Friday, April 27, 2012

Know Your LGBT History - Venus Xtravaganza

I am featuring a rather sad edition of Know Your LGBT History



From Wikipedia:

Venus Xtravaganza (died 1988) was a transgender American saving up money for sex reassignment surgery while earning a living as a prostitute in New York City. Venus Xtravaganza came to national attention appearing in Jennie Livingston's Paris Is Burning, a 1990 documentary film about New York City ball culture. The story of her life as a transgender person living in New York City and subsequent murder form a story arc within the film. Venus was featured on the original 1990 theatrical release poster in for the film.
Born to an Italian American family, she took the female name Venus in her early teens. As is the tradition of the gay ball culture, she took the name Xtravaganza upon becoming a member of the House of Xtravaganza in 1983. The house, like similar houses, is named in the style of European fashion houses (e.g. House of Chanel) and is an affiliation of young drag queens, transgender and gay youth who have come together around the underground Harlem drag ball scene.

In Paris Is Burning, she says she wanted to be "a spoiled, rich, white girl living in the suburbs." [1] She shares a story of her time as a prostitute where one of her clients became enraged upon the discovery that Venus was not a cissexual woman. Venus fled through a window and, fearing for her life, claims to have left the prostitution business as a result, opting instead to work as an escort. On her life as a prostitute, she claims "If you're a married woman living in the suburbs, a regular woman, married to her husband...and she wants him to buy her a washer and dryer set, in order for him to buy that I'm sure she'd have to go to bed with him anyway - for him to get what he wants, for her to get what she wants. So in the long run, it all ends up the same way".

According to her transgender adopted House mother Angie Xtravaganza as told in the film, Venus Xtravaganza was found strangled and stuffed under a bed in a New York hotel room in 1988. Her body was discovered by a stranger four days after her death.

To me Venus was an awesome child with a lot of potential. She made bad choices and those choices subsequently caused her death. But she was led into those choices by an ignorant and uncaring world.

It's something we should all remember. We justifiably get shocked when we hear about our lgbtq brothers and sisters getting beaten up or murdered, but what about those whose spirits are slowly crushed by ugly words, nasty stares, and deliberate isolation? What about those who have the potential to change the world for the better but are never given the chance because of boot of the haters on their necks?

Venus was one and unfortunately she isn't the only one. Let's never forget to encourage each other every now and then.  Give a smile or a kind word to one of your lgbtq sisters you may see passing on the street. It doesn't matter whether you know them or not.

You would be surprised what good it could do.

Past Know Your LGBT History posts:

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Know Your LGBT History - Gay Rights, Special Rights

Know Your LGBT History - Alan Turing

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The Jeffersons and the transgender community   



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