She thrives and survives


Syimone, DJ from Louisville, Kentucky

Queer means independent to me. It means that you are standing up and claiming who you are and who you can be. I identify as trans, and as history has taught us, trans women were the movers and shakers of this movement. Trans women of color don’t get the respect we deserve.

I grew up in Louisville by Churchill Downs and I’ve always been who I am and that’s always been sort of a difficult sitch. I’ve just been pretty forthright about who I am as a person and when I was growing up there wasn’t a word for who I was – it was just called gay. No one knew what trans was. They knew what drag queens were of course, but it didn’t matter because I was on journey to discover myself. And although I was different I was looked after and protected by the community where I lived.

I’ve lived in all types of places, but the shows brought me back to Louisville. There aren’t a lot of girls that do the work I do. And as a DJ and performer, I’ve managed to exist and survive through the love and support of others. It’s very hard to be a trans woman of color in spaces that often times don’t want you there. Being able to thrive in those spaces is very rare. I have a natural defiance with people telling me what to do and I will call your ass out. I have no problem with confrontation at all. In fact, confrontation can sometimes change things for the better.

I’ve enabled myself to work in many establishments and I believe I belong to the whole community – the good and the bad. I’m seeing so much racism and homophobia and transphobia within our own community. But I also think that we’re seeing a lot of younger white gays leaving their privilege at the door. They’re acknowledging it and stepping up and stepping out. But these new ideas are being met with a lot of hatred from people who are set in their ways. It’s easier to be ignorant than be a progressive person and try to work past things you don’t understand.

I cannot be replaced.

I’m the only black trans woman in many situations and often times there’s a lot of intrigue, a lot of disgust, indifference, and it’s sometimes my job to educate people I don’t want to educate. But the fact that I am someone who is recognized in the community, I try to use my presence for good. I never wanted to be a role model. I just didn’t feel like my personal business is anyone else’s business. It’s frightening to see someone living their full truth, I am a constantly shaking things up. There are so many trans women that don’t want what comes with being well-known or living truly out loud. I’m a presence and everyone is gonna know who I am when I walk into the room. I love making people uncomfortable. I’m a good judge of character and there are good people and bad people…and I can figure that out really quickly.

There are some things you’re not prepared for when you walk into this community and there are people who don’t feel like they fit in and that’s difficult when you’re in a room full of white people and you’re the only black person.

Black people don’t have the privilege to sit back and see everything; we see it all. It’s just the truth. I’ve seen what this community is.

I’ve seen the phobias. With Grindr, nobody would hit me up besides undercover straight boys. Come 3 or 4 a.m. my Grindr would be blowing up! You get the whole, “don’t tell anybody we did this.” That’s fun for a little bit when it’s a boy you really want, but after a while you realize they’re fuck boys. With this horrible drug epidemic in our community and HIV infections, I took myself out of the race. Rejection can be the best thing sometimes. Rejection is what has saved my life. If I fucked half the boys I have the hots for, who knows where I’d be today.

Life is very short and you have to be the most important thing in your life. You can love people and people can love you, but you always have to practice self-care, never allow something or someone to come into your space and ruin that for you. I think I give everybody the same advice. This is your life and no one gets to live your life but you. Sometimes friends and family are ignorant and dismissive, but you get to choose how to live your life, and if you have to remove people form it, then you have to. I would rather eat alone than sit at a table I hate.