate the need for labels entirely?
Resources for Journalists and Others in the Media: Suggested guidelines for journalists and others in the media, as well as a contact
list of TG spokespersons and others in Arizona willing to be interviewed on the subject of gender identity.
National Transgendered Advocacy Coalition - Lobbying group for public education and political advocacy on issues related to
gender variance and gender presentation. PO Box 123, Free Union VA 22940.
The Transitional Male Advisor
Q&A on Almost Everything Transitioning