Mama Gloria is a feature documentary about Gloria Allen, a 75-year-old Black trailblazing transgender activist who started a charm school for homeless trans youth and is now aging with joy and grace. It is the story of a mother’s love – the love that Gloria’s mother had for her and the love that Gloria has for her chosen children.
- [Narrator] Luchina Fisher's debut "Mama Gloria"
chronicles the uninhibited personality
and daily encounters of Gloria Allen.
Known as Mama Gloria to most,
she walks us through her experience
living as a trans woman of a certain age.
Mama Gloria intimately reflects on her trailblazing history
in creating a charm school
to welcome generations of LGBTQ youth.
Born George on Chicago's South Side,
Gloria's mother, grandmother, and great aunt
recognized her at a very young age.
Now in her 70s,
Mama Gloria channels these graceful ancestors
to advocate and mother the queer community.
The film celebrates Gloria's unconditional love,
fabulous style and poise overcoming obstacles.
On this episode of Afropop, Mama Gloria.
Afropop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange
celebrates its 13th season
with a collection of trailblazers, pioneers
and everyday black excellence.
A transgender activist,
a family searching for answers,
the women who give New Orleans its vibrance,
a revolutionary visual artist,
racism in the Dominican Republic,
a visionary mayor of Chicago
and a sound sweeping the streets of Cuba,
Afropop brings you across the world to experience blackness.
Funding for Afropop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange
is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
and the National Endowment for the Arts.
- It's an honor to be here tonight
to celebrate a living legend.
Legendary looks like the gorgeous, the generous,
the resilient, the luminous,
the brilliant, the loving, the one and only Gloria Allen.
You stand in the presence of a legend.
- Thank you so much.
For you all have to come out and honor me,
which I just am loving every minute of it,
but I'm accepting this.
But I'm accepting this award for the girls that taught me
and guide me through life
and they may not be here today
but they're here in my heart
and I'm accepting it for them as well as the youth too.
And thank you all so much.
It is a blessing to stand here,
to see you all.
And I am so proud of each and every one in this room.
And I love you.
And I thank God for you all and not I thank God
for the transgender people, because we are a blessing.
(audience cheering and applauding)
They're finally recognizing the older trans girls,
because we've been here, we've paved the way for them
and they should acknowledge us.
Back then we were brutally murdered or beaten up
and I just couldn't understand why they was doing this
to me and to my sisters.
But I got by,
I made it through by the grace of God
and I thank him today for holding on to me.
(soft piano music)
Trans girls need to know what I went through
and how I navigated
through the things in your life to get here today.
Young trans girls think they can't make it to 40.
They shouldn't have to feel that way.
- Since the beginning of this year
at least 18 transgender people have been murdered
in the United States.
- These are the faces of trans women of color
who were all murdered in cold blood.
- [Reporter] The deaths raising concerns with civil rights
and anti-violence advocates.
- When trans people are under attack, what do we do?
- [Crowd] Stand up, fight back!
- People need to know what we have to go through
being a transgender person.
Sometimes it can be difficult and scary
and then sometimes it can be beautiful.
How are you all?
- I like to make people's days better.
- Here, it's a little Coach coin purse
to go with your purse.
- Oh, bless your heart.
- I live for that moment! Oh my God!
What a good moment. - Thank you.
Oh, my goodness. (laughing)
You all, when I see you all,
you always continue to bless me, you know?
And it's a blessing just to see that you all are here
and out here and I'm proud of you.
- Well, we're proud of you,
we're proud to call you Mama Gloria.
- Okay. (laughing)
Well, I am so happy.
And be safe out here. - Of course.
- You too. - Please, be safe.
- All right.
Let me love up on you because it's cold.
- Okay, okay then.
And you all take care. - You too.
I was here one particular day at the Center on Halsted.
I was in the lobby.
They had the round tables down there
and everybody was sitting.
