Ep. 30 Dr. William T. Hoston - Toxic Silence
Dr. William T. Hoston 0:00
***radio effect on voice*** Allow me to educate myself about who you are as a human being. Let's eradicate this false persona I have of you and just let me get to know you as a human being. Use that as a breeding ground for us to have a very constructive conversation about getting to know you before I have all these stereotypes and I implore my religious ideologies upon you.
Rob Icsezen 0:38
What's up Houston! Welcome to H-Town Progressive, Houston's impenetrable fortress of progressive thought! I'm your host, Rob Icsezen!
Dana Martin, fatally shot in Montgomery, Alabama.
Jazzaline Ware, found dead in Memphis, Tennessee.
Ashanti Carmon, fatally shot in Prince George's County, Maryland.
Claire Legato, fatally shot in Cleveland, Ohio.
Muhlaysia Booker, fatally shot in Dallas, Texas.
Michelle 'Tamika' Washington, fatally shot in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Paris Cameron, fatally shot in Detroit, Michigan.
Chynal Lindsey, found dead in Dallas, Texas.
Chanel Scurlock, fatally shot in Lumberton, North Carolina.
And Zoe Spears, found lying in the street with signs of trauma and later pronounced dead in Fairmont Heights, Maryland.
These are the names of the 10 transgender women known to have been murdered in the United States so far in 2019 at the time of this recording, and every last one of these taken souls, was African American ( https://www.hrc.org/resources/violence-against-the-transgender-community-in-2019 ). We have a crisis in this country: transgender women of color are regularly held victim to violence and murder, and it seems that hardly anyone is talking about it. There is a silence, a toxic silence. It's a problem born of intersectional toxicity, when a culture of poisonous patriarchy fuses with the historical structural oppression of white supremacy.
We all have an obligation to speak up and act in support of our trans siblings, and in particular, our trans siblings of color, and further in particular, our black trans siblings. And this problem exists in Houston as much as it is exists anywhere in the entire country, which is why the work of our guest today is so important.
Dr. William T. Hoston (https://www.williamhoston.com/) is an associate professor of political science at the University of Houston Clear Lake. He holds research interests in the areas of minority voting behavior, political behavior of black politicians, race and minority group behavior, black masculinity, sexualities and gender, race and crime, and theories and dynamics of racism and oppression. Dr. Hoston is the author or editor of 17 books, one of which has served as a spark for our conversation today, entitled "Toxic Silence, Race, Black Gender Identity, and Addressing the Violence against Black Transgender Women in Houston." (https://www.peterlang.com/view/title/68051) It's an academic book that recently won the 2019 Lambda Literary Award in the LGBTQ Studies category (https://www.peterlang.com/newsitem/169/toxic-silence-wins-2019-lambda-literary-award-in-lgbtq-studies-). It's my honor today to welcome to the show, Dr. William T. Hoston!
Dr. Hoston, welcome to H-Town Progressive.
Dr. William T. Hoston 3:33
Thank you for having me.
Rob Icsezen 3:34
Well I'm really excited about having you on the show today. And today we're doing something a little bit different. We're talking about a specific piece of academic work that you've done, which is your book, "Toxic Silence: Race, Black Gender Identity and Addressing the Violence against Black Transgender Women in Houston." This is a really important work, I think. I've been through this book and I think that Houstonians should really take a look at this.
Dr. William T. Hoston 3:59
Right, well, I think this is extremely important. Now one of the things I wanted to do was kind of ca- capture a moment in time, where in fact, there were so many deaths against young black males by police officers, there were deaths against black women, for example, the Sandra Bland issue (https://www.texastribune.org/people/sandra-bland/), and no one really was taking a snapshot of what was going on with black transgender women. So I said, well, the Black Lives Matters movement has given so much attention to the unarmed deaths of young black males, into black women who are being victimized to racialized violence. But I wanted to see why no one was really giving attention to the deaths of blacl transgender women in the United States. And in 2015 there were a large number of deaths of transgender women of color, but specifically black transgender women.
Rob Icsezen 4:49
Yeah, and that's what you really dive into in your book is that, the cause, or the sort of the intersectionality that focuses around this community and why do we have a real uptick, a real substantial difference when it comes to these members of our community who are being victimized on a regular basis and not getting the kinds of attention that others might be getting?
Dr. William T. Hoston 5:13
Well, from a very general perspective it's twofold. On one hand it's the antiblackness in the LGBTQ community, on another instance, it's the, homophobic plethora that goes on so much in the black community. So you have two communities that are really competing against each other. And no one really wants to take the baton and really talk about this issue to the depth in which should be. As much unity as there is in the LGBTQ+I community, there is some division there too, that people don't really talk about. And then in the black community we have the black church, was really the central figurehead for the community. But they don't really want to take on this issue because to take on this issue would mean that they support the behaviors of some of these women and they don't. So you have some of that phobia that still exists. And by not really addressing the issue it continues to go on, even though the black church knows that there are gay and lesbians in the church itself. So...
