Phil: Hey, this is Phil aka Corrine.
Alex: And I’m Alex Berg, and you are listening to the I’m From Driftwood Podcast.
Phil: A quick favorite to ask our listeners before jumping today’s episode, take a few seconds to leave a five star rating on the “I’m From Driftwood Podcast”, more ratings and reviews, help the podcast appear in recommendations, which means more people who need to hear all these queer and trans stories will be able to find them more easily. It just takes a few seconds and will make a big difference. All right, now on today’s episode. So on today’s show, we are covering on stories about trans women of color, and we’re going to start off with a story of Cecilia.
Cecilia: When I was 17, 18 years old, I finished high school and I left that small city that I’m from in Argentina called Galvez to go to college, to the University of Rosario, which is in Rosario, which is a big city. It’s not the biggest city in Argentina, but it’s a big city. So I came to know the big city lifestyle and I also came to know the first trans person that I ever met and she was a beautiful trans woman that kind of a body everything that I wanted to be and the way that I wanted to look like, and she’s still a beautiful woman, so I met her and it was like, oh, I am not crazy. It is other people like me and she was very receptive and helped me a lot. So at a time, it was certain ways of living as a trans woman.
It wasn’t an idea of like a trans woman going to school or a trans woman being a lawyer or trans woman being a teacher and she was very clear and she told me like most likely this is how your life is going to be. You are going to be a whore, you are going to do drugs, and you are going to die young, because that’s the way that every other trans woman that we met at the time was living, by doing sex work and getting high, and we really didn’t have many people that live long live. She was very clear about it and still like, didn’t seem like the perfect picture, but that was what I wanted, and I said, okay, yeah, that’s what I’m going to do, I’m totally okay with that and that’s what I did.
I did sex work for many, many years and for a long time I said that that was my choice that I did sex work because I chose to. But now I think like when you talk about choices, it’s like you have two, right? And you choose one. But I like to say that even if it was my only choice, I was okay with doing sex work and I believe that sex work is work, so I don’t want to sound like I- again, sex work is work, it was another choice for me to do and I did drugs for many, many years, and because of that, I got arrested many times and I end up in Rikers Islands in prison and in jail and after that, I was sent to immigration detention because I didn’t have a legal status. So I was in the deportation detention and they let me out with an anchor bracelet, and with an anchor bracelet I went and seek recovery. So I went to a long term treatment for 17 months.
During those 17 months, I was able to get asylum in this country, which was a wonderful thing for me, and during that process I also got an internship at the LGBT center where I started like offering services to other trans people and I found my passion to help other people, and that is when life started changing because I had possibilities when it comes to work and what I wanted to do with my life. I do not do sex work anymore now, because I had a choice, right? And would like, you know, life change and I had other choices.
So I chose not to do sex work anymore and I also, I’m in recovery. I’ve been in recovery for six years and I don’t do drugs nowadays, today, I’m not doing drugs for today and I haven’t done any for six years and I really do have plans to live a long life. Somehow, I came to have very normal boring life and I work eight hours in a nonprofit and I come back home and I make dinner for me and my partner, and I have a partner. I have a freaking 401k. Like I never thought I would have a 401k. I didn’t know what a 401k was. So I’m kind of like have like a more like American, normal American life and like plan for a future and things like that and I never thought that was something that I could have and it was hard to adapt to this new kind of idea of what normality is.
I never thought that I’ll leave to my age of the day that is 44. So I didn’t care about a future or having a job or things like that. But I am pretty much enjoying my life now. It’s kind of boring though. I’m thinking about having a cat or a dog. I never thought how you do those things, but I am doing them now. And I’m happier. If we say that the life expectancy of a trans person and trans woman of color in my case is about 32 to 35 years old, I exceeded the time for about 10 years and that’s why I don’t have a problem you with the elder category. I am very proud and happy that I made it to this age and if that somehow translating being an elder, so be it I’m an elder yay.
Phil: Listening to Cecilia was the whole idea of choices and the choices that Cecilia thought she was being given earlier on sort of in her transition. This person that took her under her wings said, “Hey, you’re going to be this. These are the things that are in store for you as a trans woman. These are the things that are going to happen.” and it wasn’t until later on that she realized that there weren’t a lot of choices for her. There weren’t a lot of like choice and options available for her.
Alex: Yeah. Phil, everything you’re saying resonates so much with what I was thinking about with Cecilia’s story. I also just enjoyed that, she was talking about how boring her life is, and how unexpected her life was, and there was something almost exhilarating about hearing her experience of self actualization of the starting point of being in this small town in Argentina to now she’s this really fierce advocate in the community. Cecilia is someone who I’ve seen, speak in person and I would literally, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen her speak in person-
Phil: I haven’t.