People that come from out of the neighborhood
to go into Whole Foods to shop
would be there with their children.
the young trans girls would come in
and actually you saw a floor show.
They shook and shaked everywhere.
I went over to them and I told them,
"You all shouldn't do this.
That's you know, you're being nasty and you're being ugly."
And one girl said,
"Oh, we're sorry, Mama Gloria."
That's how I got my name.
And I thought about it and I said,
"These girls don't have a clue.
They don't know what love is
and they don't know how to conduct themselves in public."
Then I said, "Well, let me get out here
and help somebody who really needs my help."
So a bell went off in my head and I said,
"They need a charm school here."
And that started it.
I would have classes twice a week
for the homeless trans girls and guys.
And it was a joy for me to sit there with them,
listen to their stories
and they had some stories to tell
and they would listen to me.
I would share things with them and everything.
And it was such a joy to
put myself out there
and then give myself to them, which I did.
Charm school is a place where I want girls to come in
and learn how to be a lady.
'Cause if you act like a lady,
you'll be treated like a lady.
And you know,
to be hoochie mama.
But it takes class
and to be proud of yourself, walk with your head up high.
And do those things then you could get through it.
You could be ugliest girl in the world, transgender girl,
but if you carry yourself with some dignity and pride
you're still beautiful. (audience laughing)
How are you?
This is another baby of mine.
You turned out to be an amazing young woman.
And I'm so proud of you.
- The reason why I felt emotional
and why I feel the tears coming is because number one,
I'm very happy.
And number two, it's because she taught me a lot
of what is more so like to be a lady
and to not be running out here in the streets.
I came a long way because of her.
- Yes, you did.
Yes, you did.
- And seeing her for the first time in a while,
it just, you know,
makes me emotional 'cause it's all coming back,
'cause sometimes I'll look back on where I used to be
to where I am now.
So she's a really good role model
so I'm really thankful to have people like her in my life.
So I'm just happy.
- Charm school was the thing for me.
And then after that, a writer in the Tribune
got in touch with me and asked could she interview me
and I said yes.
And then I get a call from Phil Dawkins.
He read the article, said this would make a good play.
And Phil Dawkins sat with me for about six months
in my class and listened and picked up on everything.
- Y'all think that kind of behavior is cute.
Well it is not cute.
You leave the (indistinct) and the fooling
to the (indistinct) and the fools.
In here we build each other up.
- The play was featured at Steppenwolf Garage Theatre
and it played to a packed house for four weeks.
And I get the chance to see it
because every night I was at the show.
They called me up and said,
"Well, we're gonna send you to Minnesota
because the play is going to be played there."
I went to Minnesota.
Then after that, they went to Washington
and then it went on to LA and it came to New York.
Ooh, me going to New York for a week
staying in there in the hotels
and going to rehearsal.
- I was trying to create a character
but the character was sitting right in front of me.
She sits at the rehearsal table with us
and I said, "I'm stealing it all.
I'm stealing your mannerisms.
I'm stealing your voice.
I'm stealing it all."
- Sandra was a trans woman,
but she didn't let nobody know until she got the script.
She read it and she came out.
She had the courage to come out because of my story.
I never thought that people would take me into their arms
and treat me like the way they're treating me now.
I feel like Snow White just being kissed
and woke up to life.
I was born in 1945.
My mother got into a torrid love affair
with a man named Bill Dice.
Mr. Dice I found out later on as I got older
was my father.
My mother was 18,
pregnant with me and her father
put my mother out of the house.
Some people downstairs helped her to go to her mother
in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
And my mother stayed there until she gave birth to me.
And then we came back to Chicago.
We lived on 43rd and State.
My mother was a Jet and a role model.
They called my mother the black Marilyn Monroe.
She was stacked to no end
and she could stop traffic walking down the street.
My mother was the one that had the name
that they gave me in high school,
the body, she had a body.
My grandmother was a seamstress.
Oh, she could sew clothes.
And the drag shows on the South Side was a big business.
