February Community Profile: Christopher Covington Goodwin

OA: Where are you originally from and what brought you here?

CG: I was born and raised in Nashville, TN, and consider my second home Atlanta, GA. I moved around searching for a place where I could be expressive to find myself in a way that wouldn’t hurt my family being that I was a preacher’s kid and didn’t know much about my identity according to the standard systems presented in my childhood and upbringing. That’s why Atlanta became my second place I consider home.  Fast forward to 2014 and I relocated to Rochester, NY, to pursue an opportunity to work and serve at The MOCHA Center and attend the Master’s in Divinity Program at Colgate.

OA: What kind of work do you do at MOCHA?

CG:  I serve  LGBTQ communities and specifically communities of color as the supervisor of The MOCHA Center Rochester which is a part of the Trillium Health family. Working with a team of people who give direct services and connection to a wide range of services such as HIV testing, STI screenings, access to PrEP/PEP, 1:1 sessions for reaching goals, along with our events that range from movie/game night, club mocha, Real talk and more. We are striving to make a place for LGBTQ communities of color that is uplifting and supportive to village needs.

OA: What else do you do to serve community?

CG: I sit on the board of Rochester Black Pride and serve on the committee for the United Way Pride Leadership Development Program. I am a student at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School making my way to finish my Masters in Kairos Studies. While also serving as an ordained minister providing supportive services to all. I also am a male performer who goes by the name of Nigel LeStat. I do male lip sync, drama, plays and consider performing arts a hobby that feeds a part of my soul as a way to give back to the community through my gifts and talents. I am the current reigning Mr. Diamond Strength 2018-2019 and former Mr. Victory Alliance 2017-2018 and Mr. Hott International 2017-2018.

OA: What’s a quote you live by?

CG: My Quotes are more affirmations that I strive to continue to live by and if achieved it I must move forward to a new quote. There are two quotes that work hand in hand by two people I respect.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced” -James Baldwin

“The proof that one truly believes is in action.”- Bayard Rustin.

OA: Why is what you do important?

CG:  Everything that I do is a part of my purpose in life. If I serve my purpose I can live out what is true and make a change in the world. While working in HIV prevention it is clear that serving my community to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic is something that is of importance by getting people connected to PrEP, Getting newly diagnosed or lost to care positive people into care, People who are HIV positive undetectable, and providing education to end stigma is all a reason why what I do is important.

OA: Something about you people don’t know?

CG: As I continue to learn about myself I have learned to understand my kinky/bdsm side. Many people cringe or quickly learn to judge one when they think of these terms. Whereas for me it’s all about a need for education before one judges (yes still fighting stigma/uninformed) for me I love fire and wax play and it is very therapeutic yet an exhilarating experience.

OA: Favorite Meal?

CG: So as far as food goes…I love seafood and creole food. New Orleans is a place that just makes me smile the moment I touch foot in one of their restaurants. I love a seafood pasta with shrimp, scallops, crab and fried alligator.

OA: Where will you be in 10 years?

CG: One thing that I have learned is that God has a way of taking what you may think you know and turning it all around. I would like to think that I will be still serving my community, married, with a family. However what I know for sure is God will at the end of the day have me where I am supposed to be. Staying focused and disciplined, on and in purpose is all it takes on my part.

 

Meant To Be: Amazing LGBTQ+ Romances by Stephanie Harageones

Meant To Be: Amazing LGBTQ+ Romances

 

By: Stephanie R. C. Harageones

Whether on screen or page, there are plenty of lovely LGBTQ+ romances to enjoy this Valentine’s Day, (or any day of the year with your special someone!) Some are books that make a great gift, others would be great movies to snuggle up and watch together. Some you’ve probably heard of, others you may not have. Here they are, in no particular order. Enjoy!

1. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller.

 

This is an amazing book. The writing is beautiful, the love scenes are tantalizing and the emotional bond is unforgettable. It reimagines Achilles and Patroclus becoming friends as children and falling in love a few short years later. If you’re familiar with The Illiad you know there’s some heartbreak but this is a wonderful retelling of a love story which has been debated for the past 2,000 years. Oh, how I wish there were a movie version!