Rob Icsezen 6:10
Dr. William T. Hoston 6:11
...there's really two competing general arguments out there as to why no one's really talking about it, to the extent in which it should be.
Rob Icsezen 6:17
And you talk specifically about the patriarchal culture...
Dr. William T. Hoston 6:23
Rob Icsezen 6:24
...that exists within the black community - actually, general communities - but specifically you focus on the black community, and the gender binary heteronormative that exists.
Dr. William T. Hoston 6:35
Right. And it's so strict. I mean, you know, in in many cultures, it's God, man, woman, that's just a hierarchy in a lot of cultures. But particularly in the black community, you see, the man as the head, particularly in the church. You know, there're still churches in the 21st century that don't even like women to be the head of the churches.
Rob Icsezen 6:55
Dr. William T. Hoston 6:55
So you have that dynamic that's kind of going on too. But there's just a strict binary in the black community. And when you look at someone who's transgender, particularly a black transgender woman, no one in the black community can really get out of the way of seeing this as a man in a dress, as opposed to this is a personal who has a psychological attachment to identifying something other than that which they're medically assigned at birth, right. So to really have those discussions, outward, it's something that's considered blasphemy. But these discussions should be had, particularly in the black comm-, because in order for the black community to really move forward, there has to be a collective action amongst all black people, not just those who you deem that are male, female by birth, but those who are assigned to different gender identities and different sexual orientations that needs to be inclusive of love, and we don't see that as much as we should.
Rob Icsezen 7:53
Yeah. And you know, one of the things that struck me, we talked a lot about progressivism, and being an active progressive on this show, and how being a progressive is actually a pretty hard thing, because what it requires you to do, at least in my opinion, is to be self critical, introspective. You are a black cisgender man...
Dr. William T. Hoston 8:12
Rob Icsezen 8:12
...also a deeply religious person.
Dr. William T. Hoston 8:14
Rob Icsezen 8:15
And you are very self critical of your own community.
Dr. William T. Hoston 8:18
Rob Icsezen 8:19
Very honest about your own community.
Dr. William T. Hoston 8:21
Rob Icsezen 8:22
And I find that incredibly compelling. I mean, you're you're doing what progressives should be doing.
Dr. William T. Hoston 8:28
I think I am. To be frank with you, I've gotten a lot of criticism in the early stages of the book. In general, the criticism was, you're a black man, you should be addressing issues about black masculinity. And I have. Two have my first academic books really were just about black masculinity in general, and explaining the depths of black masculinity. But then I wanted to go forth, because it really, to truly have a discussion about black masculinity, you can't exclude black women. They just must be included in the argument. It just so happens that this was really on my radar as something that I really wanted to address. So when I started reaching out to people, there was a lot of resistance. The first resistance really was from one of my mentors who told me they couldn't write a letter of recommendation for a job, when they found out that I was writing about this.
Rob Icsezen 8:29
Dr. William T. Hoston 8:33
They had just recently wrote one about three months before that. And what they told me was - this was a white woman, cisgender woman - and what she told me was, she says, William, I really applaud all the things that you're doing, but at this time, I don't think we've had enough personal interaction in the last few years for me to be able to write you this letter of recommendation. And I'm thinking, well, you just wrote a letter three months ago, why would you not want to write this one? And it kind of pinpointed to this and I kind of asked her on the back end, did it have something to do with this. And she said, your research interests are just going in a way that I'm not comfortable with, so I don't really want to attach my name to that, right. Another issue I had was, you know, I spoke to some people who I believed to be firmly religious, and they didn't understand why I would want to really talk about this issue, and they felt like it was an abomination: and these people need to be saved in ways in which the church can't do it for them, and they wanted to castigate them to hell, transgender people. You know, so these cisgender people have very harsh perspectives about transgender people in general, right.
Rob Icsezen 10:32
Yeah. And that, that the first example is a more passive, but also violent, I would say, almost, perspective, because I mean, it is a cisgender white woman doing this, but that's affecting your career, because of your focus, being an ally and trying to get the cultural movement that I think is necessary to make some of the changes that need to go in place. And put that next to the second example you give which is overt, it's absolutely- people are very outward, saying, Oh, this is an abomination, etc, etc. But those two things, in a sense, are built off of each other.
Dr. William T. Hoston 11:10
Rob Icsezen 11:11
And are equally destructive.