They had 'em at the Club DeLisa,
The Grand Ballroom,
Robert's Show Club
and The Jewel Box Revue.
♪ You can't be my jockey right all over town ♪
♪ You can't be my jockey right all over town ♪
♪ I want my jockey with me
♪ When my love comes down
- I was at home with her one day.
Some of the drag girls came to the house.
She'd make gowns and they were beautiful.
And then the male strippers, they would get naked
and she would be sewing their G-strings
or whatever they called them back then.
And I would just look at my grandmother,
how could you do that?
And she said, "Honey, it's business,
I got to make my money."
And she did.
Then my mother met Arteal.
Arteal Allen was a much older man.
He was 13 years older than my mother
and my mother got pregnant again with his son, Herbert.
Then she had a set of twins, Elbert and Arteal.
The boys, the men in my life, my family members,
they didn't take no time up with me.
And my dad never told me he loved me.
My mother was in a loveless marriage
and she stayed with Arteal for convenience.
But my mother was so in love with Bill Dice
and my mother would leave me with the kids
and she would be gone weeks.
Two weeks and then come home like it was nothing.
I didn't get the nurturing that I was supposed to have.
And my younger siblings, they didn't get it either
because they had to get it from me.
My mother had an illness
which they didn't talk about then in those days.
But my mother, she suffered from postpartum depression,
having all these babies and she just couldn't cope with it.
My mother was in show business
so she was around a lot of entertainers and show people.
They were transgender girls back then
and they'd be out on the streets in the clubs.
It was a flourishing thing
but they didn't mention transgender.
They were called sissies.
And my mother would talk about the girls to me
and I would just sit back and listen to her.
My mother knew what I was going to end up being.
She knew then.
I was prissy, you know?
I'd sit back with my hands folded.
I loved cutting out paper dolls.
I love snatching the dolls from my cousins
and combing the hair.
I used to look at my mother and I said,
"Oh, I wish I could be like her."
I knew I was a girl
in the wrong body
and I didn't like it.
I didn't want to be a boy.
And I said when I got older I was gonna change.
I graduated from Betsy Ross Grammar School
and then I went on to Englewood High School.
It was nice sometimes, sometimes it wasn't.
I was being chased home,
bricks, bottles thrown at me.
And I would go home and I just cried to my mother.
I believe it was beginning of my sophomore year.
I was changing myself.
I was getting more and more feminine
and I did girly things.
And one particular day I was coming home
from the Michigan Theater show
with my cousin and my little brother,
these four guys,
three of them went to Englewood High School,
grabbed me and took me up into a gangway.
They raped me.
And my cousin told my father where they had taken me
and my father, he came
and he protected me
and he caught one of the guys.
And they had the barbed wired fence
and the boy got up to run
and my father grabbed him near the fence.
And my father was going to crush his neck.
I begged my father don't do it, no, don't do it,
because I didn't want my dad to go to jail.
They caught the guys because I knew who they were.
And I had to go back and forth to court.
They cross examined me and all these dumb questions
they were asking me.
And I dropped out of high school
because I didn't want to go back to be talked about
and looked at, you know, the shame of it all.
People looked at me like I was just nothing.
And they treated me like I got was nothing.
But I went back.
And I went back stronger than I was before.
I kept everybody laughing.
And I was voted the most friendliest in high school
out of 600 and something seniors
that was going there during that time.
And then I was voted a class officer, Sergeant at Arms.
What does the Sergeant at Arms do?
Well, they kept order.
Me, keeping order and I did.
In high school the only friends I had was girls.
The guys didn't like me and I didn't like them either so.
- Hi, beautiful. - How you doing?
- How are you? - Fine, and you?
- I'm fine. - That's good.
- Now let me ask you,
I'm a little ignorant. - Yeah, go ahead.
- Sometimes not politically correct.
- Go ahead. - Would you be
a trans gender female, a trans gender male
- Or do you just say just transgender?