  1. Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters.

 

This book was a landmark for LGBTQ+ lit. Printed in 1998, it tells of passionate lesbian romances in the 1890s. Sheltered working-class Nan is 18 and falls in and out of love in London, going through heartbreak and all kinds of wild situations: cross-dressing to get by as a rent boy, a whirlwind theatre career and more offstage drama than she bargained for! In 2002, it was successfully adapted into a TV miniseries by the BBC. More recently, it’s become a stage play as well.

 

  1. Maurice, by E. M. Forster

 

Set against the backdrop of England’s oppressively heterosexist Edwardian Era, we watch twentysomething Maurice Hall struggle with his sexuality, and an intense affection for his best friend Clive which is reciprocated, but it’s only a short time until it ends in heartbreak. Maurice is tormented by a deepening loneliness that comes from feeling out of step in his rigid world. Until, that is, a particularly swoony gamekeeper catches his eye. The 1987 movie is superb. It stars James Wilby as Maurice, Rupert Graves & a very young Hugh Grant.

 

  1. The Errant Prince by Sasha Miler.

 

If you love fantasy series like Merlin, this would be an interesting read. Talented wizard Myron is tasked with finding & bringing stubborn Prince Tamsen back home, which sounds easy enough. When he does find him, instead of trying to force him out, he’s patient and the pair find themselves understanding each other–and maybe even falling in love! The fact that Myron is trans isn’t made into a big deal. It’s thankfully (and surprisingly) a non-issue. The romance isn’t overtly sexual, but the feelings are strong–and sweet. Short, sweet, and magical to boot!

 

  1. But I’m A Cheerleader

 

This 1999 indie film got mixed reviews. Some loved how sweet it was, other derided it as too stereotypical. However, it was a satire where everything was over the top on purpose, from the color-coordinated set and clothing to the attitudes of almost every character, except for Megan (a young Natasha Lyonne), who breaks the typical expectations. Her loving, yet concerned parents send her to a conversion camp to “cure” her lesbianism. She soon finds she’s attracted to Graham, a snarky, brooding brunette who seems her exact opposite. Megan is willing to put it all on the line and be with Graham, but is she willing too?

 

  1. Carol

 

This drama was recently made into a successful movie starring Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara. Terese (Mara) meets the polished, upper-class Carol while working in a department store. The older women (Blanchett) is a lesbian in a failing, loveless marriage, but she loves her young daughter deeply. Terese begins an affair with Carol and soon, both women are in over their heads in this thrilling drama. The book version (The Price of Salt) set and released in the early 1950s was shocking for its time. The 2015 adaptation is a powerful film with beautiful costumes, artsy love scenes and a stunning performance by everyone involved.

 

  1. Moonlight

 

This film broke ground and barriers as a staggering will-they-or-won’t-they dramatic romance. It explores the struggles of shy, quiet Chiron (impressively played at three ages by 3 different actors) with being gay and black in rather homophobic surroundings as he falls for his best friend Kevin. More broadly, it reflects the strained dynamics between the African American community and the LGBTQ+ community, and the version of masculinity Chiron feels he needs to fulfill. The cinematography, the music, the acting…pretty much everything about this movie is brilliant.

 

  1. Love, Simon

 

This is the newest entry on this list and was adapted from the (amusingly titled) 2015 novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. It’s also one of the first LGBTQ+-themed stories that’s rated PG-13, which is a major accomplishment. The coming-of-age premises is simple: Simon wants to come out to his family and friends, but on his own terms and also find out: who is the mysterious classmates he’s fallen for online? Sweet, funny in the right places & heartwarming without being saccharine. It’s delightfully quirky–perhaps a John Hughes film for the 2010s!

Enjoy!!

#SayTheirNames; Ending the Silence on America’s Quietest Crisis by Reilly Hirst

“There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”

― Arundhati Roy

 

Ciara Minaj Carter Frazier lies dead on the ground with blood spilling from her wounds from the suspect, a regular client.  Her lips slightly parted and no longer able to form the words #metoo.  

