Spoken by: Jaii Starr is a U.S. Army Military Police Veteran turned Model and Motivational Speaker. Jaii sets out with the goal to reach out to anyone who is different just like she and let them know that he or she is not alone and that nothing should stand in the way of their dreams. As Jaii likes to say, "Why tip toe through life to arrive safely at death...?" Impossible is easy.
Written By: Kristin Beck, is a former United States Navy SEAL who gained public attention in 2013 when she came out as a trans woman. She published her memoir in June 2013, Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL's Journey to Coming out Transgender detailing her experiences.
This past weekend was Memorial Day. The BBQs are over and the pools are open... its the beginning of summer for everyone and it was a big party........Not so much for me.
What does memorial day mean to me and why am I writing this?
This day for me is a very emotional mixed up day. I celebrate in my own way and its not BBQs and parties, but its remembering my friends who have died on the battlefield. I sit by myself and go through a box of photos. I drink some beer or wine and remember the good times with my friends. I take a drink then give them a drink with a splash onto the earth. I see them in our glory days and then I see the coffins. I don't sleep very much.
In my head I am running through the battles and justifying our actions and wondering what the hell we are doing. Why did they die and what did they die for? What are our values? Are we now fighting for our civilization? A "western" civilization against the torrent of change in recent times? I go into philosophical discussion in my head. I wonder about our shrinking world in the time of a world wide web. I contemplate the religions that are based upon thousand year old values and outdated politics based upon a world of limited resources and isolation. I wonder and contemplate everything in my life and what the heck did my friends die for? Why do we have to fight?
We are the warriors; WE DEFEND America and its values; We fight for Freedom, Liberty and Justice. It all sounds so noble and like super heroes out fighting Lex Luther or Satan. The true warrior does not wish to ever use his skills, but he is ready when called upon; he is ready when we are threatened. When the politics fail and we are attacked we defend ourselves. I hope we are doing what is right, because it seems the warriors are called to action far too much in recent times...
I wrote a book called "Lady Valor: A path from war to peace" it will publish on July 4th of this year. Here is a chapter from that book that may bring some light onto my thoughts on Memorial Day.
To set up the chapter.... I was a Navy SEAL for 20 years. I was in Afghanistan for a while and this was my coming home from the battle field:
Chapter 11: Flags of Freedom
I was getting on the freedom bird home. Boarding the plane I walked from the ramp of the aircraft toward the seats. There were two vehicles loaded that got hit by IEDs or rockets during an earlier mission. We bring them back to repair and then return them to combat another time; just like me I guess.
I made it past the second vehicle, walking past a field of US flags.
The front of the plane was loaded with flag draped coffins. It was our buddies who had been killed in action the week before. They kept them on ice for the week and now we’re flying home with them. It was surreal.
I was sitting in a jump seat with my back pressed against the aircraft and my knees almost touching a coffin in the middle of the plane. I asked the doc for a couple of Ambien so I could knock myself out. I needed to not think about the last year. He gave me three pills; I took them with a slug from the canteen. I was out as I sat down, an hour or so later I woke up due to turbulence. The green light must have gone off to let everyone unbuckle and set up hammocks and sleeping bags all around the aircraft. I had one of the guy’s head on one side of me and someone’s feet on the other side. No room for me to stretch out on the bench seat.
There was only one place to lay out and sleep the remaining five hours. I was groggy. I lay down between the coffins with my brothers on each side of me. The Ambien kicked in good again, and I was out, but I had dreams.
I was on a few ambushes; I was hit, and I was in the coffin and could see the flag from the back. I was looking up in my dream, and I jerked awake to the real world and the U.S. flags around me. Breathing hard and with a spinning head; I had to get out. I wanted so bad to be out of there. Jump out of the plane. Do something.
I looked around and saw other guys sleeping and a few sitting up listening to their iPods. I wanted to yell, cry, call out for help, or punch something. I needed to get out into a green field or a forest and be free.