- I just say transgender,
but I'm a transgender female.
- Okay. Okay. - Okay.
- I want to get the story straight
so I tell my family. - Right. (laughing)
- I want to be politically correct.
- I told my family already.
I said, "This was my prom date
and she was George and now she's Gloria."
- Gloria, right.
- And they just said, "Gloria's gorgeous."
And then I think we just were in a class.
- Yeah, right.
- I think we just said, you said like
"You want to go to prom?"
I'm like, "Yeah."
And then we just went.
And I think I didn't know how to do a dance
and you showed you how to do some dances
because I never could dance.
And so George showed me dances and we practiced.
So when we got to prom, in between singing,
we danced a lot. - We danced, yes, we did.
- And we were good. - Yes, we were.
- 'Cause we practiced.
- And then we went to Mr. Kelly's, remember?
- Yeah, we certainly did.
Yeah, we were out all night, yeah.
I always liked that song "Gloria" in English,
but in Italian, the words, the lyrics are so much prettier.
It's by Umberto Tozzi.
And I'll translate for you.
- Okay, 'cause I sure don't know.
- Not that I can speak Italian.
I've only taken it eight months.
(Umberto signing in foreign language)
- I miss your air, the air about you.
- Oh, okay.
- I miss your love and kindness.
And your softness.
I miss your beautiful mouth and smile.
I forget what that means.
(Umberto singing in foreign language)
Every time I get a message now it plays "Gloria."
- Hi. - Good to see you.
- How are you?
- I missed you last time. - I know.
You look fabulous.
- Gloria wanted to show her picture from high school.
- Oh, okay.
- In high school, I was friendly with all the girls,
but it was you damn boys that got my nerves
because you didn't understand.
- [Man] How was your relationship with the football team?
With the athletes?
Weren't you like the towel boy or something like that?
- [Man] Didn't you do something for them?
Or did they just tease you?
- They teased me a lot. - Really?
- Mm-hmm, they teased me a lot.
And then I'm not mentioning no names
but some of had fun with me. - [Group] Oh.
- Like I noticed you would always be around the girls.
- [Gloria] Yes.
- Not hang around the guys. - No.
- But at that stage in my life
I didn't have a label for you.
- [Gloria] Right.
- At that stage in my I didn't have a label for anybody.
- I want to thank you for showing up
and sharing your dirty laundry.
Thanks! - Okay.
- And making us all remember everything.
- Set the record straight.
I got to go home now.
- It was fun because they got a chance
to tell me about myself.
And I just sat back and laughed.
they see me in a different image.
They remember George Allen
but now they had to deal with Gloria Allen.
After high school, I started going to the clubs.
I went to college for a year.
Didn't finish, because I was so,
how would I put it?
I was so into doing grown things.
You know what I mean?
And I just didn't go back to school anymore.
I wanted to experience life, which I did.
And it was one particular club that everybody would go to
and the name of it was the Parkside Lounge on 51st Street
right off of Cottage Grove.
I was under age. I was like 19.
And I was so fascinated by these clubs
because all I saw was men up in there.
Couldn't get in the club, but I would stand out
and watch them as they go in
and this was so much fun to me.
And then finally I got into the club.
I met my first boyfriend in the Parkside Lounge.
And Maurice was a replica of Johnny Mathis.
When I was living with Maurice,
that was my first time ever seeing men in high heels.
Ms. Edgar and Ms Venie and Ms. Herman,
they would come over to our house every week,
every weekend they were there
and we drink wine and have a good conversation.
I was just out done when I saw them walking
down the streets with their high heels on
in broad daylight.
It was just like a parade of sissies in heels.
They still live on in my head.
I know who they are.
And I know what I learned from them.
The first Sissy Ball that I went to
was at The Grand Ballroom.
Ms. Edgar, Ms. Herman and Ms. Venie,
they took me with them to the ball.
We got to the ball and all these lights
and decoration tables were all set up
and done up beautifully.
