We’re revisiting some of the previously unreleased segments from Aja’s interview with Hope Giselle—from what it takes to be in dialogue with someone on the opposing side of the ideological spectrum, to overcoming self-hate and colorism, to answering the question that nobody ever asks regarding what it really takes to make your dreams happen and so much more. If you haven’t heard the full interview, please check out Episode 3: Visibility Matters of Season 1 from The Sound Bath and we hope you’ll join us for Season 2, dropping in the Fall 2022.
Aja Monet (00:06):
Hello listeners. This is your host, Aja Monet, and I hope you all are doing well. Thanks for listening to The Sound Bath, brought to you by Lush Cosmetics.
Aja Monet (00:15):
Earlier this season I had the great pleasure to speak with Hope Giselle. For anyone who doesn't know, Hope is a powerful force. She got her start in activism and facilitation while in college at Alabama State University, where she helped found the school's first ever LGBTQ organization. She was also the first openly trans woman to graduate with a masters in fine arts from that school. And she has been outspoken ever since about issues related to trans and Black people in public spaces. She wrote a book about her experiences as a trans woman called Becoming Hope: Removing the Disguise, and has now founded her own nonprofit organization, AllowMe. Hope works with organizations like HRC, Freedom for All Americans, and LGBTQ University to help ensure that the voices of the community she's a part of are heard. Some parts of my earlier conversation with Hope never quite made it into the episode, which is why I'm so happy to be able to share them with you now.
Hope Giselle (01:22):
I think that a good question that I wish that I would've been asked is, what do I need to make my dream happen? I feel so often people will say like what is your dream? Or what is it that you see yourself doing in five years? Or where do you want to go from here, right? But nobody ever really asks you what it is that you need to make that happen. Like, what resources do you need to make that happen?
Hope Giselle (01:49):
And it's not necessarily that I'm looking for those people to offer them, but I feel like sometimes when you do have these major platforms and when you have these huge voices that are offering you space to have dialogue and discussion, it's cool because then their audience gets to hear about those resources and they might have people who are on their team that can provide them. And sometimes I just feel like I've missed out on the opportunity to put those things out there without forcing it into the conversation, when I really just wish that folks would kind of ask so that it doesn't seem like I'm the mad Black girl that's just, "Give me things to make this happen." Because far too often, I feel like that's what we end up doing and sounding like.
Aja Monet (02:31):
Can I ask, what do you need to make your dreams happen?
Hope Giselle (02:35):
I would like a team. I would like a team of dedicated individuals and creatives who are preferably Black and people of color that are passionate about the youth and passionate about queer youth and Black youth. And that are passionate about young Black women and the safety of young Black women, as well as the elevation of young Black men. I would like financial resource. It would mean a lot to have sponsors and people to really help take the messaging to the next level. It's not just about making sure that my voice is heard, but it's about being able to give platform to amazing people who don't have the platform that I have, but have access to me, being able to really foster more conversations.
Hope Giselle (03:14):
I wish that I have the resource to be able to provide a studio space in D.C., where Black creatives can come, especially Black queer young and youthful creators can come and do their own podcasts. If they would have access to their own ring light studio set up, if they would like to film content for their TikTok. I would love resource to have the space to cultivate meeting rooms, where young Black activists could come and gather and figure out what the next plan was, what the next action was going to be. You don't have to buy a space. You don't have to get a space. You don't have to worry about whether or not your family gets it, that you're this radical Black person or that you're this queer person who wants to do this work. You can just come into this safe space, do the work, and then also leave it there.
Hope Giselle (03:58):
I want to have resources where people can leave that work at work, even without it being this 9-5 that they go into every day. You can just leave your work where it is and not have to carry it with you all day, because I know really closely what it means to be an activist that doesn't get a chance to leave their work at work. Because so much of my work is indicative of who I am, all of the intersections of who I am at all times and it's just hard. So I would love to have resource to do all of those things. And I think that's just a start. That's just scratching the surface.
Aja Monet (04:32):
Is there anything else you would like to share with us or let us know about your wellness practice or things that you are currently working on that we should be looking out for or encouraged to experience in the coming future, in the near soon future?
Hope Giselle (04:47):
Yeah. Actually, if you have not already heard, I already have two books out. So, I have Becoming Hope: Removing the Disguise, as well as Until I Met Black Men. And those books are available wherever books are sold, honestly. I encourage everybody to get into those. It's not what you think, and neither one of the books is what you think. And I do the titles like that specifically for a reason, because I want people to be intrigued by them and also people to build their own story while reading the stories that I've cultivated. But I'm also getting ready to write a third and my first children's book. And so that'll be coming out towards the end of the year. And it's a trans-affirming Black girl, Black girlhood book that I'm working on with some folks.
Hope Giselle (05:31):
My podcast Can We Talk with Hope Giselle is coming back. So I'm really excited about that, and I'm excited about some of the conversations I've been able to have with people like Todrick Hall and Ts Madison and Angelica Ross coming back and it's going to be really dope. I'm just super excited about that. And just some dope partnerships that I can't speak about just yet, but you will see me working with some really cool people to do some really dope work this year. I think I'm going to focus a lot more on mental health and the ways of finding wellness within yourself and also ways to give out resources or pass on resources so that people understand how to better deal with their mental health and their mental status. So, a lot of stuff coming and it's going to be really great.