Dr. William T. Hoston 11:13
Yes, they build off each other, they're equally destructive, and that's really what takes us into the context of the book, is that when these black churches castigate these women and make them outliers, they don't give them the safe haven in which they should have to really be able to subsist within the black community. So the black church has such an influence in the black community, that when people interact with them, the only thing they're thinking about is this is wrong on so many different levels.
Rob Icsezen 11:40
Dr. William T. Hoston 11:40
Moral, ethical, religious, spiritual, all these different levels, that are really competing against each other in their, their intersectional, in terms of the theory they're building in their minds as to why I can't really interact with this person, without crucifying them mentally, when I talked to them, you know. There's never really a communication about, Hey, my name is such and such. Your name is such and such. Is this your given name? Is this your adopted name? Is this your stealth identity? Is this your real identity? Allow me to educate myself about who you are as a human being. Let's eradicate this false persona I have of you, and just let me get to know you as a human being. Use that as a breeding ground for us to have a very constructive conversation about getting to know you before I have all these stereotypes. And I implore my religious ideologies upon you.
Rob Icsezen 12:45
Yeah. And that that, I think that that's very well said, and that is, this tension, I think that exists between acknowledging our fellow humanity, just by virtue of being a person. Everybody should be in entitled to that kind of respect. And these questions, and the order that you're asking them, when you enter into, when you meet somebody, who are you, what is your identity, and I defer to you, and your dignity, and, with respect...
Dr. William T. Hoston 13:15
You know, when I was, I tell the story in class a lot about... I used to work at this fabric store in New Orleans called Fabrics. And back then I didn't have a "gaydar." Like, I just didn't know who was gay or anything like that, I was just so naive and ignorant to a lot of those things. And women used to come in here, and I'm flirting with every woman who walks through the door.
Rob Icsezen 13:40
Dr. William T. Hoston 13:40
And there's just these two white gentlemen who are both gay. I really didn't know they were gay, because they just seemed nice. And then over time, it just dawned on me that, hey, these guys are gay. They never tried to hit on me. They were always nice to me. They were always cordial to me. So then, one day a woman walked in, and I'm just, you know, saying how attractive she is and how nice her body was. And they don't seem interested in my conversation. And at this point, I'm like, do they not like women? So I started to really delve into what was going on. They said, William, if you haven't realized, we're gay. Okay. Explain it to me, teach me, you know, give me some knowledge that I can understand. They said, you know how when a woman walks in here, and she has a nice chest, you like, whoo, I'm like, yeah, that's how we feel like when a man walks in and he has nice shoulders. I said, Okay. You know how when a woman walks in, she has a nice butt, I'm like, yeah, that's how we feel when a man walks in and he has a nice butt. And I'm like, okay. But then they move past the physical, and really began to teach me about just the attraction for human beings, right. It took me a while to really wrap my mind around it. And you know, at this point, I'm 21 years old, 22 years old, it's very difficult for me to break from what I've been taught, the social norms, the gender norms, the cultural norms...
Rob Icsezen 15:16
And that, yes, you go into that deeply in your book, which is this structure that we all have come up in, which is created through a number of dynamics, that is intersectional. You know, as a black man growing up in the United States...
Dr. William T. Hoston 15:32
Rob Icsezen 15:32
...you grew up into a culture of white supremacy.
Dr. William T. Hoston 15:35
Rob Icsezen 15:36
The black church had a big role of creating the ethical structure within which you were raised. And all of these kind of dynamics interplay with a hierarchy...
Dr. William T. Hoston 15:50
Rob Icsezen 15:50
...that has, I don't even like to say, male, I like to say masculinity and femininity, because I'm honestly at a point where I think that that the the notion of male and female is kind of, it doesn't actually make sense. That we have these attributes that we as cultural, different cultures label them in different ways, but there are masculine attributes, there are feminine attributes.
Dr. William T. Hoston 16:13
Rob Icsezen 16:14
They are conventionally entitled as such, and if you have a preponderance of "masculine" attributes, the society will call you male.
Dr. William T. Hoston 16:20
Rob Icsezen 16:21
If you have a preponderance of "feminine" attributes, the society calls you female. And everything kind of falls from that. And our structure, the structure we've been born into is, is a dynamic where those masculine attributes are dominant. And if you fail to embrace those masculine attributes, as a sex identified at birth male, you are really viewed as, viewed negatively. And I think that this is the specific place of the transgender black female, which you talk about a lot in your book.
Dr. William T. Hoston 17:03
I think that's an interesting point you make because most societies do adhere to attributes. They do adhere to gender expressions. But take, for example, if you are a black male, and you grew up in a single parent household in a black community,
Rob Icsezen 17:20
Dr. William T. Hoston 17:21
...there are a lot of things you're going to be asked to do, that are going to be considered forms of gender expression that relate to women. Your mom may work two or three jobs to take care of you. So you're babysitting your brothers and sisters. You may be asked to take...