I laid my head back down and looked up and saw the flags on each side of me, aircraft fuselage above me. The constant drone of engines was in my ears as I fell back to sleep.
I dream of flags to this day, flags of freedom, flags when I flew home from the war.
My brothers beside me in flag draped coffins on each side as I slept on the freedom bird back home.
Freedom is not free.
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Written by: Melissa Watson, Allegheny County Chapter Leader, Marriage Equality For Pennsylvania. Melissa is an activist and filmmaker who has been in Pittsburgh for three years. Melissa would like to thank the City of Pittsburgh for giving them love and heartbreak, opportunities to succeed, and to overcome defeat. Melissa's community inspires and challenges them everyday, so thanks to you.
On May 20, Judge John E. Jones III struck down Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage. On that day, I met couples that have been together for many years; one couple in particular that have been together for forty years. They had long decided to spend their lives together and getting a marriage license was a natural and unquestioned step for them. I met couples that had been married in another state who with confidence in their legal standing were now ready to start a family. I met couples who took the new opportunity to marry in stride and became engaged. I met people in relationships for a handful of years who were suddenly sweating at the realistic possibility of legal commitment. I met people who were single and excited by their newfound dignified existence under the law. I met people who think of marriage as a twisted cultural construct.
There are many different ways to relate to one another. This shift in law removes the veil of possibility and pushes the choices we make in those relationships into reality. This is an opportunity to check in and reflect on what makes you happy, what kind of relationship you need to be happy, and what is the healthiest way to exist in that relationship.
If you would’ve asked me even just a few months ago why I joined the fight for marriage equality in Pennsylvania, I would’ve told you that: In addition to supporting my friends and my community, I was fighting to protect my future family. Because when I found someone whom I loved dearly and they returned that love to me, no backwards law or mislead policy was going to keep me from being able to care for them and the family we create together. No way in Hell. It wasn’t until after it became legal to marry same gender in Pennsylvania that I began to challenge myself on that objective.
I don’t think this is scenario where it is all about the chase and now that I have the option, I don’t want it. I still feel that marriage will happen in my lifetime. I just never questioned that one day I would get married; it was an inevitability. I started to reflect on where these images about marriage have come from. We live in a culture the commercially feeds all of us an end game. It tells us to “go to college,” not to think deeply. It tells us to “be skinny”, not to be healthy. It tells us to “get married,” not to enter in to glorifying relationships. Marriage is a choice. I met enough couples in the last week that have given huge parts of themselves to one another, not to take that lightly. Not to assume that is something that deep and complex just happens in a lifetime. Now that we, as same-gender loving people, have the right to get married, don’t forget that you get to choose it.
Bring glory to yourself, hold close to those that bring glory to you. Find the right way to keep them in your life. And maybe one day you will marry that person. If not, your love is still glorifying and productive.
Written by Aaron White
Recently, I was asked to do an interview about relationships in the LGBT community. I thought that this interview would be right up my alley, since I enjoy talking about subjects concerning the community. So I interviewed the Founder and Overall Father of the House of Tsunami, Tremain Tsunami. Here is some background: Tremain founded the house in 2004 in order to focus on outreach and awareness in the community. I was even presented with their mission statement. The House of Tsunami has many values that are based on helping the community, unity, and empowerment. So without any further ado, here is the interview with Overall Father Tremain Tsunami.
Me: So first, what do you think are five key components of being in a homosexual relationship?
Tremain: The first - to understand what a monogamous relationship is:
Me: Very insightful! Roles seem to play a major role in homosexual relationships. Do you think worrying about identifying yourself as Top, Bottom, or Verse is a stint in building a relationship in our community?
Tremain: Yes, I believe so, because in this community we focus on and drive by labels - if the relationship does not have one, then a large percentage of us get lost and unwilling to engage.
Me: Exactly! Most of us are so worried about who is what, that it might end up cutting a connection that could have benefited us. Next, do you believe it is possible in this era of homosexuality to be in a long term monogamous relationship?
