Interview with Dawn Josephine Wilson, June 19, 2018

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:00 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: This is Adriana Sisko at the Nunn Center.

Segment Synopsis: Dawn Josephine Wilson is introduced. She gives a brief overview of her career and hobbies.

Keywords: Careers; Championships; Commissioners; Fencing; Human Relations Commission; Information technology (IT)

00:01:06 - Childhood

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Partial Transcript: Uh, before we get to all of that, because I, I definitely want to know more about all those things, especially the fencing.

Segment Synopsis: Wilson talks about her birth in Chicago, Illinois, the death of her parents when she was young, and being adopted by her aunt and uncle. She talks about the way her aunt and uncle raised her and how they influenced her interests. She talks about the friends and family members she played with as a child.

Keywords: Atari; Athletics; Aunts; Baseball; Boys; Child rearing; Child-rearing; Cousins; Deaths; Discrimination; Fathers; Friends; Games; Gender; Girls; Interests; Kentucky; Mothers; Newspapers; Parents; Reading; Sports; Uncles; Video games

Subjects: Chicago (Ill.); Childhood; Families.; Hobbies.

00:07:24 - Middle school and high school

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about, um, middle school.

Segment Synopsis: Wilson talks about her experiences in middle and high school, including her friends, clubs, and activities.

Keywords: Choirs; Competition; Cousins; Expectations; Friends; High schools; Middle schools; Speech and debate

Subjects: Childhood; Education; Families.

00:10:56 - Religion

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned you grew up Pentecostal.

Segment Synopsis: Wilson talks about being raised Pentecostal by her parents before their deaths, and then attending a Missionary Baptist church with her aunt and uncle. She talks about the differences between the churches and why she preferred the Pentecostal church. She talks about her experience with the church after coming out as a woman. She talks about preaching a sermon herself and describes the message of the sermon.

Keywords: ARC principal; Adulthood; Aunts; Churches; Current political administration; Current political environment; Divisions; Ethics; FDR; Fathers; Fear; Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Friends; Messages; Ministers; Missionary Baptist churches; Mothers; Pentecostal churches; Preachers; Reactions; Sermons; Uncles; Values

Subjects: Childhood; Coming out (Gender identity); Gender expression.; Politics and government; Religion; Transgender identity; Transgender people--Identity.; Transgender people.

00:21:52 - Awareness of LGBT people in her early life

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Partial Transcript: Growing up, um, what was your awareness of the existence of LGBT people?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson discusses her awareness of LGBT people, specifically through Jet magazine. She talks about her own research on transgender people and her learning process prior to coming out.

Keywords: Awareness; Black community; Black culture; Clothes; Clothing; Discrimination; Family; Gay; Graduate schools; High schools; Internet; Jet (magazine); Joan Roberts; LGBTQ; Louisville Gender Society; Process; Research; Resources; Terms; Uncles; World War II

Subjects: African Americans--Social conditions; Childhood; Coming out (Gender identity); Transgender identity; Transgender people--Identity.; Transgender people.

00:30:13 - Exclusion of gender identity in ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act)

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Partial Transcript: How frequently, um, were trans people or the topic of trans things or just gender things mentioned in Jet?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson talks more about her awareness of transgender people. She talks about her own involvement in the attempt to pass a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which included gender identity. She talks about how that version of ENDA was changed by the Human Rights Campaign Fund and gender identity was excluded. She talks about her work with politicians to attempt to pass ENDA. Ultimately, ENDA did not pass.

Keywords: Back lobbying; Barney Frank; Bills; Bisexuality; Christine Jorgensen; Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA); Exclusion; Human Rights Campaign (HRC); Human Rights Campaign Fund; Lorrainne Baskerville; Lorrainne Sade Baskerville; Marsha P. Johnson; Matachine; Mitch McConnell; Problematic; Roberta Angela Dee; Roberta Brown; Southern Comfort Transgender Conference; Strategy; Sweet Evening Breeze (James Herndon); White gay men

Subjects: Gender identity.; Homosexuality in the workplace.; Homosexuality--Law and legislation.; Legislation; Politicians; Politics and government; Transgender identity; Transgender people--Identity.; Transgender people--Legal status, laws, etc.; Transgender people.

00:43:21 - Southern Comfort Transgender Conference

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned Southern Comfort a couple times.

Segment Synopsis: Wilson talks about the purpose of the Southern Comfort Transgender Conference and how the organization has changed over time.

Keywords: African Americans; Black Trans Advocacy Coalition; Monica Helms; Robert Eads; Southern Comfort Transgender Conference; Transgender community; Washington, D.C.

Subjects: Gender identity.; Transgender identity; Transgender people--Identity.; Transgender people.; Washington (D.C.)

00:47:41 - Louisville Gender Society and BGB

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Partial Transcript: Uh, you mentioned a few times the Louisville Gender Society.

Segment Synopsis: Wilson talks about the activities of the Louisville Gender Society and the BGB. She talks about violence against transgender people of color.

Keywords: BGB (formerly Bluegrass Belles); Going out; Isolated; Louisville Gender Society; Minorities; Murder; Public; Restaurants; Transgender people of color; Visibility; Younger generations

Subjects: African Americans--Social conditions; Gender identity.; Transgender identity; Transgender people--Identity.; Transgender people--Violence against; Transgender people.; Violence

00:53:09 - Sweet Evening Breeze ("Sweets") / Personal support system

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Partial Transcript: Uh, this is backtracking slightly.