Rob Icsezen 17:39
That's a feminine associated attribute.
Dr. William T. Hoston 17:40
Yeah, you may be asked to take your brothers and sisters to the bus stop. You may be asked to cook for your brothers and sisters and prepare their meals. you may be asked to wash and clean and do all these different things. So you grew up in environments where you have these forms of gender expressions. But you don't want to be called anything related to being feminine, right. So you have that actually working as well. So I mean, all of these are constructs at the end of the day, I think, a perfect human being is a blend of all these things. You know, a perfect human being is a, is a man who shows his softer side, a perfect human being is a, is a woman who was able to understand some of these attributes that are negatively applied upon a man. I just think at the end of the day, man and woman are two human beings that need to better understanding each other. And then we strip ourselves of this masculine identity and this feminine identity. And we're just human beings, right. And now clearly there are roles, but those roles don't define us. And we have to be very attentive to that.
Rob Icsezen 18:50
Well, and it's, it's, clearly there can be roles, but are the roles forced upon you? Or are the roles, roles that you come to through realization of your identity?
Dr. William T. Hoston 19:02
Rob Icsezen 19:03
That is perhaps the difference.
Dr. William T. Hoston 19:04
I agree with that.
Rob Icsezen 19:05
And that, that existing power structures create roles today and those existing power structures cause the, the dynamics that lead to violence, which you go over in your book in great detail.
Dr. William T. Hoston 19:20
Rob Icsezen 19:21
Which is very troubling. I mean, one example that you give in your book, which is Sophie Rush, one of your interviews, a transgender black woman. There's a quote here, she's referring to being with black, cisgender black men, and she says, "they hate themselves because they like the pleasure we give them. I had a black cisboy tell me once 'I love you. But if you tell anybody about us, I'll kill you.'
Dr. William T. Hoston 19:49
Rob Icsezen 19:51
That is astonishing to me. I mean, I think it's, it's really telling of, of the, the dynamic that is created by a social structure...
Dr. William T. Hoston 20:02
Rob Icsezen 20:03
...that this person who is with a trans woman, expresses love...
Dr. William T. Hoston 20:10
Rob Icsezen 20:11
...but then expresses violence in the same notion. But only if, if that love is made public.
Dr. William T. Hoston 20:17
Right, only if that love is made public. To move backwards a little bit, one of the things that I say in the book is that we haven't taught black men that there's a sliding scale of masculinity, right. So a black man...
Rob Icsezen 20:33
We haven't taught any men that!
Dr. William T. Hoston 20:34
We haven't taught men that in general, so what you'll find is a lot of black men don't know if they're gay. They don't know if they're bisexual. They don't know if they want to explore with different sexualities and different gender identities, because the cultural norm tells them that they can't, they must adhere to being masculine. So here is a situation in which Sophie Rush is saying, Look, I have been in situations where these black cisboys have fallen in love with me and wanted to be with me. But they've told me they'll kill me, if I were to ever tell someone. Because to tell someone would suggest that people would know that that "man" quote unquote, is no longer masculine, or that person is exploring so it compromises their masculinity. And it's really disturbing in a lot of ways and there's so many stories in the book to just tell you that, hey, I've been in situations with men who have considered themselves heterosexual or cisgender, but they wanted to be with me, but God forbid, I tell anybody. Or they commit this violence against me to kind of wash themselves or their sins, you know. So you sleep with me. You, you develop a relationship with me, you care about me. But when you realize or come to a conclusion, that that is wrong, then you commit certain acts of violence against me in a way to kind of replenish yourselves or wash yourselves of your sins. And now you go back to adhering to some of the ideologies of the church, that some things are sinful, some things are evil, and such and such. So you see that a lot in the book.
Rob Icsezen 22:22
Yeah. Which, one of the things you make a point of mentioning in the book, which I think is great, which is that we should not pathologize.
Dr. William T. Hoston 22:28
Right. We do not want to pathologize these black males.
Rob Icsezen 22:32
Dr. William T. Hoston 22:32
We need to make that abundantly clear, that we don't want to pathologize black males. We don't want to pathologize the black community and the black culture. What we really want to do is just tell this cultural truth, from a very honest perspective. That's really the goal. And it's very difficult to tell the stories without those two things bleeding together. But that's really what we're trying to do at the end of the day.
Rob Icsezen 22:57
Yeah. And these stories are hard. They're, they're violent. They involve people committing violence on others, and also denying their own identities, in in that expression of violence against others.