Hope Giselle (06:14):
My sisters are very stereotypically Latin and Hispanic looking. And so whenever I'm with my sisters, they become the thing that proves that I am a Cuban or Afro-Cuban person because they are these stereotypically light-skinned, curly-haired women. And that was always a thing for me is that I always wanted to hide it growing up. I would just say like, "Oh, I'm Haitian," you know and be done with it because people would believe it and they wouldn't question me. But the second that I said I was Cuban, it's like, "Oh, speak Spanish right now." And then if you did speak Spanish, it was one of those things where it's like, "Oh, you speak Spanish, but you still can't be Cuban because Cuban people are light skinned and Cuban people have this type of hair," and all of these things. So I dealt with a lot of real issues around trying to assimilate, especially in high school, because I went to a predominantly Cuban high school. And a lot of people thought that I was appropriating for a while.
Aja Monet (07:12):
Yeah. I mean, it's interesting to hear you speak about this because when I was coming up, the Caribbean has such a specific relationship to colorism. I think that while I would be considered lighter here in the States, in the Caribbean, I would be considered dark. So my father's side, my father's grandma and all of them, all the other kids in the family were very fair, lighter, way lighter than me. And the way that they were treated, the way that they would talk about complexion, you know what I mean, was very messed up. And it's funny that as a child, you're learning these things and it's just the norm, it's the air you breathe. So you don't really know anything but that. But as you get older, you start to learn what identity actually is and what it means and how you choose to identify. I think that that is such a, it is such an interesting coming of age reality that we experience, which is how does the world see you? And then how do you see yourself? And you grapple with that, you know what I mean, constantly.
Aja Monet (08:12):
So it's interesting to hear you talk about culturally, what it's meant for you to have to kinda prove yourself and then to live in a world that now, only now we're starting to find language for, wait, wait, wait, wait, how do we want to be identified? How do we choose to be identified?
Hope Giselle (08:31):
That's the thing. I feel like a lot of the time I revel in the idea of being a Black woman, just being a Black woman who happens to have roots in Cuba and roots that stretch back to Haiti and roots that stretch back to God knows where. But I don't like the idea of people using me for the nuances of my Blackness, because I think at the core of it all, what I did learn through a lot of those experiences in high school or just growing up in general, what I learned was that people see me as a Black person. I am a Black-bodied person before anything else. Before my Hispanic culture, before my rice and beans heritage, before my Grio heritage, I am a Black person to a lot of folks. And I had to recognize that when fighting the good fight, that is what a lot of people will see. And they don't care to know about the rest of my heritage because this hue of my skin is going to be the deciding factor of how they treat me for the remainder of the conversation or, you know, the exchange of energy.
Hope Giselle (09:38):
And so typically I will just tell folks, "I am a Black woman." And then when conversations lend themselves to the rest of my heritage, then I will make it known, which is why a lot of folks like you just didn't know just because it's not a necessary conversation piece for me. And also, I'm not sure if you can relate to this Aja, or if you've had friends. But I was definitely one of those people that was mixed and growing up when ... especially in our time growing up, it was one of those things where it was cool to say that you were mixed because we all had these very colorist ideals of what it meant to be a mixed person or what it meant to be anything but Black. And getting older and realizing that was a form of self-hatred and colorism, you know, towards myself, I am so proud to say that I'm Black now that it makes absolutely no sense. And everything else is a caveat to that Blackness, but it doesn't supersede it in the way that it did when I was growing up.
Aja Monet (10:31):
I'm just curious about what you've learned in relationship with other people and in the work that you've been doing that has allowed you to compassionately and tenderly be in conversation with people who essentially disagree with you, but also may not even always wished you well.
Hope Giselle (10:49):
When I'm choosing to interact with somebody, then I do that work for them as well so that I don't have to work overtime for myself, because I came into that space knowing that I am giving Cicely Tyson today. But I also have to be mindful that this person may not know what they're given today, but I'm going to check in with their energy first and see how I have to deal with you so that we can best have this conversation and dialogue before I engage you. Because I'm choosing to engage you, I'm choosing to engage in dialogue. And so the idea of me saying that because you don't agree with me, isn't enough of a reason for me to stop having this conversation or for me to bow out of the conversation, isn't enough for me anymore. And a lot of people just don't have the capacity to do that.
Hope Giselle (11:30):
I tell folks all the time, every battle is not worth fighting. And so it's going to be okay to check in with yourself and say, "You know what, today I do not have the capacity to deal with this bigot. Today I do not have the capacity to teach this racist. Today I do not have the capacity to uneducated this misled person." Right, and sit in that and be okay with that. But also, if you are going to engage with people, if you are going to have the hard conversations, then telling yourself the truth about who you are talking to in order to be able to have that conversation productively is going to be just as important. And that's kind of how I operate.
Aja Monet (12:15):
You've been listening to my conversation with thinker, author, trans activist, an incredible speaker, Hope Giselle. To hear more you can go back and listen to our full conversation in episode three of The Sound Bath, season one. Stay tuned. We'll have a whole new season launching in fall of 2022. So, please don't forget to like and follow us wherever you listen to your podcast so you can catch the new season when it drops. My name is Aja Monet. Thank you so much for listening.