Then they had the categories.
For the queen, the king, street wear.
The girls would come in being carried in like Cleopatra.
Wilbur Hifi White was really the man
or the woman that presented the ball.
And Wilbur Hifi White went all out of the way.
Horse drawn carriages.
My eyes were just opened so wide.
My mouth was even open.
On the weekends I'd go to the Parkside and have fun.
Then come home and then get up Monday morning
and go to work.
And I was working at the University of Chicago Hospital.
I worked in the x-ray department as an x-ray technician.
And I did that for a while
until I got my certificate in nursing.
And then I start dressing up.
I put on dresses during the weekend,
'cause I had to work during the week.
I was a weekend drag queen
and I did that for a while.
And then one particular day, I decide,
hell, I'm tired of being a weekend drag queen.
I'm a woman, I'm going to work as a woman and everything.
And I knew the hospital wasn't gonna let me do it.
So I left because I wanted to be me.
I finally got a job at the Zanzibar Hotel.
And I went to my boss and I told my boss,
I said, "Would you keep me on or would you fire me
if I start coming to work as a woman?"
And my boss told me, he said, "Sure, you can come.
You're a good worker and we love you."
And that started it.
The George stepped out of my body
and went on about his business.
- Hi. (Gloria laughing)
- Hello, sweetheart.
- Hi, come on it. - Okay.
- What cousin am I?
- You're my first cousin.
- Cousin's are downstairs. - Hello.
- [Gail] She and I are 10 days apart.
- How you doing? - Good.
- [Gloria] Hey, hey, hey.
- Back in the day, she was absolutely beautiful.
- And they were so protective of me.
- Yeah, we had to.
- Because if their friends talked about me.
- Baby, it was on. - It was on, right.
My cousins and them would fight, would fight.
- But we usually, it was usually people
they really didn't know her,
'cause all of our friends that knew her,
she was just, I don't know how to,
she just always been Gloria.
She was Gloria in George's skin.
- When we first met you it was like back in 1973.
When he first met Gloria
because I told him, I said, "I have a cousin who's gay."
And he's like, "Oh, you do?"
I was like, "Yeah."
He's like, "Okay, well long as he don't bother me,
I won't bother him" kind of attitude, you know?
And so when he met Gloria
he was really perplexed.
I know he was 'cause he was perplexed, but we weren't.
He lived with us and Gloria came to stay with us for awhile.
- Now mind you, I'm a much older guy than they are.
I'm 81 years old.
We didn't know no better because it was the old days.
- He never saw you, remember he hadn't seen you
in a dress and makeup and your wig and everything.
So here we are, now, she come home from work.
She in a little dress pants and a shirt
trying to pass off as a guy, that wasn't working,
but anyway, she tried hard.
So she comes in and we're going out.
So me and Renee and Gloria and Nate Daniel was coming over
and Juanita and they was coming to our house.
We gonna all get dressed at our house.
So V is there and he's in and out with the kids,
him and Michael, my brother-in-law,
they was up in front, we in the back
and we back there.
So all of a sudden we look up, here come Gloria.
And she got boobs.
She got butt, she got hips.
She's got them.
We all looking and we're like,
"What the hell that come from?"
- Kresge's, the five and dime store with their balloons,
they helped me a lot.
to fill my bra up
and get that bouncy effect.
So a girlfriend of mine told me, she said,
"Well, do the water balloons."
And I said, "Get out of here, water?"
She said, "Well, fill your balloons up
to the desired size that you want
and stuff 'em in your bra."
And I did.
And I'm just thinking, oh, this is so fishy.
That's the term they use for women.
Never figured that one out.
- What made this party so good was Gloria
and her friends came to this party,
so behind the guys that I'm trying to tell
y'all don't want these girls numbers for real
'cause I don't want you to fall out with me.
Gloria is dancing that particular night.
- Oh my goodness. - She's dancing
her butt off, boy, and she just a clowning.