Dr. William T. Hoston 23:11
There's one story in the book, I don't know if you had an opportunity to refresh on this one, but a young lady was in the Dollar General, or the dollar store, and two cisgender men were looking at her , and they found her to be attractive. And she knew mentally, Hey, I gotta get out of this store, before they find out that I'm a trans woman, because just my presence is going to evoke some type of violence, right.
Rob Icsezen 23:39
Dr. William T. Hoston 23:39
So she tried to wait them out. So she tried to allow them to pay before her and actually did, but they were outside waiting on her. And when they got outside and realized she was a trans woman, they attacked her. And then they punched her and one of the guys wanted to urinate on her. But the other guy told him, No, let's just go, let's just go. But, man, you have harsh stories like that, that are happening so much, even on a daily basis. There's a viral video on the internet of a cisblack man who's interacting with a trans woman on a corner, and his friend is in the car screaming at him, You should shoot that bitch, you should shoot that bitch! Just for leading them on or making them think that she was a cisgender black woman. So you have that all the time. And it's kind of hard for people who aren't exploring in this world to wrap their minds around some of the violence that these women really go through. But as I stated in the book, it could just be mere hate. It could be I, as a cisgender black man, look at you as a black transgender woman, my initial attraction is, my initial thoughts are, that you are attractive. But because I allow my mind to think that you are attractive, and later found out that you are trans. Now I have to commit some type of violence against you merely because I thought that you were a woman and you were attractive.
Rob Icsezen 25:01
it's an expression of self hatred, isn't it? I mean, it's a form of self hatred.
Dr. William T. Hoston 25:05
It can definitely be a form of self hatred. I mean, we have to unpack that a little bit. But it definitely can be a form of self hatred. But but the the median is, these women are women. And we have to first acknowledge that. We can't as a society not think that after all of this time that society has not evolved. Mentally, physically, spiritually, it has evolved. I know, there may be some people who listen to this, and they'll cringe like, I cannot believe he's saying that, I cannot believe he's allowed his mind to even go there. But society has evolved. We can no longer put people in boxes. You know, I don't believe in the theory that, for the rest of our lives, because we have ascribed to a religion and an ideology, that we must follow a strict gender norm. We have moved beyond that, as a society and as a civilization.
Rob Icsezen 26:09
Well, and it's, gender norms - I've been thinking a whole lot about this, as I've read your book, as we've done this show and spoken to people about matters around this, like Drag Queen Storytime (https://www.htownprogressive.com/main/episode/1d05cf73/ep-7-mike-webb-drag-queen-storytime) and other issues around LGBTQI+ issues, and specifically the position of transgender people in society - and the more I think about it, gender norms are absolutely a construct. There's there's nothing natural about gender gender norms.
Dr. William T. Hoston 26:35
Rob Icsezen 26:35
It is- we certainly have different biologies at, but the expression of gender normativity, so the clothes you wear, the way you hold your hair,
Dr. William T. Hoston 26:49
Rob Icsezen 26:49
...the way you groom yourself,
Dr. William T. Hoston 26:51
Rob Icsezen 26:51
the person who you love...
Dr. William T. Hoston 26:53
Rob Icsezen 26:54
All of these things, not, none of them are set, at birth! Absolutely, none of that has to do...
Dr. William T. Hoston 27:00
Rob Icsezen 27:00
...with your biological parts, whatever they may be. And, and the mere realization of that, it's so hard for people, to to embrace for lots of reasons. You go over a lot of this sort of intersectionality of the of the power structures that lead to that right. But I think that's one of the most important things for us to do now, as a community as a society, to break through that presupposition that's created by existing power structures.
Dr. William T. Hoston 27:29
We really have to get out of the frame of mind. Where we look at young people and hope they break from this. Let me give an example. When you see a young adolescent girl dressing as a tomboy, you say, Oh, she'll eventually grow out of that. Well, some of these young girls never grow out of that. And they become lesbians - you with me on this one? When you see a young boy, exuding feminine characteristics because he comes from this single parent household as I described earlier, you say, he'll grow out of that, we'll do something to make a man out of him. Well, those days have passed. We have to allow children to grow up as they're going to grow up, or even they'll hide it from us. How many times have we seen a man come out as being gay in his 40s after he's been married, and had two or three children?
Rob Icsezen 28:24
Dr. William T. Hoston 28:24
How many times have we seen a woman come out and admit she's lesbian, after she's been married, and had two or three children? They were always that way. And unless we come to the realization that that's just where we are, we'll never really have a conversation on equal ground.
Rob Icsezen 28:41
And, and these identities have always been around.