Alex: At any events or any rallies or anything. If she started a cult, I would 100% join it. She is just like so delightful and such a fierce advocate. So I really appreciated hearing about her journey.
Phil: Well, from story alone signed me up for the cult of Cecilia. I’m all in. I’m like, I’m so about it. One of the things that I wanted to mention was when she talked about sex work and she said I’m okay with doing sex work, I think it’s an interesting thing to note that for trans women, and for trans people in general, how they experience unemployment and so while there is not one thing wrong with sex work for some trans women, they feel like they are being pushed into sex work because that feels like an option when they’re not being employed.
So I think it’s really important to note that there is nothing wrong with sex work, doing sex work is fine, but you should be able to have the option of whether you want to do sex work or not. If you want to do it, awesome. If you don’t, you should also be able to be able to find work and to work in other industries in sort of careers, if you wanted to. So I think that it is interesting to note Cecilia mentioning that she was okay with it, but if she had been given choices, I’m not sure what she would’ve chosen.
Alex: So for our second story, we heard from Mila who talked about how she went from doing these musical parities as Britney Houston.
Mila: I was having a moment of success and I got a call and I was asked to be on a big TV show in London. After getting all of these followers on YouTube and on my channel and doing these parody videos and lip syncing, I was like, “oh my God, this is such a cool opportunity.” I’m so excited to like go to London and do something fun. I got to go to London for two days, all expense paid. They had a driver for me, waiting for me, my own hotel accommodations, a trip around London, going to the London Eye, I had backup dancers that were not told I was going to have, and I was performing with Grammy Award winning producer, Mark Ronson, and I’m on stage lip syncing with Mark Ronson, lip playing on the guitar next to me, and I’m like feeling I’m into it.
We have choreography and dancers and it’s just the crowd is loving it and as superficial as it kind of came off, it just felt so, it felt half a feeling. It felt like this is great, but it’s like, it’s kind of not me. It’s an act and I’m just kind of like, I want to be myself and it kind of ate me up so much that it just like I had an epiphany. I was like, this is the moment I’m able to see I can achieve my dreams and I can be in front of people and successful and amazing and I just felt like there’s something missing. That was my transition. I stopped performing Britney Houston material. I took down my channel. I had all of these subscribers and followers and I literally went back to zero.
I started completely over. So I told all my friends, I told my family who was very supportive of Britney Houston and I officially came out to them saying I’m a woman, I’ve always been a woman, but that’s just not been the show, and it’s time to catch up with that. It’s time to make sure the show reflects who I really am on the inside. It was probably the most rewarding thing I have ever done, and the hardest thing that I’ve ever done and the biggest feeling was the day I got a call from a producer who was starting a record label and he was like I’m looking for musicians and artists to sing on my label, and to make music, and I was like, me, me, me, me, me, me that’s me, that’s me, and we had a meeting and we cut like a demo and we worked on some music and we came up with a song and I created my first single and it was just one small night at a small bar here in New York city that we did a launch party.
I remember getting ready for the event. I had to take the subway to get there. I was like really sort of broke, I didn’t have any money to sort of seem as fabulous as I wanted to come off, and I got there, there were maybe 30 to 50 people and I got on that stage and I sang my heart out then my dancers from my music and my friends there cheering me on, and it was just the beginning of the foundation to starting my journey really, as a woman, as a musician, as an artist and not a mockery or someone else. It was just like exact opposite of being in London and being on a stage with Mark Ronson and the dynamic was startling. It didn’t matter to me that there weren’t that many people in the audience. It didn’t matter to me that I wasn’t on a hit TV show. I was just entering my truth.
Phil: I found this story really interesting, because when you think about success and what people want in their lives, they think about success and how much they’d love to be successful and be famous, and maybe even to have kind of what Mila talked about, being flown to London, and driven around, and working with Mark Ronson, some of these major artists, but it felt empty, because she wasn’t able to be herself, and that felt empty and I think so many people would think, I take that, but I’m not sure you would, right? When you’re literally putting on a costume, you’re putting on someone else’s persona to experience that.
Alex: And also, that is a really, so many people, sometimes it’s like, I think she even says like the easier path in some ways would’ve just been to go along you have all of this success as this persona, you’re performing in London. The easy maybe thing that would’ve seemed like it, she could have just run with the success, but she wouldn’t have been herself, and so I think she even says that it was like, the hard thing to do was to come out and be herself and it was a sacrifice, but it was worth every single bit of that, and I really, really appreciated that.