The silence around transwomen’s, especially transwomen of color, murders is an epidemic.  A woman tells the press that Harvey Weinstein was inappropriate years ago and he loses his job and long time position in the industry.  It is hard to ignore the fact that she is white and cisgendered. The combination of those two factors underlines her words in a way that makes sure that they are heard. It is much easier to ignore the fact that Tarana Burke, who started the #metoo movement 10 years ago, was never initially listened to when uttering her truth nor credited with the movement that allowed the aforementioned accusers to speak theirs.

If the media does cover these stories, it treats the deaths like an isolated phenomena. Much like young black men who are killed by the police are treated: “they had it coming”,  “this is understandable”, “this isn’t a pattern”, “this isn’t about HATE”, “we have hate crime legislation, but somehow this doesn’t qualify”, “don’t worry, this isn’t a threat to your survival”. They normalize a pattern, an epidemic of violence so you don’t notice what has happened. It couldn’t be because she was LGBTQ, she was trans, she was a person of color, she was forced to do sex work, she was a victim of misogyny.

But the numbers demonstrate the lie.  There have been 26 murders of transwomen in the US that we know of in 2018; with two more actively followed for possible inclusion.  I say “we know of” because the victims are often misgendered, not reported, or the facts of the case downplayed or suppressed.  Over 80% were women of color.  Of 128 known victims over the last 5 years 21 or roughly 1 in 6 were killed by intimate partner violence. Internationally, the statistics are even more shocking.   Last year there were 369 murders reported across the globe as of the end of September, making it the highest year yet. However, those are just those we know, not only for the reasons cited above but the areas of the world that do not report at all.

To contrast this lack of response to what are clearly increasing numbers, think of the Amber alert we have now from just one girl’s tragic story.  Twenty eight predominantly transwomen of color in the United States and over three hundred around the globe and nothing has been done to change what happens on the national or international front.

Transwomen of color are the most vulnerable in our community.  They stand at the corner of misogyny, which is deadly, as evidenced by the reported instances of domestic violence and rape.  They stand at the corner of racism, which is deadly as we know from the number of young African-American men killed for simply wearing a hoodie, to say nothing of the numbers of black women killed while in police custody.  They stand at the corner of issues of sex work, poverty and unemployability, which is deadly as we know from the number of sex workers killed by johns. They stand at the corner of transphobia/homophobia which is deadly as we know from the number of those imprisoned or under death threats in Russia and across the world.

Mara Keisling, the National Center for Transgender Equality’s founder eloquently states the issue.

We live in a country where you are more susceptible to violence if you are a person of color, if you’re low income, if you’re a woman, if you’re an immigrant,” Keisling said. “And if you are all or most of those things at once — a young, black, low-income trans woman — you have a bigger bullseye on your back.

 

People of the transgender experience are a part of the living legacy of the LGBTQ+ community.  There is a more obvious recent history, such as their participation at Stonewall and in the riots that followed, but also, there is the historic trail through the millennia. Individuals who defied gender norms and embraced bold ambiguity have blazed a VISIBLE TRAIL that has allowed LGBTQ+ youth of today to own and understand their identities, to know that they are not alone and that love and hope are possible in their futures; even when those around them aren’t accepting.

Additionally, transwomen of color live in the heart of what has been the tragedy for all women.  Who can kill you? Will it be a stranger or your long term partner? One who has looked at you with love and longing or a stranger suddenly outed, whose rage or desire to hide suddenly leads to another violent death?

In terms of racism, not only are black women killed at even more staggering rates by police but also have greater recorded numbers of domestic violence perpetrated upon them.  African American females experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than white women.  In addition, the stigmatization of the LGBTQ+ members within some communities of color is considerably higher.  