Dr. William T. Hoston 28:46
Rob Icsezen 28:46
I mean, it's not like in the last 50 years, last 20-15 years, whatever it may be, whatever your period might be, that all of a sudden, this has started to happen. I mean, throughout history, gender norms have been fluid.
Dr. William T. Hoston 28:59
Rob Icsezen 29:01
And, and, and so to think that this is a new thing is is a fallacy.
Dr. William T. Hoston 29:05
Rob Icsezen 29:06
I have four kids. I know you're a father as well.
Dr. William T. Hoston 29:09
Rob Icsezen 29:10
And my kids are young. They range from six to 11. So I see them coming home from school, we have discussions about this, and it makes... I feel two things. One is, I see them coming home from school sometimes with gender norms that we definitely don't put on them in the home.
Dr. William T. Hoston 29:26
Rob Icsezen 29:26
So it exists in society, no doubt today, and we're not there yet. There's a lot of work to be done. But at the same time, I see things that are different from when I grew up.
Dr. William T. Hoston 29:37
Rob Icsezen 29:37
Like what my daughter's friend who came out as gay, in the sixth grade... she didn't think anything of it, the kid was, has not been harassed...
Dr. William T. Hoston 29:46
Rob Icsezen 29:46
the kid is in an environment where it's accepted.
Dr. William T. Hoston 29:50
Rob Icsezen 29:50
And that's a wonderful thing, that didn't exist when I was in sixth grade.
Dr. William T. Hoston 29:54
Rob Icsezen 29:55
And that's progress.
Dr. William T. Hoston 29:56
Well, one of the things that happened to me last Halloween is that my son, he loves PJ Masks. (http://pjmasks.com/)
Rob Icsezen 30:04
Mine too! [laughing]
Dr. William T. Hoston 30:05
And his favorite character is Owlette (http://pjmasks.com/meet-the-characters/owlette/hero/). But merely because Owlette wears a red costume, and he likes red.
Rob Icsezen 30:14
Dr. William T. Hoston 30:14
So for Halloween, he wanted to dress up as Owlette. And it really just did not dawn on me that Owlette was female. It just truly did not dawn on me because I'm watching it, but I'm not watching it, right. So my wife says, Hey, he wants the red costume. We don't even assign gender to it, we just when we go to Amazon, we either want the red, the green, the blue, we just want one of those. He wants the red one. So he gets the costume, it fits. So he has a costume party at school. And now I'm really thinking, Okay, this is in front of a bunch of other parents. So I wonder how this is going to play out. So I'm sitting in the front, I'm trying to take all my daddy pictures and get my video together, and when they introduce him, they say, Here is William Junior dressed as Mr. Owlette. And I'm thinking, We've bought into it. She didn't have to say that.
Rob Icsezen 31:22
Dr. William T. Hoston 31:23
She could have easily said, This is William Junior dressed up as Owlette! And that would have been it. But to assign "Mister" to it, told me that she was cognizant of it, and it reaffirms that man, she put some thought into it too.
Rob Icsezen 31:40
She wanted to genderize it.
Dr. William T. Hoston 31:41
She wanted to and she felt like she needed to probably for my sanctity as a man, because I was there. But she didn't have to do that.
Rob Icsezen 31:50
Dr. William T. Hoston 31:51
Now clearly he never asked about it, he was just three at a time. And clearly, he's going to grow up and read these books and realize, you know, what Daddy has really grown as a human being. Because at one time daddy couldn't understand this. And through writing and meeting and interacting with gay and lesbian, bi and asexual, and transgender women that I've interviewed for this book, and one of them, Mia Ryan, happening to now be like a sister to me, that I've grown as a human being as well. So, but that was just an example of, of our conversation, as in terms of our kids pick up so many things. And we have to really decide what we filter out, and how we push them forward, right. And even now, I find myself if he's at soccer practice or baseball practice, giving him that aggressive, masculine talk, You got to be faster than everybody else.
Rob Icsezen 32:51
Dr. William T. Hoston 32:51
You gotta, you gotta do this. I mean, that really aggressive, masculine talk. So I find myself still doing it, even though I'm trying to better understand and trying to be a better human being to understand people of all make ups.
Rob Icsezen 33:05
And I think that this perspective of a parent, in this world is a really good one when it comes to tackling toxic silence.
Dr. William T. Hoston 33:13
Rob Icsezen 33:14
Because as parents, I think we have an obligation to make change. And part of how we do that is to raise our children in a way that breaks these norms. But your example right there, I have three daughters and a son. And I've had to check myself, when I've been a little bit more aggressive with my son.