Phil: Yeah. I loved the part of the story when she talked about once she let go of the Britney Houston sort of persona, she talked about coming out to her friends and family and I assumed that since she was doing it, she may already been out, but it sounds like there was a really turning point for her at that point in her life. She decided she wanted to live more authentically in all the areas of her life. So she came out to her friends and family, she decided she wanted to her own artist and not be a parody of someone else and she got in touch with that producer and that label happened and she had that performance. So I think it’s so interesting to find that that turn, that transformation was on such a global level in her life.
Alex: Yeah, and then I just had one kind of overarching thing that both of these stories made me think about and I feel like we say this all the time, which is that LGBTQ people are not a monolith, obviously, obviously to us trans people are not a monolith, and something that I was thinking about is that I think so many times when we hear headlines about trans folks and in particular trans women of color, this headline that is all about like the number of trans folks who have been murdered or who have died, who have been subject to violence, and I feel like these stories, I had such an appreciation because they are nuanced, they are unique, they are their own, and that those headlines can be so dehumanizing, and those headlines, those are people with lives, not just a number or a box to tick off and so the stories just, I think really drove that home.
Phil: Yeah. I mean, well said, Alex, that was really well said and I think what’s beautiful about these stories are these are human stories. These are people being people, right? And it shows, like you said, trans people are not in monolith, and they all experience life in many different- the human experience in many different arrays, like we all do, right? So I think that was beautiful, but I have a little thought about the idea of like rebuilding. Like, I love the idea of rebuilding. I think what Mila did in her story in particular talks about rebuilding and it leads me to want to segue into our special guest because this guest did a lottery rebuilding and some beautiful rebuilding. Alex, if you’d like to go ahead, take the mantle.
Alex: I would be delighted and honored. Please welcome to I’m From Driftwood award winning diversity advocate activist, and now author Precious Brady Davis.
Precious: Hi Alex. Hi Phil. Thank you so much for having me today.
Alex: Well, first off, congrats on the release of your new memoir, it’s called, “I Have Always Been Me”. But to start, I want to ask you, how are you doing considering the wild times we are living through?
Precious: Thank you so much for asking that question. It has been such a prolific time for me as the world was going through the chaos of the pandemic and COVID 19, I was finishing my book, and so I really had to really go down and write from a really solid place and kind of close the world out. So it was of serendipitous that I had the time away from the world so that I could be introspective as I was finishing my book. So I’m doing good. So thank you for asking.
Alex: Well, I really wish that our listeners could see the zoom because we see a couple copies of the book behind you and I just have to say like, this cover is incredible.
Precious: Thank you. The cover is a celebration of life. It’s a celebration of authenticity. It comes in the great legacy of pageantry. It’s the trans pride colors, and I really wanted to give a nod to that trans excellence and I really wanted to channel the Black divas of the past who have inspired me, Diahann Carroll, Jasmine Guy, all of the black women who are Regal and stately, Michelle Obama, and then I wanted to channel that in a trans sense.
Phil: I love it. So Precious, for some of our listeners who may be new to you and your work, could you tell us a little bit about you and what you do?
Precious: Absolutely. Well, I am now an author. The author of “I Have Always Been Me”, as you have just stated. I am an intersectional nonprofit diva. In my current role, I am the Associate Regional Communications Director at the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club is an environmental organization that asks to protect the air and to advocate for clean water and inspires people to go out and enjoy and protect the planet. I’ve been working in the field of nonprofit and in nonprofits for probably over 15 years now. I’ve worked in higher education, I worked at an LGBTQ Community Center for many years, but this is something I’ve done my entire life as I write about in the book. I’ve been involved in human services work, I’m a wife, I’m a mother and I am passionate about all things, social justice.
Alex: So we mentioned that we’re talking to you about, “I Have Always Been Me”, which is the title of your book. Did you always know that you wanted to write a memoir?
Precious: So growing up, I knew that there would be some format of sharing my story, but I didn’t know that it would take this format. So growing up, I was raised in the church. I was raised in particular, in a Pentecostal church, and so within Pentecostal churches in itself, a message every week, there is a little bit of personal story and personal narrative woven into that, and in the Black church, there’s something called a testimony, and so I always knew that I had a testimony to share, but I didn’t think that it would be in the form of a memoir.