Segment Synopsis: Wilson talks about meeting Sweets (Sweet Evening Breeze), a gender non-conforming person who, through the Depression, World War II, and desegregation, cut a path as an openly gay man, drag queen, or possibly a transgender woman. She talks about Sweets' legacy, including a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth currently being developed. She talks about why Sweets' life was an open secret in the Lexington community. She talks about her own support group when coming out, and some of her family's reactions.

Keywords: Backlash; Black community; Black culture; Churches; Family; Gender non-conforming individuals; Gender non-conforming people; Homeless shelters; LGBTQ youth; Legacies; Minorities; Open secrets; People of color; Positive attitudes; Support groups; Support systems; Survival; Sweet Evening Breeze (James Herndon); Transition

Subjects: African Americans--Social conditions; Coming out (Gender identity); Families.; Gender identity.; Transgender identity; Transgender people--Identity.; Transgender people.

01:01:57 - Coming out

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Partial Transcript: This is backtracking a bit but related to the things you're talking about, obviously.

Segment Synopsis: Wilson talks about applying the label 'girl' to herself from around the age of five. She talks about sneaking to wear women's clothes around the house when no one was home, and her aunt's reaction when she found out. She talks about her uncle's reaction to her coming out.

Keywords: Aunts; Clothes; Clothing; Discrimination; Family; Fashion; Gender; Girls; Labels; Reactions; Transition; Uncles; Women

Subjects: Childhood; Coming out (Gender identity); Families.; Gender identity.; Transgender identity; Transgender people--Identity.; Transgender people.

01:07:04 - Transition

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Partial Transcript: What was your emotional experience in transitioning?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson describes her emotions upon transitioning. She talks about her strategy for maintaining a career while transitioning. She talks about instances of discrimination she faced.

Keywords: Anger; Careers; Emotions; Internships; Jobs; Open; Reactions; Relief; Self-assured; Teaching; Transition

Subjects: Childhood; Coming out (Gender identity); Discrimination in employment; Employment--Kentucky; Families.; Gender identity.; Transgender identity; Transgender people--Identity.; Transgender people.

01:13:04 - Interest in anime

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Partial Transcript: You've mentioned a couple times your interest in anime.

Segment Synopsis: Wilson talks about her interest in anime, how she became interested through her uncle, and some of her favorite shows and films. She talks about the gender aspects of anime that she connects to.

Keywords: Anime; Bonding; Comic books; Conventions; Cosplay; Costumes; Exploration; Family; Saturday morning cartoons; Transition; Uncles

Subjects: Childhood; Coming out (Gender identity); Families.; Gender identity.; Hobbies.; Transgender identity; Transgender people--Identity.; Transgender people.

01:21:38 - Fencing

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Partial Transcript: Um, I wanted to ask about another one of your interests.

Segment Synopsis: Wilson talks about how she became involved in fencing after an injury while playing softball. She talks about when she felt a sense of belonging in the fencing group. She describes in detail her struggles as a transgender woman in fencing tournaments and some of the negative reactions she has received. She talks about her experience on the U.S. National Team and her continued experiences with discrimination. She talks about coaching fencing.

Keywords: Belonging; Cheating; Children; Churches; Coaching; Complaints; Hitting; Injuries; Interests; Kids; Louisville Fairness Ordinance; Louisville Fencing School; Paperwork; Reactions; Softball; Teaching; Tournaments; Transition; U.S. National Fencing Team; U.S. National Team; USA Fencing; Wheelchair fencing

Subjects: Coming out (Gender identity); Discrimination in sports; Fencing coaches; Fencing--Training.; Fencing.; Gender identity in sports.; Hobbies.; Sports.; Transgender identity; Transgender people--Identity.; Transgender people.

01:41:20 - Current political climate

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned a couple times now the current administration.

Segment Synopsis: Wilson discusses her feelings on the current political administration, their agenda, and the negative impact they are having on various aspects of the world.

Keywords: Agendas; Anti-gay; Canada; China; Donald Trump; Hatred; Jeff Sessions; Kellyanne Conway; Mike Pence; Mike Pompeo; Military; Minorities; People of color; Religion; Stephen Miller; Steve Bannon; Tariffs; Troops

Subjects: Discrimination.; Politicians; Politics and government; Transgender people--Legal status, laws, etc.; Transgender people.

01:48:59 - Hope for the future

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Partial Transcript: So we've looked at, um--

Segment Synopsis: Wilson talks about the things that give her hope for the future, including increased visibility of transgender people in media and educational materials. She talks about the increase in transgender people in elected positions, politics, and other influential professions. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Ball culture; Black community; Black culture; Changes; Doctors; Educational materials; Elected; Films; Future; Generations; Hopes; Human Relations Commission; Information; Jazz Jennings; Media; Pose (Television show); Representation; Saturday Church (Motion picture); Visibility

Subjects: Coming out (Gender identity); Gender identity.; Politicians; Politics and government; Transgender identity; Transgender people--Identity.; Transgender people.