Dr. William T. Hoston 33:34
Rob Icsezen 33:34
You know that sort of "be a man" type perspective, I've had to check myself to stop him, like, when he cries, don't treat him differently than when one of his sisters cries. Crying is a human thing. I should not be genderizing that. But I find myself having to check that, because I've grown up in the societal structure that genderizes things in the way that we've discussed. It's a constant challenge. And the experience with kids in school reminds us that every day I think. I mean my son's come home, we let him wear nail polish to school whenever he wants, fine. He's come home from school, and has been criticized by other boys saying, You can't do that, that's not a boy thing. And we talk to him, that there aren't really boy things and girl things, there're just things. If you like those things, do those things. And, and, but that's, it's out there...
Dr. William T. Hoston 34:28
Rob Icsezen 34:28
...and we've got to be pushing against it constantly.
Dr. William T. Hoston 34:31
Rob Icsezen 34:32
And it's it's a reminder that, you know, the way to make change goes through our lives in every way. Not just in parenting. I mean you talk about in the end of your book, several different strategies to, to make change. I mean, you talk about policy. Yep. You, you talk about the fact that this LGBTQIA status is brittle.
Dr. William T. Hoston 35:02
Rob Icsezen 35:02
I like that quote from your book, it's brittle. It's there. We are, there are folks like us having these conversations in public...
Dr. William T. Hoston 35:09
Rob Icsezen 35:09
...in the sunlight. In this, in the light of day...
Dr. William T. Hoston 35:12
Rob Icsezen 35:13
...which we couldn't have done probably 30 years ago...
Dr. William T. Hoston 35:15
Rob Icsezen 35:15
...even less. But it's brittle.
Dr. William T. Hoston 35:17
Rob Icsezen 35:18
Tell us a little bit about what that means to you?
Dr. William T. Hoston 35:20
Well, it's brittle, because I think when you engage in these conversations, if people have very strong religious views, they may close you off. One of the things that you'll notice is, in the introduction, I kind of wrote this from a black perspective. One of the things that I said is that, God put it on my heart to write this. And when I wrote that I was really just thinking about my grandmother and my grandfather. You know, my grandfather was a reverend. Reverend Reed Hoston, and my grandmother Mildred Hoston, and he was the pastor at three or four churches. You know, I was the kid who was in church 3, 4, 5 times a week. And I thought about what would they think about me writing a book like this? And how can I write it in such a way as if my grandparents were reading it, they would understand why it was so important to write this book. So when I start talking about the "brittleness" of it, I'm really thinking at the end of the day about how can I project this book to someone who would otherwise not even open up from the cover, right. How could I do that? One of the first things I did is that I engaged this terrific scholar, Leon Pettiway (https://criminaljustice.indiana.edu/about/faculty/pettiway-leon.html), who was really just light years above, beyond his time in writing about these matters, and really having gotten the due respect that he deserves, and I dedicated the book to him. He doesn't really know me from Adam. I met him in 1997, when he interviewed for a job at Florida State. But I just became a fan of his work, because I thought he had so much courage to be writing about this in 1997! Who was, who was black that was really writing about this in 1997? Right. So the brittleness of it is that Dr. Pettiway was like, Look, when you write this, you got to kind of open up in a space where you engage people, that say, Okay, here's what you know, but here's what I'm about to tell you. Here's why I want to invite you into this book and read it from a perspective where you don't cast these stones before you're really able to engage the words on the page and get a perspective of what these women are going through. That's why you see in Chapter One, I opened it up with the quote from Sophie Rush, just how she felt like the black community has disowned her. Because I wanted black people to open it up specifically, and just say, Okay, we can't throw this this sister away, we got to at least give her a voice to be able to explain what her world is like, without participating in what we call double victimization, and treat her in a perspective of what Cathy Cohen (https://political-science.uchicago.edu/directory/cathy-cohen) calls "secondary marginalization" (https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/B/bo3630260.html), and not really give her a listening ear to understand her humanity now, right. So that was, that really goes to the first recommendation. The second recommendation, as I said, is that we really need to facilitate a culture where we could really be accepting. How do we do this? You know, through the annals of white supremacy black people have been castigated for centuries and centuries and centuries.
Rob Icsezen 38:50
Dr. William T. Hoston 38:50
Here we are within our own community and culture, basically doing the same thing. You know, where does this really lead us? We can become our own worst enemies. We just can't! So, you know, the overall solution is just we have to be more accepting and inclusive. Even if you don't agree, try to understand. You know, and I think that's the biggest thing. We just cut things off that we don't agree with, and we don't even take the time to understand them, because particularly in the black community, God told us that this is wrong. You know, you'll see in the book, how I have a couple of excerpts from pastors, who are saying some things that are very malicious in a lot of ways, but remember how strong the influence is in the community and the culture.
Rob Icsezen 39:34
Yeah, well, and reading this book myself, not as a black person, not as a transgender person...