Tremain: I would like to believe so, because the amount of homosexual individuals in this community who hunger for love in any form they can get it, why would they not want to commit? But as social media continues to educate me, I'm starting to believe that monogamous relations are in great danger of being extinct.
Me: Great answer! I guess we’ll see what happens once time starts to elapse. Speaking of social media, due to the advancement of internet social sites, social media is one of the leading ways to connect people on a global scale. Is it possible to build a relationship using these sites?
Tremain: Yes, it is. The growth of social sites has allowed people to have courage and esteem in their self to approach individuals before a face-to-face interaction, so by the time that happens, the connection has been made and relationship is built.
Me: Personally, I do attempt to use these things, but more and more they seem to become negative in what they present themselves to be. Used for more of a hookup, instead of actual communication. So, about sex - everyone’s favorite subject in the world. How does sex play a part in our community and in our connections and relationships? Does sex have a positive or negative effect on our community?
Tremain: Sex! That word has become iconic in this community. “Sex sells;” “Sex makes my day;” “Sex for breakfast, lunch, and dinner;” “Sex hair;” “Sex fashion;” et cetera - this community has made this act of passion and love between individuals a brand and a career . Sex is not any longer the joy, but the definition of self-worth. Sex has become the devil in our community!
Me: I think you hit the nail in the head about this topic. Sex changes everything. It can make things better or it can make things worse. It all depends on how you play with it like you were explaining. In closing, what advice do you have for those, who are seeking a real relationship but are having a hard time evaluating what they should do to pursue a relationship?
Me: That’s the icing on the cake right there! Well, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview you on such a very touching subject. It was great!
Tremain: I've wanted to address that for some time now and I'm glad it's done. That makes me happy.
Me: Well I’m glad I could help to make it come true.
Tremain: Yup, you sure did. I can't wait and thanks again!
Me: You’re very welcome. Thank you!
I hope this interview helps someone out there. All of us need love and we want someone, who is going to stand by us and support us. For those who are losing hope, remember that love is out there for you. Most importantly, love yourself and love others.
Written by: Joy KMT, poet- performance artist- space sorceress
There are so many missives on healing and self-improvement, so much to tell us how we should be well, how to measure our health and our wholeness. I don’t think I need to write another one of those.
“Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.”
I am not ok. I am magnificent, fierce, intelligent, and deeply intuitive, but I am not ok. This is me outing myself; the shadows of a black woman have never been acceptable. The wounding of generations of hatred against the unacceptable, the queer, damn near split me in two. My rage has saved me from drowning in this sea of hatred; kept me alive against a world that has tried to kill me everyday. My rage is the river only the brave and truly loving can cross. My rage is tethered by a deep and profound love for myself and for the desire for true transformation. And it is my rage that informs me that I am not ok.
We cannot bear witness to the truth while denying the storm with a smile. I do not give a damn about your mantras, your crystals, your yoga or your green drinks if you cannot tell me about your despair. The bliss that has knocked the top of your skull off and sent you reeling into a miraculous and ridiculous universe full of pulsing lifeforce. Tell me about your rage. Tell me about the hunger you have for beauty, for intimacy, for truth, for purpose, for self-worth. Tell me about all that lies inside of you unspoken and unnamed. Don’t tell me you are ok. Tell me you are magnificent, and glorious and passionate. Or tell me that you are open, and raw, and hurting. Tell me you are the rooted-tree-peace surpassing understanding. Or tell me that you are the turbulence of the hurricane. But don’t utter that soul-suppressing “ok”, unless you can draw it up from the base of your spine and breathe it into the world like a naked tender gift of medicine that is authentically you-
I don’t need your platitudes or potions. We are kept sick and small because the world has told us, and we have believed, to hide ourselves is the way that we are loved, cherished, and supported. Oppression works on our innards to turn the fullness of who we are into bite-sized commodities that are easily digestible and controllable. Within marginalized communities, the ones who reap the most benefit from the status quo are the ones who can remain the most acceptable and the most controllable, while those more unacceptable are sold the dream that equality can one day be theirs, if they work hard enough to become an acceptable minority. In a system like this, there must always be those that are on the outside looking in.
