Toxic Silence

Race, Black Gender Identity, and Addressing the Violence against Black Transgender Women in Houston

by William T. Hoston (Author)
©2018 Monographs XXIV, 192 Pages


Winner of the 2019 LAMBDA Literary Award in LGBTQ Studies!
Toxic Silence: Race, Black Gender Identity, and Addressing the Violence against Black Transgender Women in Houston contributes to a growing body of transgender scholarship. This book examines the patriarchal and heteronormative frames within the black community and larger American society that advances the toxic masculinity which violently castigates and threatens the collective embodiment of black transgender women in the USA. Such scholarship is needed to shed more light on the transphobic violence and murders against this understudied group.
Little is known about the societal and cultural issues and concerns affecting black transgender women and how their gender identity is met with systemic, institutional, and interpersonal roadblocks. During a time period in American history defined by Time Magazine as "The Transgender Tipping Point," black transgender women have emerged as social, cultural, and political subjects to advance our understanding of the lives of people who identity as a part of both the black and LGBTQIA communities. In the end, this book calls on the black community and culture to end the toxic silence and act instead as allies who are more accepting and inclusive of differing sexualities and gender identities in an effort to improve the generative power of black solidarity.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for Toxic Silence
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Tables
  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword: Words from Mia Ryan
  • Chapter 1: Introduction: Before I Was Trans, I Was Born Black
  • A New Communal Epidemic: Black Transphobic Violence and Murders
  • The Black Lives Matter (BLM) Response
  • Why the Time Is Now?
  • Overview of the Book
  • Research Design and Data
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 2: The Black Trans Identity
  • Defining the “Transgender” Identity
  • Locating and Recognizing the Transgender Community
  • The Difference Between Sex and Gender
  • The Failure of Traditional Binary Thinking
  • The Gender Norm of Appearance
  • Hello Black Religious Community, I’m Black Trans
  • The Black Transgender Juxtaposition
  • Transitioning and/or Coming Out Period
  • The Benefiting of Masculine Privilege
  • The Lack of Black Solidarity
  • Black Cisgender Attitudes Toward Black Transgender People
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 3: Black Transphobic Violence and Murders
  • The Intersectionality of Black Trans Women
  • Hate-Based Violence
  • Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)
  • Violence and Murders against Transgender Sex Workers
  • Toxic Masculinity in the Sex Trade Profession
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 4: Black Trans Voices: Their Lived Experiences
  • Sophie Rush, 39, Escort
  • I Am a Black Woman, Too
  • We Need Protection
  • Mia Ryan, 29, Beautician
  • My Born Self
  • I Am a Black Woman, Too
  • We Need Protection
  • Jessica Sugar, 31, Escort
  • My Born Self
  • I Am a Black Woman, Too
  • We Need Protection
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter 5: Black Trans Liberation
  • National Day of Remembrance
  • Where Do We Go from Here?
  • Solution-Based Recommendations
  • Notes
  • References
  • Appendix A.1: Methodological Details
  • Interviews with Black Transgender Women
  • Limitations
  • Interview Schedule
  • Gender Identity
  • Reaction from Family and Friends
  • Black Masculinity and Femininity
  • Gender-Based Violence
  • Transgender Violence and Murders
  • Violence and Murders in the Sex Trade Profession
  • Appendix A.2: Chapter 2: Data and Methods
  • Black Men and Black Women Participants
  • Instrumentation
  • Question Wording
  • Demographic Variable(s)
  • Dependent Variable
  • Perception of Black Transgender People
  • Limitations
  • Appendix A.3: Interview of Former Houston, TX, Mayor, Annise D. Parker, December 7, 2015
  • Questions and Answers
  • Note
  • References
  • About the Author
  • Index

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Table 1.1: The Deaths of Transgender Women, 2012–2015

Table 1.2: The Deaths of Transgender Women, 2015

Table 2.1: Black Cisgender Attitudes toward Black LGBTQIA People

Table 2.2: Black Cisgender Attitudes toward Black LGBTQIA People

Table 2.3: Black Cisgender Attitudes toward Black Transgender People

Table 2.4: OLS Models Predicting Black Cisgender Acceptance

Table 2.5: Black Cisgender Perceptions of Black Transgender Men

Table 2.6: Black Cisgender Perceptions of Black Transgender Women

Table 3.1: Samples of Escort Advertisements from Backpage.com

Table 3.2: Pre-Post Phone Inquiry

| xvii →


All praise to my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. With Him, all things are possible. He has provided me with the four most influential women in my life, the late Mildred Hoston, the late Bertha-Mae Mitchell, Thelma C. Owens, and Janet Smith. I am a product of their hard work and sacrifice. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother[s].”

I am indebted to the nine black transgender women who provided interviews to help make this book possible. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you to Bobbie Golden, Arianna Gray, Venue Love, Naomi Mars, Jae Palmer, Sophie Rush, Mia Ryan, Jessica Sugar, and Alexandra Sweet. Two women, Sophie Rush and Mia Ryan, deserve special recognition for their input and suggestions from the beginning to the end of this book. I thank Mia Ryan very much for writing a foreword.

Thank you to Dr. Bakeyah S. Nelson who encouraged me to write this book. Thank you to the students, Randon R. Taylor, Anna A. Thomas, and Burgundy Anderson, who reviewed earlier drafts. I benefited from the many proofreading sessions and conversations. Many thanks go to Dr. Leon Pettiway for reading parts of the book in the beginning stages and offering sound advice. I am very thankful to the many anonymous reviewers and known reviewers who offered detailed and constructive criticisms and recommendations. Your ← xvii | xviii → recommendations helped this book to maintain intellectual integrity and spark constructive dialogue.