Dr. William T. Hoston 39:42
Rob Icsezen 39:44
I think you, you did a good job of respect. I mean, the fact that you wrote this book, not as a transgender person...
Dr. William T. Hoston 39:48
Rob Icsezen 39:49
...is, is an issue to some people.
Dr. William T. Hoston 39:51
Rob Icsezen 39:51
But I think that you, you give it the proper respect in the voice that you, that you create. But for someone like myself, who's not within the community that you're specifically framing this in, I do think it speaks to the community at large. Because I think that a lot of these dynamics - I mean, a lot of them are specific to the black community - but many of them are all communities.
Dr. William T. Hoston 40:14
One of the criticisms I got from reviewers when they were reading the book, is that, You aren't asserting enough of your own voice. But what they did not know is a lot of the women whom I wanted to interview said, I don't really feel comfortable with a cisgender black man writing a book, telling the stories about black trans women. So with that in mind, I felt like their voices had to ring true and really be up front and center as opposed to my voice. You know, I needed to be balanced, to be critical, but have a balance that was very respectful. And I just wanted to educate. So their voices are going to be extremely more powerful than my voice would be. And a lot of the reviewers too in the beginning tell me, Hey you need to take out some of this language. No. Because the language is authentic, these are their experiences.
Rob Icsezen 41:07
Dr. William T. Hoston 41:07
It's real. And because it's real, it just needed to stay in a book.
Rob Icsezen 41:11
Yeah. Now I found it really compelling. And and I think broadly applicable. I mean it is a, snapshot into the specific place of black transgender women in the black community. But it is broadly applicable to the community at large. And I think that the call to action at the end, about changing culture, about changing how we, we do things, about acceptance as a principal, of respect and dignity, all those things translate to the community at large, and everyone can get something from this.
Dr. William T. Hoston 41:44
I think everyone can get something from this. Even though the experience really related to black trans women, let's be honest, why trans women, Hispanic, trans women, Asian trans women, they go through very similar things. They may not be killed at the end of the experience. But there's violence that ravages their, them and the community in which they operate into. So I think it's appliccable, the snapshot is just black trans women because of the number of deaths that occurred that brought me to the space to write the book. But as you said, I mean, it's just applicable across the board. I mean, gay men go through these types of violences, lesbian women go through these types of violences, bi people go through these types of violences, asexual, pansexual. There's just violence in the LGBTQIA community. And we don't really talk about it to the extent in which we should.
Rob Icsezen 42:44
And you've done a service by highlighting that with your book. I think that if we all start to look inward a little bit more, and accept our own intersectionalities, and our own identities, it can go a long way toward respecting everyone in the community, reducing the violence, and the murders that you talk about. And so thank you so much for this.
Dr. William T. Hoston 43:07
Oh, no problem. No problem. I think I think that the contribution is one that stretched me, because this wasn't my area of expertise. So it took me a long time to really be in a space to write this from a perspective that I thought was beneficial. What you'll notice, too, is, that I let a lot of the trans women read over chapters, read over excerpts, just to make sure I was accurate in a lot of ways.
Rob Icsezen 43:33
Dr. William T. Hoston 43:34
But the book truly stretched me, and it made me see the world differently than I've ever seen the world before.
Rob Icsezen 43:40
And that's, that's really what we progressives should be doing. Before we go, I'd like you to share with our audience some of the accolades you've gotten, because your book has been recognized, hasn't it?
Dr. William T. Hoston 43:52
Right. So this book, Toxic Silence, has been recognized by the Lambda Literary Award. This is considered the most prestigious honor in LGBTQ literature. It's nominated actually in the LGBTQ Studies category. And the ceremony is June 3, to find out who actually wins in that category. A panel of over 60 people from over 300 publishing companies went through and filtered through the books that came out in the last year and just saw what was the best of the best. For me, it's just an honor to be recognized. I don't really even have to win the award. It would be great. It would be a feather in my cap. But it's just an honor to be recognized for the work you're doing. Particularly work that you feel like made a contribution.
Rob Icsezen 44:48
Yeah. Well, regardless of how that particular award turns out, you know, you've done a service to your community by writing this book, and we hope you continue your research in the area. [NOTE: Dr. Hoston's book did in fact win the award!]
Dr. William T. Hoston 45:00
Thank you, I appreciate it.
Rob Icsezen 45:00
Okay. Dr. Hoton, thank you for being on the show.
Dr. William T. Hoston 45:02
Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.
Rob Icsezen 45:05
Next week, we're going to have our fourth and final episode covering LGBTQIA+ issues during Pride Month when we talk to Houston's very own, Mo Cortez about Houston's intersex community. Hope you'll stick with us!
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