I am here to tell us to dream bigger.We are not the accessories of allies who wish to be patted on the back and given progressive cookies. We are the antidote to the pervasive destruction that is the gaping maw of western culture. We must stop looking from the outside in and cast off the shame of being too other in a hegemonic world. We are not the beggars, we are the changers, the healers, the shifters, the alkhemists, the dreamers, the lovers, the soul of the earth.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves
What do you love? What is ancient in you and before words? What presses your eyelids open in the morning and gives you the strength to move forward? What keeps you alive? That is the medicine. There is no life in the desert of self-hatred, there is no transformation in the self-improvement industrial complex that is built on the backs of people who have been taught that they must continually repent for breathing. You do not have to be good. You have to be brave enough to love your shadows and honor the perfect gift of life that is you behind the self-doubt, the inferiority, the if-only-i-was-more-oppression-induced syndrome. You have to listen, really listen to your rage and what it is trying to tell you. Because rage is a hunger that will eat your bones if you do not bear witness. It is a cherished friend when you do.
You have to cultivate fearlessness with the tenderness of a mother; especially if that fearlessness was never nurtured in you by the people who were supposed to do so. You have to be fearless as you have always needed to be in order to face each rising sun. You must breathe and go at your own pace. You must understand that you are a terrible beauty of great consequence, now. and now. and now. and now. You have never been as small as the trap you find yourself in. This is not a self-help epistle; this is a love letter and fight music. Even in your smallest self, your tiniest, softest and most scared self, you have been dangerous to and bigger than the definitions and the labels and the cages and the cemeteries that have been built for you. You have always been infinitely lovable even as they have sold you your own death as a palatable alternative to being black and or native and or poor and or woman and or queer and or trans and or disabled and or fat and or and or and or and or and or. And that is why everyday they have tried to kill you.
Don’t you know you are Nsoromma?
A child of the heavens
created in the cauldron of the beginning
a revelation of divine fashioned from sifted stardust
the universe sings your true and living name every morning
even when you feel like shit and your breath stinks and you don’t
know what you are going to eat today and all the traumas of all the yesterdays sit on your chest as soon as you open your eyes. You are the living Truth
calling itself forward
The blue text is from Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese”.
You can catch Joy KMT teaching Liberation Science here:
Liberation Science Workshop
Written by: Rev. Shanea Leonard, pastor at JUDAH Fellowship Christian Church
Shadows can be a very dangerous place. The shadows of the dark night on the streets of an given city breed places of mischief, crime, and secrecy. And the shadows don’t stop there. Often times we have shadows that spill over into our lives. Our shadows hide much more. Like the wounds and scars of life we don’t want to talk about; the pain and frustration of shattered dreams we try to ignore; and far too often the shadows can be a place of hiding of our true selves.
I have known shadows. I have known what it’s like to be the only Black person in a sea of non-Black faces and feel pushed into the shadows whether I wanted to be there or not. I have known the shadows of being a female in family of male privilege where my words and presence are perpetually secondary to those with a fallace. I also know what it’s like to be a same-gender loving person in a conservative family, a bigoted city, and a closed minded world. But above all, for me the shadows have been a place to deny, hide, and decipher the fact that I am a person of faith who happens to be a same-gender loving person well.
Now for some this may not seem like such an issue. But when you are raised in a traditional Black Baptist household and have spent your entire life surrounded and inundated with a Christian message that seems welcoming to everyone but you, a life in the shadows can often be the safest place to reside. The good news about this story is that after many years trying to reconcile faith and identity, I came to a much healthier understanding of myself and a clearer understanding of what being a follower of Christ REALLY means. See there is not real argument in the Christian faith against the LGBTQIIAA community...not really. After years of study in college and graduate school and on my own, what I have discovered is that I am loved by a God who not only already knew who I would be before I was born, but actually created me to be this stocky, Black, good-looking, same-gender loving person. And that I am in no way an accident, a freak of nature, a mistake, or an abomination. I am now in a place of loving me because I am able to see myself the way God sees me, perfect. And no this doesn’t mean I don’t have flaws, because I do. What it simply means is that my flaws are not in my gender identity or sexual orientation. I cannot tell you the freedom that brings!!!