I would like to thank the former mayor of the city of Houston, Annise D. Parker, for her contribution to this project despite a busy schedule while exiting the mayoral seat. I know you will continue to be a strong LGBTQIA activist for many years to come.

To my beautiful and darling mother, Janet Smith, your examples of faith, courage, and sacrifice gave me much inspiration over the years to follow my dreams.

To my lovely wife, Cecilia Hoston, I love you. You have given my life such love, happiness, and joy. My wife and my son, William T. Hoston Jr., are my world. I want to thank both of them for giving my life more balance and purpose.

To my family and friends venturing to read this book who are devout Christians, see the world through a normative ideological lens, and will not agree with the words written on each page, please know that God directed me to write this book in the vein of black love. As the old folks say, “He put it on my heart” to write about the trials and tribulations of black transgender women because they are a part of the black community and must not be treated as outsiders.

Thank you to the transgender community for supporting me in the process of writing this book. I am a black cisgender man. Moreover, as a black cisgender man writing about the lived experiences of black transgender women, it was vital for me to be responsible for advocating, providing balance, and presenting principled criticisms in a manner most beneficial to the transgender community. To the best of my ability, I attempted to avoid cis-centric pitfalls. During the process of collecting information for this book, one black transgender woman who refused to participate said, “Thank you for asking, but I’m concerned about a book that examines black trans women’s experiences being written for them by a black man instead of one of us.” This sentiment reinforced the need for me to make sure that I put forth the effort to write a book that the black transgender community as a whole would be proud of when reading. Even after the completion of this book, I solicited the help of several of the black transgender women interviewed to read drafts of each chapter, provide constructive critique, and to make sure that this book has readability outside of academia. While this book may not encapsulate the spectrum of womanhood for all black transgender women, I hope that there is an appreciation for the effort. ← xviii | xix →

I am grateful to Peter Lang Publishing for believing in this project. Thank you to Meagan K. Simpson, Michael Doub, and Jennifer Beszley for your editorial guidance and expertise.

To you whom I have not named, please know that even though you are not named in this book, I deeply appreciate what you have contributed to my life. Your contributions have helped this “Black boy fly.”

| xxi →


Words from Mia Ryan

William T. Hoston’s book is one of the first of its kind to discuss the multiple intersections of the black trans experience. During a period in American history where trans people have had the most exposure, this book addresses the societal and cultural tug-of-war that continues to hinder the acceptance of black trans women. Most of all, it talks about the urgent need to safeguard black trans lives.

When I was born, I was medically assigned the sex of male. My parents gave me a name, Ryan Hogues. I was also required to assume a socially constructed racial and gender identity. Although I was born into this world assigned as both black and male, I understand that a fixed racial and gender identity does not indeed exist. Unfortunately, many people in our society do not see the world this way.

Growing up in Lamarque, Texas, a small town 50 miles south of Houston, I experienced constant bullying and teasing, which began during my elementary-school days. Even worse, I experienced abuse from my stepfather who believed he could beat the perceived “gay” out of me. The bullying and abuse continued into my teenage years. No one around me took the time to understand who I was as a person. Eventually, I left home at 13 years old in an attempt to escape the abuse. ← xxi | xxii →

When I left home, I sought refuge. I sought people who did not see race as real. I sought people who did not see gender as real. I wanted to immerse myself into a world where I could find out who I was. In the process of the coming out phase in my life, I wanted to be a part of a world that would accept me for whom I was becoming: A black transgender woman. I did not want to be a part of a world that still considered me a man because I have a penis. Those in this world use their fixation on genitalia as a weapon against my being and refuse to acknowledge my transition to becoming a woman.

The lived experiences of a trans person often depict how difficult and complicated it is to live in a society that believes our identities do not truly exist. For many trans people, our lives are no longer filled with family, friends, and loved ones. After the transition and lack of acceptance, many of us are forced to start over. Alone. For example, in my case, after I transitioned I lost connection with my family and friends. The greatest loss was that of my father and mother. Although these relationships are on the mend, the fabric of them is permanently torn. The two people who birthed me do not truly see me the way I desire for the world to see me.

Because so many people are attached to believing that biological sex is the same as gender, and also believe heterosexuality as the norm in our society, these views set the stage for non-acceptance, and we are often forced to survive by any means necessary. Consequently, many trans people, especially trans women, are placed in compromising circumstances that cost us our lives. I am optimistic that if those in mainstream society knew of the hardships and struggles that many trans people face, they would become allies and be more caring and compassionate.

It is my hope that this book will help to stop the transphobic violence perpetrated against black trans women. Therefore, I wish that members of society be less judgmental and more inclined to accept trans, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people so that senseless acts of violence, murders, and other forms of suffering cease. Our stories need to be told, not swept under the rug by politicians, law enforcement officials, or misrepresented in the media. This book is a step in the right direction, and I am happy that my truth will be told.

Mia Ryan

Author, Actress, Motivational Speaker, and Activist

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XXIV, 192
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (June)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XXIV, 192 pp., 11 tables

Biographical notes

William T. Hoston (Author)

William T. Hoston, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Houston–Clear Lake. He is the author or editor of three academic books: New Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity: Critical Readings about the Black Experience in Trump’s America (2018); Race and the Black Male Subculture: The Lives of Toby Waller (2016); and Black Masculinity in the Obama Era: Outliers of Society (2014).


Title: Toxic Silence
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