Phil: In the first few chapters, we meet a young Precious who’s grappling with abuse, neglect, the foster care system, instability and family crisis. What was the hardest part about revisiting those memories?
Precious: The hardest about revisiting the traumatic memories of my childhood was going back. So as, as I was writing, I realized I was a ward of the state and since I was awarded the state, it was documented somewhere, and I wanted to make sure that my memory was in sync, and so I ordered all of the caseworkers, case notes that they took when I was a child, and it was absolutely a traumatic experience to read 500 pages of case notes of the abuse that I actually faced as a child. Stuff that I didn’t even know.
The stuff that I had known from a child was things that I had remembered since I was about the age of five or that stories that had been passed down to me. But reading the state ledger of it was absolutely traumatic, and having to relive those experiences. So many of those experiences have passed with time. As I wrote the book, I really wanted to be present in those stories, and I really took myself to the head space and it was hard to do that time after time, and sometimes I had to give myself time. But for me, I really wanted to write the most vulnerable that I could, because I feel like that’s where healing is. That’s the place I could set myself free and I could let it go.
Alex: So I think that you write in the beginning of the book that this is a letting go of these experiences when you were ordering, that sounds like such an intense process when you were ordering those transcripts, were you thinking this is intentionally part of this healing process? When you set out, were you like this will be a letting go, did you even know at the time, or was it just through the writing and getting through it that was revealed to you?
Precious: It was through the writing that it was revealed to me. As set out on this journey, I honestly wanted to tell the truth. I felt that there were so many muddy secrets of intergenerational trauma that were passed down to me, and so many tales of abuse that were told through various members of my family. So for me, telling my life story, I wanted it to be rooted in the truth, and there was a moment as I received all 500 pages of those case worker notes that I went into my therapist’s office and I threw them on the floor and I scattered them in front of me. It was that moment in which I… I let it go, that there were moments in this process to which I think was aligned with my healing, that I didn’t even know that I didn’t even expect to happen.
I went into writing this book with a very preconceived notion of what I thought my biological mother was, and as I read the case notes, I came to an understanding that she was dealing with mental health issues and no one ever had the language to communicate that to me. They just told me about a person who was extremely dysfunctional. So for me, it was really about understanding the truth of what happened, and I think that’s so important in families when especially, when intergenerational trauma is passed down. I don’t think there is anything wrong with seeking out the truth of what happened. I don’t think that you always will find the absolute truth, but I think for me, I got as close to it as I could.
Alex: Well, you write so unflinchingly about your experiences and you all also write in such great detail that it was almost like I was imagining this in such a visual way as I was going through your story, and when you get at the truth, sometimes the truth, I mean, it’s not always pretty, definitely when it comes to intergenerational trauma and you’re really upfront about the roles that different people in your life played and I think that you even wrote at some point that you did try to corroborate some of the aspects of the story, you may have changed some names, have you heard from any of them about this book at all? What has that experience been like?
Precious: I absolutely have several family members who are very upset because for one, I’m letting family secrets out of the house and for me, it was really about breaking that cycle of trauma, not just for me, but for my children and my children’s children and for me, it comes back to my healing and I felt like there were numerous conversations I had to have with folks about folks being upset about details that I was revealing in the book, but for me, it wasn’t about them and I feel like as a Black trans woman of someone who is really seated at the core of her identity in every aspect of my life, that is the only way to do it, and I feel that those people, some of them aren’t living in their truth. Some of them don’t go through a regular process of excavation.
That is a regular process that I routinely go through in my life. I don’t carry trauma with me like that. So for me, I actually feel sorry for them. But in the writing process, I also realize that people can’t give you what they don’t have. So each of us are on a journey and so I gave them grace in that way. So I hope that that grace is reciprocal.
Phil: I mean, I have to respond to that because that’s just incredible. I love that you decided for yourself that you needed the healing and you decided to seek the truth to get the healing, and you’re right. That does take some courage, and I just want to acknowledge the courage that that takes because it’s not easy. So I think it’s wonderful you did that. We read about your involvement in performing arts and how it helped affirm a part of who you were as a child. Have you ever thought about stepping back into acting or performing or anything like that?
Precious: Well, thank you so much for the credit – and also thank you so much for thanking me for talking about that. You just gave me chills when you said that. But in the previous segment, I heard you talking about Mila, and Mila is actually a friend of mine, and I just want to say, I knew her when she was Britney Houston, and I write about that in the book of what that meant for me seeing Mila. Mila was an example that you could make it as a performer in the world, and people don’t understand that the New York night like scene is so high caliber from what we were doing in Nebraska lip syncing, doing drag shows, in New York you sing live and you do production. She is such a trailblazer, and I wish that more people gave her her due because, I was just with her last weekend actually, she performed with Chaka Khan here in Chicago.