Those balloons that Gail was just describing to you,
one of them fell out on the floor.
- Oh no! (laughing)
- Honey, she was like,
"Yes, I have to get my body together, baby."
And she dances, she went down
and picked it up and put it back in
and everybody had a good time and just kept right on going.
- I wore balloons for a little while
until I found out where I could go get my hormone shots.
And I did, I went to Dr. Ame.
Dr. Ame was here on the North Side.
He only charged $10 for a shot.
And we will go into him every two weeks to get a shot.
And then my
breasts start coming in
and I just fell in love with them.
So I was out with Ms. Kitty.
We would all meet up at this bar.
And Ms. Kitty came over to me and told me, she said,
"I got a friend that wants to meet you."
So I said, "Okay, I'll meet him."
His name was Kenneth.
The guy was gorgeous.
He was just everything that I wanted in a man.
He invited me out that night.
I stayed all night with him and everything.
The next thing I knew it was head over heels for him.
I started coming up north every weekend
and he would talk to me on the phone for hours and hours.
I love that this man was paying attention to me,
calling me up every night.
I'm calling him up.
This man, just, he was my dream come true.
And we moved in together
and he would go to work and his money,
he would give it to me.
And I was just ooh, a man giving me his paycheck.
And oh, this was it for me.
I loved it.
And I went back to school
and Kenneth was working,
So I saved up a little nest egg
and we bought a home over in the Beverly section
and we had a nice house.
I stayed with him for 10 years.
The first five years was just new and exciting.
And I get a chance to be a wife.
After the first five years,
Kenneth showed his true colors to me.
He was abusive.
He was a cheater.
But he had my nose open, I couldn't leave him.
I wanted to be with this man.
So the last five years
I endured the pain and the hurt.
This man would beat me
to no end.
Then it got really bad.
He would come home from work, put on a white glove
and take his finger and go around the woodwork.
And if it was dust on the finger,
it was time for me to get my butt beat.
Beat with coat hangers.
Had cigarette butts put out on me.
I would catch him coming out of hotels with different guys
and different women and trans women.
And this went on until I finally got tired of it.
I started fighting back.
I would place hammers and screwdrivers
in different parts of the apartment.
So when he jumped on me, I could run to that spot
and pick up a hammer or a knife to protect myself.
And then I shot him in the car on the Dan Ryan.
Kinda kept on ranting and raving in the car
'cause he already beat me up out in Morgan Park.
And I'm in the car crying and upset.
"Why are you doing this to me?"
And I got so tired of it
so I went on in my purse and pulled out the .22.
He was in St. Bernard's hospital,
all kind of tubes in him.
And I wasn't expecting him to make it.
And he pulled through it, but he didn't tell on me.
And after that he got better.
He got well.
He realized what I had done to him.
he tried to kill me.
It was a policeman that came to the house
and the policeman told me,
"You need to get out of this relationship
because if you don't you're gonna kill him
or he's gonna kill you."
And I listened to the policeman.
I left Kenneth.
I was heartbroken.
And I didn't know what to do.
I got to the point I was doing harm to myself.
I couldn't get over Kenneth and I didn't want to live.
I had to do some serious thinking.
I had to pray.
I had to ask God to forgive me
for the bad things that I'm thinking about.
And to help me.
As a kid growing up,
I lived across from Greater Metropolitan
Missionary Baptist Church.
My mother would escort me across the street
to the church and I go inside and be there all day long.
I got a chance to sing in the choir.
It was exciting because I got the attention that I wanted.
- We take this moment
as Gloria recounts the years of her life
and has come back to the church of her beginnings.
I want to allow her this opportunity to greet us
and to just share words of encouragement.
- Thank you.
It's been so many things that God
has blessed me through the years.
A play was written about me called Charm,
and God is so good.
And he's so great.
And he's here today
every day with us.
You just have to open up your heart and your mind
and accept him in.
