Raised in South Carolina, Tracee McDaniel left the South seeking community as a transsexual woman to return years later more in love with her family and southern roots. The founder of Juxtaposed Center for Transformation Incorporated, an Atlanta based advocacy, consulting, and social services referral organization working to improve the quality of life for all Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming community members, Tracee shares her incredible journey, activism, wisdom for families, and newly published book Transitions: Memoirs of a Transsexual Woman with SPARK during our Mama’s Day celebration with Strong Families!
SPARK: What is family to you?
Tracee: Family to me is unconditional love, accepting our flaws and all. As a family, sometimes we disagree, however, we know that we love each other. A family is constantly working out the issues, and hopefully, there aren’t very many. Family is a support system for when I am tired and frustrated — I can talk to them.
I was born and raised in South Carolina and my immediate family still lives there. My spouse and I met in California but have lived in Georgia for ten years. I wanted to move closer to home because my mother is getting older, and I didn’t want to have to deal with the airport and all that other drama. I just wanted to be able to get into a car and drive to see her. So, we decided that Georgia would be the place.
SPARK: You seem to have a close relationship with your mom?
Tracee: Yes, definitely. We have had our issues, especially growing up as a trans woman. Now, it’s a totally different story. We just had a conversation about the book I recently published. She felt guilty about some things, and I told her — it is from a child’s perspective. I view things differently. And to be quite honest, if it wasn’t for my mother’s strict ways, I probably would not be alive right now.
SPARK: Navigating family issues is a balancing act that a lot of queer and Trans people encounter. Could you share more?
Tracee: Well, sometimes you just have to separate yourself, which is what I did. When I was old enough to be out of South Carolina, I was out of South Carolina. So sometimes you have to put some distance and space. Eventually, and hopefully, it will get better. If I didn’t put the space and miles between us, I don’t think we would have had the relationship we have now. And sometimes it’s okay to say, “This is all I can handle now. Maybe later things will go differently and we will both be open and willing.” But it has to be on both parts. People mature as time goes by.
SPARK: Could you tell us about your book?
Tracee: It’s entitled Transitions: Memoirs of a Transsexual Woman. It’s essentially the story of my life in South Carolina, the dynamics of my family unit, and the challenges that I faced growing up transgender — before I knew what transgender and gender non-conforming were. I wanted to tell my story in my own words — express my feelings about certain things and to heal from them. The process was very cathartic and healing for me because I got a chance to address some challenges and issues I faced growing up, and I am so happy I have a mother who supports that.
SPARK: It’s amazing, yet, unfortunately rare for many queer and Trans people to reconnect with their family after leaving.
Tracee: Oh my gosh! I consider myself blessed. And that’s what I told my mother. I just sent her a copy of my book and she was concerned about some of the feelings I expressed — and I wanted her to know, that although I felt that way as a child, I don’t feel that way now. I know she did the best she could with what she had. And although we had our challenges growing up, you better believe that there is no one in my family who would disrespect me in her presence.
Now, my spouse and I go home for holidays and stay at my family’s home. I love sitting out by the fire and having one on one conversations with my mother.
SPARK: You mentioned that writing the book was cathartic. Please share other ways that you center yourself and take care?
Tracee: I don’t start my day without meditation and prayer. I feel that it is very important to be centered and to have a spiritual foundation. I started visiting the Yogananda fellowship at the garden in the Palisades, California, and from there, I just started realizing the positive aspects of meditation. I dealt with challenges within and stopped looking to others to solve those challenges for me.
SPARK: What are some of the issues you work on and policies you feel need to change?
Tracee: I am currently working with other community activists to prevent a banishment of sex workers in Atlanta, GA. This city ordinance is an attack on low-income people, communities of color, and trans women of color especially. We are researching what other cities are doing that empowers these communities instead of cutting them out of vital resources located in the city boundaries such as HIV testing, homeless shelters, access to their children and family, etc.
In addition to blocking the ban, we need to end employment discrimination. Transgender job applicants repeatedly tell me that once their gender identity is discussed, they have been shut out of employment. This leads to a lot of the street-level sex work that keeps many queer and trans people fed: It’s about survival. Finally, I’d like to see protections for trans women in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
SPARK thanks Tracee McDaniel for her dedication to uplifting our communities and sharing with us her path to healing, happiness, and love for her mother! During this Mama’s Day, Tracee reminds us the best gift we can give is compassion. “We’re all human beings — even mothers. Mothers aren’t perfect. They do the best they can with the knowledge that they have. It’s a blessing to have a relationship with your mother — so whatever is going on try and have a close relationship with your parents and to not give up.”