And once I was able to get free, it became much easier to help others get free as well. As the pastor of JUDAH Fellowship Christian Church on the Northside, I have made it my life’s work to teach, preach, and live an authentic gospel message that promotes radical love and extravagant grace. At JUDAH, we open our doors freely and willingly to be a place of refuge, hope, and light to those in need. We are not just open but also affirming. Our ministry is predicated on the theology that when Jesus says “whosoever” is welcome to the gift of salvation that that really means exactly that. There is no condemning or separation between Black and White, Gay or Straight, Trans or Cisgender. There is no “gay agenda”. Only a love agenda that seeks to live out the gospel in such a way that people are healed, set free, and delivered from their own shadows.
My healing from the shadows produced hope, peace and a determination to help others. My prayer is that if you too need to be free of your shadows that you find the warmth and grace that leads you to health and wholeness in the brightness of life. Dear one, GET FREE!
Can you believe that it’s been almost ten years since I came out to you for the first time? I clearly remember that day. You dropped me off at school and I handed you my coming out letter. All day, I was checking my phone, hoping that you had said something. My heart felt like it was in my throat. I kept thinking, “You shouldn’t have given her the letter.” I knew that you were conservative and a Christian who had grown up in the church. At first, when you didn’t say anything for days, I became fearful. I wondered what you had been contemplating. I had seen a documentary when one guy’s parents sent him to shock therapy. I felt like I was preparing myself for the absolute worst. After a few more days, I started to get angry. “How dare she not say anything when you are revealing yourself to her?” I thought. When I marched upstairs to your room to ask you that very question, I heard myself quietly whisper, “Ma?” “MA,” I heard myself shout louder. Then, in my normal tone I asked, “Did you read my letter?” When you responded and said you had read the letter, you were a little too calm. After you talked to me and said that this may just be a phase and you weren’t going to allow me to be gay in your house, I felt disheartened. Then you told me that you would “always love me, no matter what.”
We had our struggles over the next two years as I began to rebel in a number of ways. By the end of my junior year in high school, I knew that I was going to Chatham University, in Pittsburgh, and I ran there every time I got the chance. Being surrounded by folks who were just being themselves kicked open a breadth of possibilities for my identity and I felt safe exploring myself there. When I left to begin my undergraduate studies, I thought for sure we would never have a close relationship. The first couple months of classes, I would get so angry because I so badly wanted your approval. I knew that you told me that you loved me no matter what, but I wanted you to be the parent shouting your pride from the rooftops and embracing me like only a mom can do.
At the end of my first semester, it felt like we would never make amends or see eye-to-eye. I knew for sure that we would never talk again. When I cut off contact, you gave me my space. I know that it was one of the hardest times of your life, but that space allowed me to become confident in me. You always told me that you were proud of me and that you believed in me – my coming out didn’t change your belief that I was something great. As I struggled with my identity, I didn’t have a true concept of who I was and I needed the space to figure that out. It took years for me to get to a true place of understanding and I’m so grateful that you bore the pain of my growth process.
I know you are reading this letter and thinking, “I can’t believe that he is saying all of this.” I’m saying all of this because I want you and everyone else to know how grateful I am for your unconditional love. Your unconditional love is as a raw as the words of this letter; your unconditional love for me means that you have sacrificed, given of yourself, and shed tears for me. The time that I took to uncover my true Self was the gateway to my real relationship with you. During that time, I was able to assess and understand that you are my mother and so much more. You are a strong, Black woman who grew up in a small, rural town in the segregated South – a woman who grew up in the Church of Christ Holiness U.S.A. – a woman who was the last-born child of ten – a woman who is a survivor and taught me the definition of survival – and, a woman who sacrificed time and time again for me to have a better life.