And that's what I have done.
And I want to thank you all for welcoming me back again.
And I'm not gonna stay away this time.
You know, when I can get back, I'm coming.
In 1982, they were doing surgery
under the table at Cook County Hospital
if you had a Medicaid card.
I got a hookup through a girlfriend of mine's, Julius.
She had her surgery done first
and this is what I wanted to do for myself.
Kenneth never wanted me to have the surgery.
I did it for me.
And when they did it, I couldn't go back.
This was it for me.
If I had to do it all over again,
I would hope to be much younger
and with the new technology that's out there now.
I would feel better about myself.
My mother was there
to see me through it.
She was there waiting on me hand and foot,
helping me to get up out of the bed,
to walk to the bathroom.
My mother checked me out
to see if everything was all right.
My mother would go to the clinic with me for checkups.
She would do everything for me.
That woman was so amazing.
My mother doing this for me, her son,
which is her daughter now.
- So we wanted to take time to acknowledge
our elders in this moment,
because as the cliche saying goes
you can not know where you're going
till you know where you've been.
So gonna announce one of our elders right now.
- Thank you.
- Gloria, come on up.
- I'm Gloria Allen.
(audience cheering and applauding)
I'm known as Mama Gloria.
And I'm here, I've been here for woo,
this is a prehistoric existence
and transgender women have been going through a lot.
I mean a lot.
And we have been thrown under the bus.
We have been tarred and feathered.
We'd had our throat slit.
And it doesn't make sense.
And people, we need to stand up and acknowledge ourselves.
And I'm so proud of my young generation
because you all hold the key.
I didn't have this when I was coming up.
Nobody heard of me.
I didn't have a Center on Halsted.
A lot of trans girls,
they're scared to come out and be seen.
I want to be seen, take pictures, you know?
Take all the pictures you want to
'cause I'm gonna let you know I am somebody.
(audience applauding and cheering)
The Town Hall Apartments that I live in now,
that's home for me.
It's so many amazing queer people up in there.
it's fun because I get a chance to interact with everybody.
- We love each other and our mother.
- I'm in a beautiful stage of life.
- [Don] Absolutely.
- So many of my friends didn't make it.
- None of us when we were young ever thought
about living to be this age
or what life experience would be in this age.
And there were no examples.
- Getting older for me, I treasure it.
'Cause if you live, you're gonna get old.
And if you take care of yourself,
you're still gonna get old.
My thing is that
everything gets old sooner or later.
Ooh, it's horrible.
I know the good fairy wasn't coming,
but I sure saved the tooth.
I was here eating steak.
It was a bone and I bit hard.
And the tooth just,
it was loose in the first place
but it just came on out.
my teeth, tooth, teeth,
all of 'em are sort of weak
from old age.
Diabetes is just awful for a person to have
because they have to keep monitoring themselves
and eat right.
I want to get a boyfriend,
a boyfriend that's gonna look after me
or be close to me
because I don't want to be in the house by myself
and something happens, I have a stroke
or a heart attack.
You know, I want
him to be there
so he can alert my family that I'm gone.
No, 'cause I got my scrubs on.
- Is that good? - Yeah.
- Okay, so now what else you got going on?
This and this right?
- [Gloria] You take that.
- What is this outfit, baby?
I'm just saying.
This is not what we're used to.
- I know.
- Baby look like, ooh.
Yeah. We gonna get you together.
- I hope you get home safe. - Yeah, I am, I am.
- She will. - Thank you.
- Thanks for taking of her.
- Of course, she's such a joy to take care.
- She didn't give you no problems?
- Not at all, no, no.
She was a joy to take care of.
- Very good.
- Thank you so much. - All right.
- I'm tired of y'all.
- You gonna put us out?
We gonna feed you first then we'll go.
Gloria, you funny.
I brought water up for everyone.
- You did? - Yeah.
Would you like a bottle of water, Gloria?
- It was over here so when you hit,
you was already, gravity had you.
