Meet Deion (interviewed by Nat’t TRUTH Member, Andres)

Our National TRUTH Council works to uplift the stories and truths of trans young people throughout the US. In this project, Southwest member Andres nterviewed Deion via Twitter. Meet Deion!

What is your preferred name and pronouns? How old are you? What is the history behind your name?

My name is Deion. I’m 20 years old. I use they/them pronouns. I wanted a name that connected to my African American roots that was gender neutral because I’m not out to my family and I wanted a name that would appear like a nickname that my friends gave me. I went back and forth between Deion, Demarcus and Zaria. Zaria was a little too close to my deadname so that was out, Demarcus was a little too masculine and so I sounded Deion out in my head and it just felt right and I started using it around my senior year of HS and told my friends to call me that on NYE December 2015 and would start 2016 as Deion!!

I tell my family the folks at GSA gave me that nickname from the movie Clueless, Deon is the best friend of Cher and she’s super forward about how she feels and doesn’t take anyone’s shit. even though my name isn’t inspired by her, I like to tell them that story so that they’re like chill whenever my friends call me that without fully outing myself

How would you describe your gender identity and/or gender expression?

I ID as non-binary trans masculine. My gender expression is like…complicated because I’d like to dress more masculine/androgynous but I have to present feminine for safety reasons because I live in rural California so it’s either comfortability & risk of being harmed or dressing feminine and kinda sorta andro when I can to be safe. Also it’s about access as well, like I’m fat with wide hips and most masculine/andro clothing isn’t made with folks like me in mind

What is it like to be trans from where you are from?

I mean like being trans and living in rural California as someone who’s Afro-Latinx is like….a whole different experience from white trans folks.

We don’t have many resources catered to folks like us and the stuff that we do have is catered for AFAB white trans folks like I feel like they can easily come out and are super hellbent on being….truscum here which also sectors into racism. We try creating our own spaces and then they get co-opted by them and constantly get told we’re being racist against white people and need to stop talking about racism. So they’re VERY neoliberal and aren’t about liberation if it doesn’t center them.

They have an easier experience coming out because like…they’re men and not non-binary and fit the stereotype for being trans:  skinny, white, able bodied, young so people seem to be more accepting of THEM whereas the trans folks of color face discrimination and violence just for existing. We want to build coalitions and community work and utilize their resources but they literally just will not share them and if they do, it’s their way or the highway so once again, co-opting our shit. So we get burnt out a lot and then like…it’s even harder as an Afro-Latinx non-binary person like I don’t think I’ve ever met another black trans person in my direct area and I imagine they aren’t coming out because of how fucking racist white trans people are out here so they do it for safety.

Do you see a relationship between your identity as an Afro-Latinx person and a trans person?

I definitely see a relationship between both identities. I just can’t switch being trans and being black and brown off because that would erase every part of myself. For the most part I have to switch my non-binary self off at home or risk familial dismemberment and housing insecurity but once I step out that door, I’m Deion at school and at work and have to worry about someone from hs telling my family to spite me.

I guess I kinda contradicted myself there but like what I mean is I’m non-binary in every sense of the word but like out here in rural California trans folks of color kinda live a double life where we’re out to our chosen family but at home we have to suppress our identities to be safe. And then you have folks from your community who are so hellbent on separating race and other identities because they don’t think intersectionality is a thing. But with colonialism and colonization, we’ve always been here, and history shows that. We’ve just been erased as a form of white supremacy so when people say like oh being non-binary isn’t a thing or being trans is so new, they need to recognize what I just said.

And like even when there’s a Latinx centered space I’m like hmmmm you know do I belong even though I’m Afro-Latinx?? We have a large Latinx population in the Central Valley which is nice but like….they take up a lot of space in these conversations and then when it’s time to discuss anti-blackness and anti-indigeneity and this newfound reclamation of Indigenous identity is just…a lot to unpack. When Afro-Latinxs and indigenous folks try to call this shit out we’re always silenced or told that we’re being divisive but like…folks in my area are literally using AAVE or a blaccent and stealing our work and expect us to just be okay with it. Like literally folks in academia have a fucking podcast filled with nonblack people talking about black ass issues with a nonblack gaze/perspective and wanna call it “wokepocolypse” and when I tell you that I CRINGE!! Folks keep overusing our terms and language and end up making them meaningless and it really frustrates a lot of us but like I said…can’t bring it up or else you’re silenced or told that you’re being divisive.

And like I said, in these Latinx spaces, white Latinxs are ALWAYS the majority, same with mestisxs, and they always talk about shit that goes on in Mexico and like yes we have most folks from Mexico in Central Valley but like!! CENTRAL/SOUTH AMERICANS, Jamaicans, Africans, Haitians are all here too but like sure let’s center y’all lmao

I can’t relate to pan dulce or Selena or going to mass and all that other shit and that’s ALL THEY TALK ABOUT. No mention of TPS or African immigrants or how they’re complacent in a lot of shit.

What does visibility mean to you?

Visibility to me isn’t like what it is for Gina Rodriguez’s anti-black ass saying we need a Latinx version of a black ass movie

Visibility for me is seeing mentors/teachers/community members who look like me and

hear me when I talk about these issues. I don’t base visibility on what people with wealth can do for me because I know I’m not gonna be rich so that’s not my future. As someone who will be an ancestor, I want folks to see that work that I’m doing now and create that legacy that will inspire them to lead as well

Visibility in terms of actors/actresses that I do think is important is like movies like Roma or just movies that don’t have Afro-Latinxs as maids or like the sassy black friend who happens to speak Spanish. Three celebrities who I really admire and get emotional about because I did feel represented are women like Amara la Negra, Celia Cruz and Yalitza because they’re women with black and brown skin and are doing amazing work outside of acting/singing.

So you mention how oftentimes as a trans Afro-Latinx person you struggle to navigate spaces due to the way White Latinx take up space. Can you elaborate further on that?”

I think it’s literally just the disconnect we have, I’ll mention TPS affecting African immigrants/migrants as a way to try to inform them and they’re literally just not listening or don’t seem to care. And that’ll be a conversation for like 10 minutes but they can have like hour-two hour long convos about like…Mestisx shit and it’s frustrating. It’s very Mexican centered and as an Afro-Mexican like god even bringing up issues like colorism, fucking…the erasure of us not even in the US but Mexico and other Latin American countries is just like…unheard of to them so they’ll accuse us of lying or saying it’s made up or that Mexico doesn’t have an issue with racism and spend that time we have arguing with us instead of learning from us. But racism in Mexico does exist because Afro-Mexicans weren’t even on the census until 2015…so who’s lying? And like even at these events, since I do have to present feminine for safety I’ll still get misgendered EVEN WHEN WE HAVE OUR PRONOUNS ON THE FUCKING NAMETAG.