Alex: Oh my goodness. Amazing!
Precious: It was like so wonderful. But in terms of performing, performance is something that will always be at the heart of who I am. For starters, I’m a very performance of being in general, in my daily life and in the way that I talk and the way that I express myself. But I did, just recently did some acting. I can’t tell you what it is yet, but-
Phil: You can’t let that out of the bag. You can’t let that out of the bag.
Precious: I can’t tell you… I can’t tell you what it is yet. But the thing is, there was an opportunity that presented itself and they asked me to audition and when I auditioned for this role, I thought, “Wow, this is- I haven’t done- I haven’t performed in ages. Do I still know how to do this?” And so they said to me, “We don’t want you for this role, but we want you for something else”, and the part that I got was huge. It was like a co-star role. Like the part that I originally auditioned for, it was just like a walk on.
Precious: I was like, this is perfect.
Phil: Universe was saying, you’re playing too small. You’re playing it too small. Step up,
Precious: I was like, this is perfect. I’ll do like a quick little cameo clap through, do the gig and leave. But then it was like, I got offered this co-star role in an episode, and the entire experience was so humbling for me. There I was sitting in a trailer, filming something, and acting. This was my dream. When I was growing up, I would’ve dreamed to be acting, but I think the thing about it that was so touching to me, is that I got to do it as a trans woman, that I got to do it in the fullness of my identity. Something that I wish that I would’ve seen. That was a barrier that I saw for myself in college.
I thought there were only a few roles that I could play being a drag performer at the time. But yes, I think it’s not something I want to do full time. I don’t want to go out there and be an actress, that it’s not my place like in this world. I know my place is to create change within institutional systems. That’s where I think I thrive, but as a passion project, I think it’ll be fun to choose projects that I feel strongly about, and this was such an honor just to work with this legendary director, and the series is so powerful.
Phil: Can’t wait.
Alex: Can’t wait, do you have any idea when it’s at least going to come out or when we’ll get some more info about it?
Precious: Yeah, yes. So I will give this tip to it. So the series we’ll start running next month.
Precious: And it’s the second season or something.
Phil: I got to know.
Precious: I’ll give you that.
Alex: All right. I’ll be Googling that later on being second season shows. Very excited to see whatever the series is. Something that I really enjoyed about your book is how big of a role music plays, and in particular, as a child in the 90s, myself, I loved all of the 90s divas that you write about, who impacted you. I mean, when you were writing this, were you like, this is definitely going to have pop culture in it? I have to write about some of these divas. Did you set out to do that?
Precious: Absolutely. I feel like there are some passions in my life that people don’t know that I have. Music is one of them. Growing up, seeing Whitney Houston, this larger than life presence on my screen in front of me, that affirmed a part of me that I didn’t even know, that I didn’t even know what it was doing to me. Seeing Tina Turner as a young Scorpio, that’s the spirit in which she enamored like the sides of darkness and was just very statues. Yes. Tina Turner spoke to me, Storm from X-Men, it was these larger than like divas that spoke to me.
Whitney Houston, anytime I saw Whitney Houston, ugh, my soul was just so lifted and I would turn, my whole life I’ve been in the spotlight in some way, somehow from turning a picnic table in my backyard to a stage to performing in a community theater show when I was in fourth grade to doing community theater later on, but yes, music, my whole life has just spoken to me whether it was being in church, whether it was the calm, silent melodies of a piano, like very gentle, like a worship kind of space or whether it was singing in a choir group, singing coral music that uplifts my soul.
I feel there’s a piece of my soul that is music. So, yes, I really wanted people to see that part of me, because it’s not a part of me that I get to express anymore. One day I would love to join like a community chorus put on a concert because I studied music in college. That’s what I studied in college.
I originally thought that I would be performing in musicals, that musical theater, that would be my life, and I paid thousands of dollars in vocal lessons and I’d be like, no one knows that I can sing. But also my grandfather was a DJ. So growing up, I would always hear him spinning records and he was also a concert promoter, so he brought in Brandy and Da Brat and Salt-N-Pepa, like all of these people. So music actually connects me to my family lineage. In some ways there are so many traumatic aspects of my family that I talk about in the book, but music is a connection to the good side of my lineage and something that I feel that has been passed down to me.
