By- DeoVonte “Deo” Means
When the trans-visibility movement first began, I was more of a silent supporter. It didn’t really affect me too much. But as 2017 dawned and I began to witness the injustices, horrible brutality and even murders of our sisters and brothers; I came to terms with and realized it was time to utilize my platform to publicly support the plight! I wanted to have an educated conversation with someone of trans-experience that would serve as a conduit to answering questions and removing the stigmas and miseducated opinions. But who tho?….. Tempress!…Hailed as the modern-day “one-true Cleopatra.” Her face has been a documented and standard setting ideal for beauty; and like Helen of Troy, has even launched 1000 ships!!…”Take me in your arms an kiss me under a thousand stars. Take me in your loving arms.” I first met Tempress years ago, in our early ballroom days as members of the House of Chanel. I’ve always respected this woman because although STUNNING, she’s always been more than just a pretty face. Educated, well-spoken, groundbreaking, talented and diligent is a few other adjectives I would throw her way. This interview indeed provided an even deeper respect for her because I was also able to see how she functions professionally and with her words. I was able to tap into the woman behind the myth.
Chasity Moore a.k.a. Tempress; originally from Mt. Vernon NY-is an only child. In her words, “this may explain how sometimes I can be a loner and get so caught up in my own world.” She’s been known to be quirky, charismatic, confident -and at times- a shy and humble individual who loves to live, love and laugh. Tempress relocated to Atlanta at the ripe age of 17 to attend Clark Atlanta University. She majored in Mass Communications with a minor in Theater. Her natural talents are singing and acting. Tempress has successfully competed on a host of shows such as Star Search and Apollo. “One of my biggest accomplishments to date, other than my transition (smiles), was touring with Tyler Perry for over 5 years as a lead role in “I Know I’ve been Changed”, says Tempress as she smiles. Ballroom came easy to Tempress because she began entertaining at the age of five. By adulthood, she’d accumulated a host of plays, talent shows and singing lead in church choirs under her belt. “I’m a cancer, so I’m a nurturer by nature! This is why I’ve been successful in my roll as overall mother of a few houses.” Among many other trailblazing moments, Tempress has also reached icon status within the ballroom community, which is the highest and most coveted status to obtain. To date, she sets the record for collectively winning and accumulating the MOST cash prize wins in the entire femme queen category! Many might be humbled to be in the presence of such an accomplished and respected figure within the community but what most don’t realize is that there is a difference between Chasity and Tempress. Tempress is the ballroom character! Over the top, always ready and very witty! “She’s like my Sasha fierce” states Tempress. But Chasity is just the laid back, approachable, everyday-homebody. The one that you take home to your mother! In this interview, she successful illustrated her mastery of the game and the genuine concern she has for her peers and their plight. We’re all in this together. They (the real world) does not distinguish between us in the LGBT community. They view us all as one big thing, GAY! This causes us to share one another’s plight! Here is what she had to say.
FL– Many of those whom are either unfamiliar with – or ignorant of – the transgender individual, assume “trans” is nothing more than a perverted decision to “dress up” in cross gendered clothing and identify with a sex different than that which he/she was born. Can you explain the true essence of transgender and the reality of it all?
Tempress– Transgender is basically feeling like you’re in the wrong body. It’s not being able to identify with what you were assigned at birth. We’re simply trying to live as our authentic selves. Make the outer match the inside.
FL– Take us on a journey and enlightening us on your personal transition. When did you begin the process and what was your personal journey like?
Tempress– For me, I knew I was different as a child. I just really didn’t know what that difference was. I was very feminine as a male child. It was harder for me to “act like a boy.” I always naturally gravitated to what people considered “girly” things. My immediate family always embraced me. It was the outside world that made me feel different. I would hear “why do you walk like that, “… “why do you talk like that” but it was honestly just me being me. I started my transition late because I didn’t even have a clue of what “transition” was. I learned about it later through “the community. ” The funny thing is, I never all the way identified with being gay and I understand why now. Life kinda imitated art for me. I used to travel with Tyler Perry play, I Know I’ve Been Changed. I played a woman who had a secret that I would reveal at the end the play. I would snatch my wig off. I was really playing a transwomen! I loved playing that part because secretly it allowed me to be. I started doing drags and for a long time I fought transitioning because I didn’t know or see any trans role models. I was in my career and it was just scary, considering the unknown. Also, I didn’t know how my family would react. I ended up going through a depression stage where I felt my only option out was to embrace my destiny to be happy. After sitting down with my family and getting the green light, oh it was on and poppin lol! I transitioned in my mid-twenties, however in my head I felt I was transitioning to be a woman. My goal wasn’t to be labeled as a transwoman but this journey has taught me I will always be a transwoman and that’s who I am. I am proud!
FL– There are many members of “normal” society that do in fact willingly -yet secretly- sexually engage with the transgender community. In this capacity, transgender is often categorized a fantasy, fetish or sexual item. What is your personal take on this reality?