Prejudice towards the trans community is not exclusively external. It sometimes feels as though the LGBTQ+ community operates as if all is well as marriage equality has occurred and health rights are now available to partners. So often though, that is a white, privileged, wealthy position. The number of transgender individuals still experiencing homelessness or lack of employability as purely a result of segregation or because the company didn’t want to pay for health benefits is high. Often transwomen find themselves in the sex trade for lack of other viable options.  Historically, the LGBTQ+ community has had a certain air of “don’t stand out”, “don’t look different”, or “don’t be too much” that can further isolate transmen and women. There has even been debate as to whether transgender people should be included as a part of the community. So despite Stonewall and other movements that they provided support for or lead the way in- our trans brothers and sisters are often left not receiving the same support that they provided. It is long overdue for us to shield and stand beside the most vulnerable in our communities.

 

So what you can do to create change? You can be the voice fighting and advocating for justice.  Represent the LGBTQ+ family in its entirety. Remember that all of our lives have been altered and empowered by trans people throughout history.  You can call and demand proper investigation from the police forces, reach out to media outlets to insist that they not misgender or ignore the transpeople that have been murdered. You can speak to your representatives at all levels of government about the urgency of this epidemic. You can support NYTAG (New York Transgender Advocacy Group) started by transwomen of color who are advocating for improvements as well as coordinating the march in Washington for trans rights in March. You can go to the march.  You can support GLAAD who is advocating for improved coverage and work at a national level. You can offer to walk your friend to their car, and be mindful of the very real transphobia, misogyny, and racism that the community faces every day…in bathrooms, in supermarkets, and even in their own homes.

You can remember their history, honor their humanity.  

You can say their names.

 

 

Jackson, S. (2018, November 20). 2018 on Trackto Become One of the Most Violent Years for Trans People. Retrieved from https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/national-international/2018-on-Track-to-Become-One-of-the-Most-Violent-Years-for-Trans-People-500943041.html

Human Rights Campaign Foundation. A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in America in 2018. Retrieved from https://www.hrc.org/resources/a-national-epidemic-fatal-anti-transgender-violence-in-america-in-2018.

AMBER=America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and was named for 9 yr. old Amber Hagerman abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas in 1996.

Jackson, S. (2018, November 20). 2018 on Trackto Become One of the Most Violent Years for Trans People. Retrieved from https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/national-international/2018-on-Track-to-Become-One-of-the-Most-Violent-Years-for-Trans-People-500943041.html

WOMEN OF COLOR NETWORK. (2006, June). Domestic Violence: Communities of Color. Retrieved from https://www.doj.state.or.us/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/women_of_color_network_facts_ domestic_violence_2006.pdf

 

Meet Chicago’s Christophe Caballero

Convincing just about any audience that Chicago is a fantastic show is not a hard sell. Chicago isn’t the longest running show in Broadway history for nothing. The original pop and pizzazz that makes Broadway the dream fantastical it is, is captured in every second of Chicago. Perhaps the reason for its wild longevity and popularity is the new life that gets birthed into production with the new cast of each traveling show. This week that dynamic, fresh cast and phenomenal production makes its way to Rochester’s RBTL. Empty Closet sat down with Chicago’s, Christophe Caballero to hear about what they have in store for us.

Caballero comes to this role with an exciting story and illustrious career. Born in Texas, he was raised traveling the world. From classical ballet training in his youth to television and film work, Christope truly found a home through Broadway. While living in Europe, he was drawn into a production of Chicago that has been a part of his life nearly nonstop since 2005. Christophe truly enjoys performing to the music he listened to as a kid. Music so enchanting that it still brings him joy. He occasionally gets tired of the demanding tour schedule, but never the music, experience or incredibly witty show. When asked what he wanted the audience to watch for, his answer was, “This is a very funny show. There is great, intellectual humor that holds the public’s obsession with celebrity up to a magnifying glass. Despite how long ago it was written, it makes so much sense in this social media driven society we live in now.”

Besides the incredible humor and wit, Caballero says Chicago is just a “great show with great dancing and amazing ‘20’s speakeasy style jazz.” This touring cast truly brings that all to life. The iconic main characters shine and the sexy, funny and dynamic ensemble is one strong actor all in itself. Make your way to the RBTL Auditorium Theater February 5 – 10th to be a part of it all. Tickets are available at http://www.rbtl.org/tickets/.