Phil: Wow. I think that the community choir sounds awesome, but like I’m thinking bigger for you. So I’m hoping whatever it is that we know about it because I want to hear you saying, I can only imagine it’s probably amazing
Precious: Something, I mean, Disney+ is doing a movie version of “Once On This Island”, and I think that would be fun to audition for. I would love to do something in the future or some- I’m still a mom, you know what I mean? But I’m in commitment, but yes, I would maybe a concert or something, a little piano, something like Feinsteins.
Phil: You got to hit Mila up and then you guys have [overtalk] going on. Mila are you listening? I feel a little project in the works here.
Precious: Yes. Maybe some kind of like one night cabaret, like a bit of-
Phil: Oh my gosh. Okay. We just want to know where we can buy the tickets. That’s all we want to know, where they’re. I can’t wait. You write about meeting and eventually falling in love, falling for your husband Miles. You were honest about having reservations at first, because Miles is also trans. Why did you feel it was important to include this? And how did you eventually change your mind?
Precious: So at the beginning it was such a foreign concept to me, I don’t know why. Well, I do know why, but at the time I didn’t know why. It’s because I hadn’t seen examples of that. For me, I really told that story so that people could see what love looks like in multiple forms. We see just one stereotypical depiction of what love looks like, and especially growing up as a queer person, I didn’t know that love would be something that I would ever find in my life just because I was a very flamboyant gender, not conforming person. There was this aspect of femininity doesn’t deserve love, especially when it comes in someone who is male, I identified, and for me, I just wanted to shadow the stigma around that you, because I think that’s what I was fighting off.
What would that look like and, and why? And I was coming up with all of these crazy scenarios in my head of like, what, like, how does that work? How would we love each other? And I think once I realized that I could let Miles loved me, that I could center our love first before our bodies, then I could have a connection and that’s exactly what happened just because I was too in my head space, because I had never seen it.
I think also like I had brought tons of trauma to the relationship about myself even being worthy of being in a relationship that was holistic. I was a performer back then and, and something that a lot of queens don’t talk about is there is adulation for doing drag. There are boys who love you and worship you and want to have an emotional relationship with you and are drawn to the magnetism of your stage persona. But it’s often not a holistic relationship that fills all of the needs and that’s what I had, and I think I had just come to accept that, that is what was going to be my life, that I was going to have like a series of emotional friendships and not like a holistic relationship.
Phil: You mean groupies?
Precious: Basically, and that’s what I had come to especially as a trans person who lived in a white gay community, that was so hard on my self-esteem I would go out to the bars and I want to be in a bunch of white gay men, and I’m looking around like anyone here? Like, is there anyone here who I can date and connect with? But I think after processing some of my internalized stigma about it, about trans bodies, I think that is what did it.
Alex: What of the things that you mentioned are these environments that are often dominated by white gay men, and I think one experience that so many LGBTQ people, especially folks living at the intersections of multiple identities experience is oftentimes when you come into the community or advocacy organizations, you realize that they still replicate deeply toxic white supremacist values in their own way, when maybe we’re all hopeful and we hope for something better among our own, and in that vein, you talk about your time working at the Center on Halsted and that environment, I’m wondering if writing about something that was more recent, how you’ve thought about it, how you made sense of that experience. Have you heard from them at all? Anything like that?
Precious: Thanks for that question. I write about my experience working at the center because I feel people don’t talk about enough, the experience of what it is to be trans and to work in a nonprofit. Often you are the first and so you face systemic barriers. Like in my case, the Center refused to change my email system after I transitioned on the job because I hadn’t legally changed my name, and it was so disheartening to work at an LGBTQ center and to have to petition the organization for months. To do that, it was so disabling to go into work every day, and to know that someone emailing me would have to find me by another name in the system. So for many years, I just have kind of left it alone. I talked about it right after it happened for accountability purposes, I thought it was important, but everything happens in due time.
So I was just invited to the center probably about three weeks ago. I was invited to speak about pride on behalf of the Legacy Project. So the Legacy Project is a project that talks about LGBTQ heroes of history, and there are pylons that mark them along the Northalsted corridor where Boystown is located and the center. So when I was there, people were looking at me and because I was invited to speak and the mayor was there and this was, you have a pride, and I saw people looking at me and I could tell, they were like, what is she going to say? But for me it felt like a moment of reconciliation that I was there in the fullness of my truth, and after that experience happened, I left the center.