Tempress– Well, that’s because transwomen are still considered taboo, fantasies, kinks, fetishes etc.;. This is so disheartening because it makes the dating pool slim pickings. Everyone wants to have sex but don’t, or can’t, be with us. It’s like I just want to try then they get caught up and start to creep. I think religion and society has played a big part in this. They make the men who love us feel less because of it, which is so unfair. This is why you have the DL phenomenon. It takes a strong man to love us.
FL– This mindset dehumanizes the person and turns them into a commodified object. What is your take on this misleading perception and what is the reality of the average trans man/woman?
Tempress– I become a counselor and every damn thing else. It so difficult to date! We are human and we want love too! Not just to feel like an object. When a man initially falls for you, he starts questioning himself. What does this attraction mean about him? Without even realizing it, he’s basically disrespecting your transition. I always say no one will ever truly understand a transition unless you go through one. Then you have the ones who just disappear because they can’t handle their feelings. We also attract so many freaks! I think a lot of guys were introduced to the whole trans thing through porn, so that’s how they relate to us. They want us to be that girl on the screen. But how would you feel if your partner wanted you to be the guy (top/bottom) that he was in a amateur porn scene? I’m so cold hearted when it comes to dating. I guess I’ve been scorned. I feel like the ones I want, can’t be with me for some reason. So , I no longer feel . I just turn the tables around. Everything is on my time . I treat like exactly what they are “trade!” I’m sure I’ve missed out on some good ones because I tend to just look at all men the same
FL– While we’re on perceptions, what do you think is the most misleading perception about trans men/women?
Tempress– People assume we’re all about sex. We are so sexualized! Everything boils down to sex or genitals. In reality, it’s not what’s between my legs, it’s what between my ears! They think that all the girls do is sex work . That girls just want to do sex work . Some of the girls just feel like I might as well take the power in my own hand. Hell all they want us for is sex anyway. As well as all of the discrimination that goes on in the work place against trans .
FL– To those not of trans experience, the right to “use the bathroom” may seem as if it’s a trivial fight. Why is this deemed so important to the trans community?
Tempress– Can you imagine being terrified of going into the bathroom because someone might embarrass you? Even though I happen to be “passable” and haven’t had this problem, I still feel for all my sisters. Someone could even try me one day! There are no acts of trans violence in the bathroom against anyone, so who are they protecting and from what? Trans are not predators. This is why sometimes I battle with not just being stealth and accepting who I am, because all that we come against. I ask women, would you want me in the bathroom with your man?
FL– The alarming rate of violence and murder against the trans community has recently sky rocketed. What do you think propels these acts and how has it affected your community?
Tempress– Yes. Transwomen are being murdered at alarming rates. I believe it’s because society makes it like we’re the scum of the earth and non-human. It’s so sad when I read the comments on a post after a transwoman is murdered. People actually say “good for them ” or “it’s their fault!…Stop tricking people.” Honey it’s 2017! We are no longer tricking People! Guy’s sought after us and use being trans as an excuse to flip out. What’s happening is that these DL men are dating “the girls” and when someone finds out, they kill them. Us girls are going to have to stop dating DL men. If he can’t be seen with you, then he can’t sleep with you.
FL– In their arguments, your opponent’s reduce you down to “born-with” genitals. How does this make you feel and what is your argument against “man is what he was born with”?
Tempress– We are always reduced to our genitals. However, we all start out with the same thing in the beginning so there is a very thin line. Also, it has been proven that transwomen and women have the same brain. What makes me a woman is between my ears not my legs.
FL– Critics oftentimes combine transgender with notions of pedophilia and rape. As a transgender woman can you explain the reality of the situation?
Tempress– I don’t understand why critics would combine transgender with rape and pedophilia. If anything, many of us are raped and victims of sexual abuse. They’re looking in the wrong direction for pedophiles! Look at many of them damn preachers, uncles, fathers etc. It’s so weird to me. In the black family, people will ignore the fact that someone in the family was touching the kids but still allow them to be around; yet let you be gay or trans- they will abandon you. The folk’s minds are warped! They just throw their kids to the wolves. I feel religion plays such a big part in the dismissal and ignorance people have towards trans. Trust me, we are the ones being preyed on. It’s scary out here in these streets. When trans are killed how many uproars do you hear? Black lives matter, but does it really matter when you’re trans?
FL– As a woman of trans experience, what has been your most frightful experience?
Tempress– My most frightful experience was a gun being held to my head and basically being raped! The guy wanted to have sex with me and I didn’t want to. He pulled out a gun and I don’t mean to be blunt but told me to bend over.
FL– What has been your most fulfilling experience and how important is it that family and friends embrace their transgender son/daughter? What is your relationship with your family and childhood friends?
Tempress– My most fulfilling experience is that I’m supported by my family. Basically, my whole family! They have made this experience, even with all its ups and downs, a wonderful one. I have them to lean on. Sometimes people don’t understand my confidence but it comes from having a family who truly loves and cares for me! I am the daughter, granddaughter, niece etc; without question. Even writing this part, I’m tearing up. Sometimes we take things for granted but hearing other people stories and how their families have turned their backs on them, is so sad. I just don’t understand how people can do that. I would be so lost without mine!
