Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2017-10-11
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

VIEWPOINTS Finding My Brother, Miss Gay Black America
by Mary Morten
2012-12-03

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


In the past few decades, a divide has emerged in the LGBT population, between the transgendered and gay communities. The transgendered community is seen as "other," and often as a novelty, particularly in the case of female impersonators or drag queens. What many people in the LGBT community often forget (or never knew to begin with) is that the transgendered community have put themselves on the front line in the battle for equal rights.

When the Stonewall Inn was raided in June of 1969, female patrons of the bar were taken into the women's bathroom to have their genders "checked". Of course, some of the patrons who were dressed as and appeared to be female were not, and these men became some of the first of many to fall victim to the fight for equality. Though this would not be the last time that the transgendered community took the first hits from the population at large, its spirit was never broken, and as years have gone by, it has grown stronger and evolved into what it has become today.

Transgendered people are often dismissed as not being a part of the gay community, but what may people forget is that while we as gay men and women do not necessarily wear our gayness on our sleeves, the transgendered community is not always afforded the option.

Ronnie Reed was the youngest of four brothers and two younger sisters on the south side of Chicago. He taught his sisters how to wear make up, made their prom dresses, and showed them how to style their hairpieces just right. An effeminate black boy in the 1970s, Ronnie stuck out from other men in his community on the South Side, and suffered prejudices and harassment until he was old enough to move away and pursue his interests in hair styling.

While working in hair salons, Ronnie fell in love with the entertainment industry. Soon Ronnie became drag performer Terri Livingston and began touring around the country and the world with his act, often focusing on the persona of singer Shirley Bassey. Over the course of his hair styling career, Ronnie worked with such personalities as Stephanie Mills and Maurice Hines, while also serving a tour in Vietnam.

Ronnie soon became so enthralled by the entertainment and hair styling industries that he would not contact his family for months at a time. His mother died in 1981 and since his family had no way of reaching him, they endured the tragedy without him. He did not find that his mother had passed away until several months later when he called home.

Terri was known in the drag community nation and worldwide; she performed at clubs across the country and was a regular at the Miss Continental Contest at the Baton Show Lounge in Chicago. In 1989, Terri was crowned as the first Miss Gay Black America at Club 21 in Indianapolis, IN. Unfortunately, Terri had contracted HIV, which had developed into AIDS in 1987. He was living in Indiana by that time, and refused to come home to be a burden, against the wishes of his sisters and brother, who wanted to take care of him. By the time of the pageant, he was so sick that he was unable to complete the competition, but was still crowned queen.

Terri Livingston was my brother. I was one of the little girls whose hair he did, whose clothes he made, whom he taught how to wear make up. It didn't seem at all wrong; we just assumed that this was how Ronnie was. He moved away from the prejudices of the South Side of Chicago as soon as he could, falling into a world of drag performance that I really knew nothing about except when I found my 8th grade graduation shoes in his closet. Since he got very sick right after we reconnected and continued to travel when he could, I never got to ask him so many things about his life that I wanted to know. My family was not one to have prejudices against our brother—his illness wasn't an issue, regardless of its origin. He was our brother, he was sick, and we were going to take care of him.

I am currently in preproduction for a film that I am calling Miss Gay Black America: The Terri Livingston Story, which will explore Terri's unique life through interviews both with his old friends and fans and the owners and managers of clubs in which he used to perform. The film will also examine the evolution of the culture and public perception of female impersonation, specifically its evolution since the 1980s as well as the drag community's reaction to the AIDS epidemic.

Miss Gay Black America: The Terri Livingston Story is a tribute to my brother Terri Livingston—an amazing performer, and an amazing person. Throughout this project, I hope to get to know the man, and woman, that I didn't get to know when he was alive.

If you knew Terri—as a performer, friend, or anything else—please e-mail me at admin@mortengroup.com . I would love to hear any stories that you have about my brother and interview you for the film.

Mary F. Morten

Director, Miss Gay Black America


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

FILM Big names show up for 'Marshall' event 2017-10-18 - The 53rd Chicago International Film Festival opened Oct. 12 with a red-carpet event before the screening of the new flick Marshall at AMC ...


Gay News

GUEST COLUMN Fighting transphobia 2017-10-18 - A lot of people believe that being completely open with your significant other is an important part of any relationship, but to what ...


Gay News

'50s return in Pride Films' 'Arrangement' 2017-10-18 - Pride Films and Plays is now presenting Perfect Arrangement, by Topher Payne, through Oct. 22, 4139 N. Broadway, Chicago. It's 1950, and new ...


Gay News

Kathy Bates gets personal at Lynn Sage event 2017-10-18 - Actress Kathy Bates was the guest speaker at the Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation's 32nd annual luncheon on Oct. 2 at the Hilton ...


Gay News

Film festival to honor Alfre Woodard 2017-10-18 - The 53rd Chicago International Film Festival, presented by Cinema/Chicago, announced that actress Alfre Woodard will be honored with a Career Achievement Award as ...


Gay News

Freelancers Anonymous LGBTQ comedy feature filmed in Chicago 2017-10-16 - Award-winning Spanish filmmaker Sonia Sebastian ( De Chica en Chica/Amazon ) teams up with Lisa Cordileone and playwright Amy Dellagiarino on Freelancers Anonymous, ...


Gay News

Five Worth Finding: Monteverde, Chicago Ideas Week and more 2017-10-11 - —Monteverde: Monteverde Executive Chef Sarah Grueneberg won Best Chef Great Lakes at the James Beard Awards this year—and for good reason. Her West ...


Gay News

Social-change film festival Oct. 13-15 2017-10-11 - The national nonprofit organizaiton Social Change will host its social-change film festival, #ChangeFest, in three states: Illinois, California and New York. In Illinois, ...


Gay News

GUEST COLUMN Welcome 2017-10-11 - My name is Toni Marie Preston. I am a Black, queer, trans femme with sickle cell disease. I'm also currently a senior sociology ...


Gay News

Queer Brown filmmakers collaborate with CPS students 2017-10-11 - Vincent Martell didn't find himself inspired by filmmaking until he went to college in Barcelona. There, Martell, who now runs VAM Studios ( ...


 



Copyright © 2017 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.