KOKUMỌ: artist and activist

With this week’s reading being the novel Trumpet, I thought it would be appropriate to reference a transgender musician for my blog post. The musician I will be discussing in this blog post is KOKUMỌ, an African-American transgender woman who’s a musician and activist. She has formed her own company, KOKUMOMEDIA, that uses music, film and media to illuminate the experiences of TGI (Trans*, Gender Non-Conforming and Intersex). KOKUMỌ PHILANTHROPY is a foundation that focuses on transgender issues and social justice agency for the trans community, particularly those of color. T.G.I.F stands for trans, gender non-conforming, intersex freedom. The T.G.I.F rally in will be held in Chicago, Illinois at Union Park from 12:00pm to 4pm this year. This year the event will be hosted by Angelia Ross and Louis Mitchell among others. She’s also working on a magazine Drive which will be a magazine dedicated to trans women of color. KOKUMỌ addresses the need to challenge the agenda within the gay and lesbian movement itself. Many gay and lesbian activist organizations are flawed in acknowledging transgender issues as well as the intersectional factors of race and class that have a huge impact on one’s treatment and accessibility to safety in our society. “Where’s the trans, gender non-conforming, intersex agenda? There are too many of us in jail, dead, on the streets because we’re spending so much time making sure people can get married.”

KOKUMỌ presents transgender issues through her music as well, as she puts it: she is an artist, not an entertainer. What she sings about in her songs reminds listeners of the oppression transgender individuals’ face, and the intersections of race and class that contribute to one’s treatment in society. She’s not making music for listeners to forget or purely entertain listeners her music has a distinct purpose, like she says in one interview, “I’m here to create art that forces you to acknowledge your privilege over me”.

In her music video for the song “There Will Come a Day”, KOKUMO addresses the shame society has attached to men who are attracted to transgender women. This shame directly affects transgendered individuals and leads to acts of violence against them. It leads to their oppression, criminalization and in many cases, their deaths. This theme can be linked to the politics of violence, and reflects how certain bodies are deemed less valuable than others. The trans body is seen as other and deviant. The lives of transgender individuals are at risk because of the stigma associated with being attracted to transgendered people. Transgendered individuals internalize this shame and it makes them believe that they are only capable of secret, risky affairs, because in many instances, this is the case. Men don’t want to come out as being involved with trans women because of the intensity of the stigma attached to being attracted to trans women. We don’t even have language to describe men who are attracted to transgender women. Because we live in a culture obsessed with labeling, men that fall into this grey area of sexuality that has yet to be defined by mainstream culture are told they must define themselves as either straight or gay, there can be no in-between. This leads to frustration and shame felt by men, who often express it out onto the women they are involved with, “proving” their masculinity through violence. The message is continually produced that trans women aren’t real women in our culture, and that men who are attracted to them aren’t real men.

KOKUMO’s website:

http://kokumomedia.com/

Music video for “There Will Come a Day”

http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/2013/09/there-will-come-a-day-singer-kokumo-releases-new-music-video-about-transwomen-and-love/

Facebook page for T.G.I.F rally:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/TGIF-trans-gnc-and-intersex-freedom-Rally-and-Picnic/306562802719856?ref=profile

Linked bellow is an interview with KOKUMỌ by Laverne Cox:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laverne-cox/kokumo-interview_b_2951487.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

Video: Laverne Cox, Janet Mock Talk Stigma of Loving Transgender Women:

http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/09/laverne_cox_and_janet_mock_talk_mister_cee.html

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