FL– Lack of society acceptance and employment opportunities oftentimes lead the transgender community into sex work. What strides and accomplishments has the trans community begun to accomplish to evoke a message that your skill-set is more than just sex?
Tempress– I think the trans community has come so far. We now have doctors and lawyers. Hell, we’re on prime-time TV! So many are standing up now and advocating. It’s a beautiful thing. I was once that girl that even though I participated in the scene, outside of it I was basically stealth. I didn’t tell my “tea” in school at work etc. I even passed up on opportunities with singing and acting because I didn’t want to spill my tea. Like I said, I transitioned to be a woman, not a transwoman. But because of some of the role models and girls who are breaking down barriers, I’ve learned/ learning to be more comfortable with who I am. I also feel like I have a duty to stand up for what’s right. Girls these days have it better then yesteryear and I want it to continue to progress. Not go backwards.
FL– Within the gay community, many people feel as if transitioning is an easy way out of poverty. An access to more dates and income. What is your message to those whom embark upon the trans experience with impure intentions?
Tempress– If you’re transitioning for any other reason than feeling like you’re in the wrong body then don’t do it! You will be a bitter individual in the long run. If you are transitioning for the right reasons, then go for it even with all its ups and downs. The day I started my transition was the best day of my life! I never looked back. I did research before I went through with it and the common word that always came up was lonely. I now understand why the girls would say that. Transitioning is always a constant search as well. You’re just always searching for looks, love, completion, everything lol. You must learn to love yourself and don’t let anyone on the outside influence you. Know who you are and what you want out of life. As long as you’re happy who cares what others think? My gay mother at the time was such a woman who had it together! She taught me how to maneuver in this life. She helped me when I was at my lowest and trying to decide to go through with it. She saw it way before I was sure about it. She always said “you are who you are! And trust me, you will feel much better once you do what you really want to do.”
FL– Who has been some of your greatest inspirations in your plight and what were some of the words that they gave you?
Tempress– Some of my inspirations…. Hmmm… Well first would be my birth mother. Just constantly having my back! She’s my confidence and my number 1 fan! My nana (grandmother) whom I’ve always looked up too! The best thing she could’ve ever said was “I now have a classy granddaughter!” That means the world to me because she’s the classiest women in the world. My grandfather(RIP)! I was his angel. He spent his last years making sure I knew I was special and loved. All the girls who are doing their thing also now inspire me. Just to name a few – Janet Mock, Laverne and Amiyah inspire me. See u soon on the red-carpet ladies! It will be epic!
FL– What is your message to those whom may be ignorant and fearful of transgender men/women?
Tempress– There’s no reason to fear us. We feel just like everyone else! We pump the same blood. Our hearts beat the same! We just want to be loved and fulfilled. Our dreams are dreamed without being judged and discriminated against. Just because you may not fully understand does not mean we are not simply human. We are not aliens! We bleed and feel emotion just like you. Before you box us in an “undesirable” category, take the time to learn us and our plight. I promise we relate more to you and your individual plight than most.
FL– What is your message to those whom are having a gender crisis and questioning how to proceed with transitioning?
Tempress– If you’re having gender identity issues, make sure transitioning is what you really want. It’s not as glamorous as people make it out to be. There’s challenges we face every day. Don’t let outside influences influence your decision. If you truly feel it deep on the inside, no one will be able to stop you. Do your research and do it the right way! Find a doctor for your hormones! Go through therapy and get your life in order. Continue to do the things in life that will make you successful. I allowed my transition to take over my whole mind frame. It became my whole existence! It also slightly made me hide. Only now am I getting back out there and going after my dreams. So, go for it! But don’t let it stop your life. Make it the cherry on top of the cake. One of my ultimate goals is to open a house for trans women whom families turned their backs on them. I want to get them off the street and keep them from going the route some of us may have gone. I want them to have guidance and a haven where they can focus on being their true selves! Name changes, schooling, correct hormone therapy etc. Instead of them focusing on how they must make that next coin to eat and survive.
FL– We buried Chyna, a popular transwoman in the community, this weekend in an act that could have been paid…. what is your feelings right now and what goals do you want to achieve in the near future of the movement?
Tempress– I’m saddened and still in disbelief! Even though I didn’t know her on a personal level, we’ve met a few times and I really liked her. If there’s a way to be sent off, they did it! The support and unification her friends and family has shown was beautiful. It was a celebration! I know she’s smiling. I want people to realize we are human. We have families who love us just like anyone else. We’re not going anywhere! I read some comments that were so disturbing. People are so heartless. I literally had tears. I just want the murders to stop . I will continue to scream it at the top of my lunges from the mountain tops! You don’t have to understand it, but respect it! The oppressed become the oppressors. My life matters as well! Does black lives only matter for heterosexuals?