I left for another opportunity that would pay me more, that would respect my skills more, and I’m so glad that, that I did that. So I chose to talk about our history and why I was there and talk about the shoulders of the trans women who I stand on. Talking about Cecilia’s work, the great work that that Cecilia has done that you talked about here. I really didn’t see that for myself. I didn’t see that, that would be the form of what my work would take. When I want to go work at the center. But in that moment, I returned to my work and shared, I worked there for three years and I felt like I was doing life saving work, working with homeless queer and trans youth every day who were navigating a street economy who were sleeping by the lake.
I felt that I really stood in my truth and really honored the work that I did in HIV prevention and doing programs across the city. That was almost a decade ago, and I did walk up to the executive director and handed him my book, and I said, this is a peace offering, and he said something like, oh, I’ve long been over that, and I feel like it was a turning of a leaf, and it’s so crazy that everything happens in due season. It is so crazy how serendipitous that was. After I have written my book that this is the time that I got to go, listen, I have avoided the center for years. I would not even step foot in there because of my experience.
But that too is part of my forgiveness process. I can’t carry that with me. Why do I need to carry that trauma with me? That’s over. I always say that I leave places better than I found them, and I did because after that, there’s now a process for someone who wants to transition on the job, and there’s a person who is dedicated to trans issues, that was not happening, when I was there. So for me, it was important for me to show and in particular trans mono color of what we go through in the workplace in particular, when we’re working with LGBTQ youth, because there are lots of trans women in particular, who work in community outreach, and it can be so demoralizing when you’re navigating a system that is not built for you, or a system that does not prioritize your self-care, that does not prioritize the needs of the clients they serve.
So it was important for me to shine a light on the nonprofit industrial complex, and I make a very specific note too in the book to executive directors. It’s your job to work yourself out of a job. Your job is to develop someone. I feel often when it comes to trans mono color professional development is not something that is centered. They want to hire someone and say, “Oh, we have all these trans people here.” But no, are you developing them in a professional way so that they can grow out of an entry level position so that they can move up to management? That’s economic justice. I feel that’s a piece that is missing specifically with the LGBTQ community.
Alex: Well, It feels like you really told this story on your own terms and something I felt like that I appreciated about the story too is that, you see your story through the perspective of a young person versus where you are now. So it just really felt like you were telling it on your own terms. Why was that so important to you and even more broadly, why is it so important for trans women of color to tell their stories on their own terms?
Precious: Well, first I want to say that one of the things that was really important to me was that this story not be vindictive. This book was not a revenge tale. This book was not about evening out scores. That is not what this book was out. This book was based in my healing alone in wanting to be free, and wanting to navigate the world lighter in order to create a trans future, the trans future that I did not see for myself. But I think so often we’ve seen in the past other folks tell trans stories, and this is me really telling my own story on my own terms. That’s what I love that when you were talking about Cecilia, that she can kind of lives a normal life, and that’s how I feel about me. I’m a professional, I’m a mom, I get up and I go to work.
There are modern conversations of trans equality and people think that this is some kind of new phenomena. No, the person that I am today is the person who taught Sunday school when they were in third grade, the person who did community theater when they were in fourth grade and thought they were too good to be sitting in math class I’ve always been this person who has been bold and larger than life, and trying to create a shinier mold for myself than what was presented to me. I think the more stories we hear, I think that they create opportunity for future generations to be themselves. I talk about in the book meeting, Tiffany and Tiffany is the first trans woman that I ever met when I was working at Sonic. When I was a teenager and seeing Tiffany, I felt that she was going to reveal something on the inside of me that I hadn’t said out loud.
For me, I hope this book could be a guidepost, and I think that there are multiple pieces of a story that can connect with folks from all walks of life. In the book, I talked about what it is to be a person of faith and the ways in which LGBTQ youth are discriminated against. Particularly, in the church.
I wanted people to see the visibility of what it is to be in foster care shining light on what it is to feel abandoned, and so for me, it’s really about shining a light on issues that I feel strongly about, and I want people to understand that we are people too, and you talked about it at the beginning of- I have always been me as a declarative statement. This is who I am. This book is really rooted in my humanity, and that’s what I really wanted people to connect with. I want people to connect with the humanity of our lives, and love is a theme that runs through the entire book from cover to cover in the beginning of not feeling like I had love and in the end, getting the most beautiful love that I ever experienced the most beautiful unconditional love, and so I want people to know that that love is possible.
Phil: Ugh, now I have chills. You’re giving me chills here. So beautiful. We watched you and your husband Miles on “My Pregnant Husband”, show that chronicle the pregnancy journey you two had as a trans couple. How has motherhood been treating you? And in what ways has becoming a mother changed you?
