I was shooting another series,
PeeP ShOw. PeeP ShOws about the Adult Bookstores, having spent so much time in them in NY when I started smoking Crack in
the early 90’s. I thought it would be interesting to capture the complex beauty, pain and loneliness of that environment.
I was leaving one of the locations where I was shooting the Series, Santa Monica and Highland in Los Angeles.as my eyes were
adjusting to the blaring Sun outside I noticed a Transgender Girl, too young to be called a Woman, walking west on Santa Monica
Blvd. it is not uncommon to see a Trans walking in that area any time of the day but what I took notice of was the looks of
disgust from the motorist stopped at the red light. Their eyes pierced through this young, Black, Trans Girl as though she
had caused them harm, as if it was because of Her the light was red, that they lost their job, that their lover had cheated
or what ever ills they experienced in life was all due o the existence of this “Tranny”. The light turned green
and as the cars crossed Highland I could hear one of the Passengers of one of the cars call out something nasty to to the
Trans Girl who’s earphones protected her from the barbs and daggers of the outside world. She was left unbothered but
I was not.
In my early 20’s I got hooked on
Crack Cocaine. I had been smoking it for 3 months before I knew it was Crack. My decent was as rapid as it was spectacular.
I had gone from having 3 jobs, Chemical Back, a Restaurant in BKLYN called Two Steps Down and a nightclub called Bentley’s.
In one year I had lost everything, two of the three jobs, my place in Brooklyn, my dignity and the greater part of my soul.
I slept on subway cars, streets and abandon buildings, PENN Station (pre 9/11). I would hustle in Time Square (pre Disney)
walking for hours, searching for days. I moved to Maryland in 93 to “sober up”, my Mother had sent me to a drug
rehab; in no time I was back, so I thought. I had this; I beat this thing…so I had thought. I left
the 1-year program 6 months after arriving, and moved to DC with a Childhood Friend. 6 months later I was back on the streets.
I was, homeless, helpless, and cracked out. I had taken to “Go – Go” - dancing (stripping) in
a Club” in DC. It was in these Clubs that I met Della, Crystal, Robert and all of the wonderful Trans and Drag Queens
(there is a difference). - Amazing People who had taken me, a broken shell of a person. They asked nothing of me. Not sex,
not even money. These were people who were at the bottom of societies totem pole. They were Black, Gay, and they were Fem,
dressed in woman clothes: many of them where Prostitutes but they took me in. They comforted me, fed me, housed me, protected
me and showed me love when I had none for myself. So, seeing the Motorists glaring, judging, hate seething at the sight of
this Trans Girl, lost in her music, lost in her thought and her mind, it bothered me. “How DARE YOU!!!! How fucking
dare you pass judgment on this person that you do not know!!!” My anger went to that, as Oprah says, Ah Ha moment. I
thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to do a series on these Kids. I approached Her, Chareecia, and told her about my
history of homelessness and addiction, how the Trans Community rallied to help me when I was down. I told her that I was an
Artist who’s only objective was to document their lives.
She would go on to introduce me to the rest of the Kids. They treated me with
skepticism and distance. They reluctantly posed for me like they where taking OProm Pictures in those whicker chairs we used
to take in the 80’s. I knew I had to earn their trust. - These where broken kids as I was once. I would be up a 5:30-6am
and out. I would stay with the kids until I had to get ready for work, work and then back out until 2-3am. I got to really
know and love these Kids, Chocolate, Barbie, Melissa, Sabrina, I got to talk with them and hear their stories. Mothers on
drugs, in and out of jails, abuse and molestation, foster homes that were not safe. - The feelings of being unloved, unwanted,
and having to deal with the internal conflict of gender and identification. - My focus started with the Girls, I knew how
determined they where, that no matter what they had been through they were still strong, intelligent, survivors, that where
I got the “…Queens from, there was a regality about them. Through the girls I met the Boys, hustlers,
“thug” like, broken, amazing young men who didn’t identify in “sexual” terms. Some were “pay
for play” others had real relationships with some of the Trans Girls. Hence, /Kings…” .
Shooting these Kids has been one of the
highlights of my life. Earning their trust, after 4 months of working really hard, watching some of them move past the streets
to careers, some black on the streets, some in jails others teasing away. I was given an opportunity to capture that moment
in their lives and for that I am grateful to MY KIDS.
“…Queens/Kings…” made its debut at The Gay and Lesbian
center in 2016, an exhibit celebrating Trans Month. Three of the images from the Series hung at The African American Museum
in Philly at the ”I Found God in Myself” exhibit celebrating the 40th anniversary of" Colored Girl Who Considered
Suicide when the Rainbow was Enough”. My Business Partner and I are currently working on a script titled …Queens/Kings…
about the experiences of these Kids.
I hope you, through these images, can see the Beauty of these kids as I saw their beauty
as I looked through the Lens.