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