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 2016-10-19
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



VIEWPOINTS Finding My Brother, Miss Gay Black America
by Mary Morten

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 . 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.


Gay News

Relationships & the Law Today 2016-10-19 - The Illinois Supreme Court recently held in Blumenthal v. Brewer, 2016 IL 118781, that couples who are not married to each other have ...

Gay News

VIEWS The Constitution should protect sex work 2016-10-19 - As courts confront challenges to prostitution laws that pile fines and criminal records on people who get paid for consensual sex, we're making ...

Gay News

MOMBIAN Telling stories of Jewish LGBTQ lives 2016-10-19 - The Jewish High Holiday season recently took place, so let's take a look at some new stories that feature queer, Jewish families, including ...

Gay News

NUNN ON ONE: Trans model Isis King struts out with a new show 2016-10-19 - Reality star Isis King first made a splash on America's Next Top Model, becoming the first transgender person to compete on the show. ...

Gay News

'Love Is All You Need?' showing Oct. 30 2016-10-19 - The film Love Is All You Need? will be shown Sunday, Oct. 30, at 2 p.m. at Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted ...

Gay News

Remastered 'Divine Miss M' out Oct. 21 2016-10-19 - Rhino will revisit the early days of Bette Midler's career with a deluxe version of her iconic 1972 debut album, The Divine Miss ...

Gay News

18 years after hate killed Matthew Shepard, the politics of hatred today 2016-10-16 - "We are still fighting the hate that killed Matthew." On the 18th anniversary of her son's brutal murder, Judy Shepard — also ...

Gay News


Gay News

Clinton addresses LGBT equality 2016-10-12 - Philadelphia Gay News ( PGN ) reached out to the Democratic and Republican candidates for president, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, to discuss ...

Gay News

Knight at the Movies: LGBTQ highlights of the Chicago International Film Festival 2016-10-12 - The 52nd edition of the Chicago International Film Festival kicks off Thursday, Oct. 13, with the Chicago premiere of director Damien Chazelle's ( ...


Copyright © 2016 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.








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.
[email protected]  •  [email protected]  •  [email protected]

Website Powered by