Ten years ago when I came out, I never imagined that I would have the relationship that I have with you now. As I have watched you go from talking to listening, I have seen you open your mind to all of the complexities that create each individual’s unique identity. And, now, you are giving others advice about how to support their LGBTQIA. Every time you come to Pittsburgh for a Garden of Peace Project event or you just tell me how proud of you are of me, I smile because I remember just how far you have come. Sometimes, I feel like the proud parent -- the one who gave you the tools and resources to open your mind and explore the World. I’m so happy to have you as my mother, my guide, and one of my best friends. Thank you for challenging your own fundamental beliefs and continuing to love me. You are truly an example of a parent’s ability to love unconditionally and selflessly.
Thank you. Thank you for always being here for me. Thank you for loving me for who I am – your first-born son. Thank you for your sacrifices and your embrace.
I love you, ma. Happy Mother’s Day!
Tune in tonight as my mother, Michele Riddick-Hamilton, talks about her journey to acceptance through love, gives advice to LGBTQIA children about coming out to their parents, and shares her perspective on the Black church of 2014.
To contact Michele Riddick-Hamilton, please email questions, comments, or concerns here!
Written by: Hotep TheArtist -- Hotep TheArtist is the Creative Arts Director at Garden of Peace Project. This blog is a reflection piece about her experience at Livin’ Out Loud (A Kiki Ball).
Michael David Battle: We need for models to volunteer for tonight's fashion show. Are you available?
A little bit too quickly, I responded via chat.
Hotep TheArtist: Sure, let me find out if I have a sitter.
Damn I was in…
… and I had no idea what I was volunteering for. I just know that when Michael David Battle asks you to do something, it is for a great cause and you should jump at the volunteer-opportunity to participate in something that will change your life. It was probably my new dedication to my role on the board at the Garden of Peace Project as Creative Arts Director that fueled my enthusiasm. I wanted to prove myself capable of executing a task for the team. Upon acceptance of my assignment, I was also assigned to pick up another female model for the show. Now, the show was on the Northside of Pittsburgh, right down the street from me and the model was allegedly on the Northside, too. So I figured it would be no problem to pick her up. I called the model only to find out that she was 20 minutes out of town and needed to come back to the Northside for the show. Whoa! That’s far! Hmmmm… I listened to her voice closely and asked Michael again if I was picking up a female model. He confirmed and I began to plan.
I went back-and-forth with my boyfriend about the pros and cons of making this trip for the show. This is also the boyfriend I am madly in love with, who was watching our sons and also whom I didn't particularly want to leave. I didn't know it at the time, but it could be compared to the way Jonah felt when God told him to go to Nineveh. You may reference the Bible if you do that sort of thing....So I was reluctant about sticking my neck out for a model I didn't know for an event I wasn't getting paid for. But when Michael offered gas money, I couldn't refuse! I drove down the highway to the address and it wound up being a little motel. She hollered from the balcony and I came up stairs to find her and her friend not yet ready in the room.
Instead of being anxious that we weren't going to make the modeling event, I soon found out that the experience I would have in this motel room would take me on a journey I least expected. Chanel, the model, and her friend Lacey were in the room getting hyped up for the show, debating on outfits and make up tips. The walk, the swagger, and, most importantly, the energy was so awesome. I’m seeing belly rings, long hair from the root, hands flying, and “mmm girls” all over the place! These were women! And they looked good honey! I'm telling you, I was feeling like a frumpy dump and they let me know I was totally in mommy mode. Now you know I can get dolled up any day, but I just figured that the clothes I was going to model in would do me justice.