Precious: Oh my gosh. I feel like I have so much love to give. I think being a mom has taught me the power of sacrifice. There’s a lot of giving in being a parent and putting someone else’s needs in front of yours. If I don’t give Zane breakfast, she’s not going to have breakfast. Right. So I think it’s made me a better person. It show me what’s most important in this life. Family is so important.
It’s unspeakable, and after I became a parent, I’m like, uh, oh, wow. I’m like, this is what it is like, unless you’re a parent, no one will understand of like, what the act of like being a parent is. Your whole life turns upside down when it comes to sleep and navigating work, and your management skills have to just be so on point. But yeah, it’s almost like it’s unspeakable for me to say it’s such a special place, and I love doing it with Miles of us parenting together. We are such yin and yang to each other. Like there it feels like to me parenting feels like harmony. It feels like this is what I am supposed to be doing like at this time.
Phil: Wow. That’s Beautiful.
Alex: Part of me wants to know when your daughter can read, when will she read the book? When will you give her the book?
Precious: She’s already reading it.
Precious: So she- oh my gosh. Like one day I turned around and she was just like holding it and just like teasing, and I snapped a picture of it.
Alex: Oh my goodness.
Precious: So, Zane has her own copy, and so I just let her just like page through it. Like, so she has her own copy that she plays with. But yeah, when she’s ready of, I imagine when she’s probably 16, 17, if she wants to, this legacy is hers, and I say that at the beginning of the book that the blessing of this book is yours to inherit, and I say that because it’s her freedom, and it’s about me nurturing her. Before I became a parent, I really wanted to make sure that all of those issues that were unresolved were resolved. I didn’t want my child to have to deal with that trauma, and also some of this book will pay for her college.
Phil: So you’ll give it in you many ways.
Alex: Well, one of the words you mentioned is legacy and I mean, you have already done so much. You were the first trans bride to say yes to the dress. You’ve worked with Miley Cyrus, MTV, you’re an activist. Now an author, the list goes on and on. You’re going to be on this show that you mentioned at the beginning of when we were talking to you, what else is next for you? Do you think that you’ll write another book? What other projects are on the horizon?
Precious: That’s like one of my mottos, I feel like no one knows, but it’s like, let’s live life in the legendary lane, but if like one of my mottos just like in life. It’s like, I’m over here, like being Precious Brady Davis, and that’s it. But I mean, the children’s book would be fun. I do say at the end of the book that I would like to run for Congress, that’s our folks, that’s kind of like a spoiler alert, but that’s how the book end. But yeah, I think running for a public office would be great. I think that my experience has led me here working with LGBTQ youth working in higher education now working for an environmental organization, and so I feel like I understand a range of issues of what folks experience and what needs to change systemically, and so maybe I’ll run for public office. I don’t know, who knows?
I’m always like asking myself what next? What should be happening? That’s always like a routine conversation I’m asking Precious of like, where does Precious belong in the current moment? And so now I’ve always been me who knows it could be grad school. It could be a run for office. Something that is benefiting humanity. I like to say I’m a queen with a cause.
Phil: I don’t doubt it. I do not.
Precious: Also, like with a little glamor, like Troop Beverly Hills is my favorite movie of all time and so I see myself as like a little Phyllis Nefler.
Phil: What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned so far in your journey?
Precious: Be honest, even if it hurts. Be honest. Tell the truth, even when it hurts.
Alex: Yeah. Well, I feel like that is such a good note to start to winding things up on. Obviously, we could talk to you forever and ever, but your time is important. So where can our listeners find more information about you? Where can they buy the book? Where they can see you on Instagram? All the social medias.
Precious: Yes. So you can buy the book on Amazon, “I Have Always Been Me”, you can buy a hard copy, paper copy, you can also buy the audio book. You can follow me on Instagram, Precious Brady Davis. You can follow me on Twitter, Miss Precious Davis, even though I don’t really tweet and people still follow me, but you can also follow me on Facebook, Precious Brady Davis.
Phil: Precious. This has been such a pleasure. You are such a joy and a light in this world. You have no idea how much you mean to the community, and now to me, you are incredible.
Precious: Namaste. Thank you so much. This was such a joy. Thank you so much for having me.
Alex: Thank you so much.
Phil: The “I’m From Driftwood” podcast is hosted by Phil AKA, Corrine
Alex: And Alex Berg, and is produced by Anndy Egan-Thorpe it’s recorded as a program of I’m From Driftwood, the LGBTQ AI plus story archive.
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Alex: Thanks for listening y’all.