- Right. - Oh, man.
Well get out the way, hurting my cousin.
Old wooded chair.
Here, got your keys here.
We'll fix you up.
Gloria, don't do that.
- Okay, I'm just moving. - We know.
Don't start crying. - I know right.
- Want you to just calm down. - Okay.
- So where you want me to set this
so you can have easy access?
- You can take that one home with you.
- Take it home with me. (laughing)
- I knew I had been feeling the off balance.
I was just not stable.
You know, I couldn't,
I can't walk a straight line.
I would just
weave in and weave out,
you know, zigzag it, whatever it was.
And I knew something was wrong.
And then when I tried the new medication
that they put me on,
and evidently the medication was too strong,
the diabetes medicine.
And I was passing out.
I can't lay up too long
because I feel that life goes on no matter what.
So get up and, get back to your old self.
And that's what I'm doing.
(soft piano music)
Hello, how are you?
- Pretty good, how you doing?
I'm living from month to month,
I'm on Social Security.
every other week I work for him.
And that helps a great deal.
I'm Mama Gloria.
- Mama Gloria, thank you for joining us today.
We're thrilled to have you.
- Oh, I'm happy to be here.
- So this is About Face Theatre.
- Yeah, I've heard so much about it.
- This is one of our main rehearsal spaces.
- Okay. - So we're excited.
- Hey everybody, look who's here.
This is Mama Gloria. - Hello.
- So our whole mission is about advancing dialogue
about gender and sexuality.
And the youth theater really evolved to create a space,
what we think about as a brave space
for queer folks 13 to 24 years old
and we've had the opportunity to interview people
about their stories and their lives
and then fold that into the play
that we're making this summer that is called 2020.
And it's all about looking to the past to learn lessons
from the past so we can imagine a better future.
- Yeah, forgive me, 'cause I ain't got no teeth in my mouth.
So if I don't sound right,
over look it.
When I came out of my mother's womb, I was out, you know?
I knew what I wanted to be
and who I was at an early age and everybody knew it.
They knew I wasn't no boy.
Of the time that I was coming along,
transgender was kept a secret.
Nobody knew what that word was about, you know?
And we were either beaten or murdered, you know?
So this went on for years
and nobody would say anything or fight for us or anything.
I look at it out here today,
people are so hateful today
and it's so sad that we have to endure this.
Some people understand
but it could be better, you know, much better.
- Tell me more about how like those ballroom parties
like what were the performances like?
How did you guys like create that together?
- The ballroom scene when I was coming up,
costumes and makeup was just flamboyant and beautiful.
RuPaul couldn't light a match to us back then.
He sure couldn't.
- Are we throwing shade? - Yeah.
And people said, "Well,
don't you get offended by them calling you Mama?"
No, I do not.
I'm so happy that I got all these adopted children
in my life.
- What is your hope for the future of queer youth?
The hope for the future for the trans community
is to see
the trans girls and the trans men
get an education so they can take that torch
and run with it.
And have ideas, bright ideas,
because you all are so young
and so beautiful
and you offer a lot to this world
and you all need to be heard.
We can make a better place to live
but we have to know how to stand up and fight for that.
(group snapping and laughing)
- I love 'em. - I love snaps.
- You get some snaps and you get some snaps
and you get snaps.
- I want people to remember me as being a joyful person,
really happy, go lucky.
And I'm a forgiving person and
I want them to remember my dimples,
'cause I got these dimples through God.
God took his fingers and said, "Okay, you're cute
and you're funny."
And I want them to realize that I am a good person.
I'm a trans person.
And I have a beautiful spirit.
♪ Stand up
♪ When you're standing in the presence of a legend ♪
♪ Stand up
♪ When you're standing in the presence of a legend ♪
♪ I had to fight along this journey ♪
- [Narrator] Funding for Afropop:
The Ultimate Cultural Exchange
is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
and the National Endowment for the Arts.