"Girl, we are going to get Meesha in here in a minute so she can do your make up. We cannot have you going out looking like that. You cute though, I like yo natural – Mmmmhmm, Honey." This is no dramatic addition to the story. I want you to hear what I heard that night. So I laughed nervously and timidly, as if I would normally allow someone to say that about me on the regular, but it felt so good to be humbled by women who spend way more time on their makeup than I normally do.
Of all the banter I heard between the girls I caught on to a few key words. Fish…which I am supposed to identify with although my womanhood smells like nothing of the sort. Oh…wait…OH!!! So they aren’t fish because…still listening…ok…ok!!! I see now! They were assigned male at birth. Got it! And, I further listened as they openly spoke about how their private parts were feeling that day and adjusted themselves accordingly. They kept it real and didn’t even know me. I didn’t gawk or feel surprised because I was the intruder on their reality. Who am I to make someone else uncomfortable about being themselves?
I was in flat shoes as I attempted to practice my runway walk. I think a tuba was actually playing behind me as I attempted to stomp out to some Rihanna on the radio. Internally, I said, “Nope! That wasn’t it. That wasn’t it either!! WTF?” and “Where is my feline swagger?! I know I’m not about to get shown up tonight!”
Then I said. “I need shoes.” I got in costume.
Don’t you know I was working the runway so fierce, chile! I had to let go of this humble, “You’re better than me and I’m not worthy to be in this moment kind of attitude;” and, I had to ask myself, “What would make this experience real for me? Oh…I know! I’ma be in some heels!” So I made it a reality and here comes my walk!
Okay, after that, Meesha came in with an older white man. Totally hippie, I could catch his vibe. I knew he was cool, especially to be associated with these women AND bring food AND he wasn’t afraid that I wouldn’t like him. Took his shoes off and sat with his legs folded on the bed. He spoke with a magical and deep, calming voice. He gave me incense, which I still have, and I swear it smells like some incense my boyfriend gave me from when we are apart. Meesha is thin and brown skinned, with a lingerie bra on. Tattoos and a long weave or wig. Her lips, eyebrows, and skin were flawless. I’m getting a makeup artist to do my make up?! Shut up!
Then, the guilt tried to creep in…I’m out getting my makeup done and having girl time, when my son was at home with my boyfriend and his son of the same age.
“I dunno I just feel bad. I’m having a great time and the guys are all at home…”
“Girl, you need to let them have their time. They need that. They gotta good Black man in their life, you better be thankful for that girl.”
She was so close to my face as she dabbed on some con—ceal—er. Is that what it’s called? Yes! Her breath didn’t stink either – gosh, I hope mine didn’t. She continued, in a whisper I’m sure the others couldn’t hear.
“I didn’t have any good black male role models in my life…that really has an effect on a young boy growing up you know?...Close your eyes…I really just caught on to what I saw all around me. Powerful, strong Black women. Now, I was always a girl, honey…Open up…Go like this.”
She blinked towards the sky, as she imitated what I was supposed to do. I’m not sure what this does, but apparently it aids in application of mas-ca-ra…I think that’s Italian for raccoon? I’m not sure.
“I was always female. That’s the part that got people twisted. I just finally got old enough to make the decisions to match my inside with my outside baby.”
It was like I didn’t even have to interview her. She just oozed all of this information from the intimacy of our close proximity. I really felt the love at that moment. So I wanted to share myself as well. I asked if I could share a poem I wrote called “I Know Who I Am.” It talks about the soul journey of our human lives and how we are so much more than pink or blue. We are the soul that resides inside of our shells and that’s the love we cannot forget. The inside force that allows us to operate effectively in this realm. They loved me even more after I shared that piece. I believe because they knew I wasn’t showing off; I was just sharing a piece of my heart with strangers…like I do all the time!
Hair and makeup was on point and we were ready to go. We exchanged numbers and promised to always keep in touch. But wait! We had one more spot to go to. Her “Fawthers” house to grab some shoes. Her father is the man who introduced her to the “queer scene” in Pittsburgh. He basically took her under his wing and showed her what’s what around town socially, and domestically. The family unit is incredibly important because many LGBTQIA individuals have been ostracized by their families or shunned from jobs because of their orientation or identity. There are houses all around Pittsburgh where people can go to feel safe and be themselves. I learned that even among these loving groups, there lies a little bickering between the trans women, who’ve committed their lives to feminine energy, and the drag queens, who go into full feminine character for shows and balls. Learning these differences made me appreciate both group’s commitment to be fully whoever they want to be, whenever they want to be it.
The Livin’ Out Loud Kiki Ball was my first one and it was amazing! The confidence and the talent and the costumes were awesome and unique. I saw the vogue and the realness competitions, first timers, and longtime divas. When I saw Mike, I gave him this look. This look that said WTF as well as…THANK YOU. Had I never gone to Nineveh, I would have never been shown this side of the fence. I am a black heterosexual fish,.. I mean female and an ally to all human beings. And, in no way can I say that in one night I fully understand all the intricacies of the trans woman experience, but I can tell you one thing for sure -- they opened me up inside and filled me with a passion for parenting, primping, pausing…and posing. #getit
Written by: Lynnette Romanoff,coach for the Pathfinders of Steel City Softball League
(Q) Why you wanted to start a team?
(A) I have gone through some terrible setbacks in my life, and, personally, it was time to break free from the ‘shit’ and do something about it. A while back, Michael David Battle and I casually discussed putting a team together, but neither of us knew it would really transpire into what it is today. Although, our first game hasn’t happened yet, I am still so proud to have started this with him. So far, we have a team full of all types of individuals from all walks of life. Fitting in wasn’t always my strong suit; still isn’t. But, I am hopeful that with our sponsors -- Garden of Peace Project (GPP) and Cattivo Bar -- and, of course, the support of many of you, everyone can feel welcome to trying something new and fresh; like softball.
(Q) What you want to come from the team?
(A) Support would be my absolute number one. You definitely cannot have a great team without it! And also having a freaking blast with my team, while giving it our all!
(Q) How is Garden of Peace Project a part of that?
(A) Garden of Peace Project happens to be one of our main sponsors. But the GPP isn’t just a sponsor; the founder, Michael David Battle (also on the team), happens to be one of my dearest friends, whom I met while playing in Steel City Softball League. I would love for our team, the Pathfinders, to be a humble branch of the GPP. I want people to feel as comfortable and welcomed to this softball team as they would be being a part of the GPP.
(Q) Garden of Peace Project strives to empower individuals to explore their Self and we believe that each person should have one place where they can go to connect, feel vulnerable, heal, and where they feel most at “home” -- their garden of peace. Where do you find your garden of peace?
(A) Is it fair to say that I am still searching? I am taking the steps necessary to get to that point. And so far, I am happy to say, I feel progress. J
***Note*** Please come to North Park on May 3rd for Opening Day with hundreds of local players!! There will be a league picnic and we would love the support of fans old and new to come out, wear orange, and cheer the PATHFINDERS on from 3:15 - 4:20PM!!
For details please go to www.steelcitysoftball.org
Written By: Ian (Casper Ebony)
I’d say Livin' Out Loud was an extremely impressive event that I attended in Pittsburgh. The venue was amazing, from the lovely décor around the room to the lighting and food service. At a glance from outside the venue, you wouldn't expect it to be as grand as it was on the inside or even be able to accommodate as many people, but when you walked into the place your thoughts were instantly changed. Immediately you could feel the loving spirits of the people in the event and how eager the people were to see what was to unfold.
My category (Vogue-fem) was what I came for and I was pleased with its turn out and the people that came to perform. I was excited that everyone who I’d plan to see was walking and that everyone that was walking showed great sportsmanship. The food was awesome and the staff was extremely polite and courteous to all patrons in the event making sure fresh food was being served and nothing sat too long. The DJ and MC were definitely doing their thing and I would HIGHLY recommend that they host the next event given. I really enjoyed myself and I cannot wait to come back to the next event!!!!!!