Mama Gloria

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.

AIRED: March 22, 2021 | 0:58:28

- [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.

(upbeat music)

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.

(upbeat music)

Funding for Afropop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange

is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

and the National Endowment for the Arts.

(upbeat music)

- It's an honor to be here tonight

to celebrate a living legend.

(audience applauding)

Legendary looks like the gorgeous, the generous,

the resilient, the luminous,

the brilliant, the loving, the one and only Gloria Allen.

(audience cheering)

You stand in the presence of a legend.

You stand.

(audience cheering)

- 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.

(audience cheering)

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?

(people chattering)

- I like to make people's days better.

- Okay.

- 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.

- Okay.

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.

(audience laughing)

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,

(audience laughing)

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.

(upbeat music)

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.

(upbeat music)

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.

(soft music)

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 what?

- 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.

- 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.

(upbeat music)

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.

♪ Gloria

(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."

(all laughing)

- 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?

- No.

- [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.


(group chattering)

- I want to thank you for showing up

and sharing your dirty laundry.

(group laughing)

Thanks! - Okay.

- And making us all remember everything.

- Set the record straight.

I got to go home now.

(group laughing)

- It was fun because they got a chance

to tell me about myself.

And I just sat back and laughed.

And here

they see me in a different image.

They remember George Allen

but now they had to deal with Gloria Allen.

(upbeat music)

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.

You know?

She was Gloria in George's skin.

- Right.

- 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.

I wanted

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.

(upbeat music)

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.

Tall, handsome.

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,

I'm 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.

And he,

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.

(somber music)

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.

(upbeat music)

(choir singing)



(choir singing)

- 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.

(upbeat music)

(soft music)

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.

Bathed me.

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.

Everybody's beautiful.

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.

Walk proud.

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.

(group laughing)

- I'm in a beautiful stage of life.

- [Don] Absolutely.

- So many of my friends didn't make it.

They gone.

- 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.

You know?

'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.

No blood.


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.

That's okay.

Yeah. We gonna get you together.

- Yeah.

(group laughing)

- 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.

(group laughing)

- I'm tired of y'all.

- You gonna put us out?

We gonna feed you first then we'll go.

Gloria, you funny.

Seriously speaking.

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.

And Elliot,

every other week I work for him.

And that helps a great deal.

(vacuum whirring)

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.

- Great.

- 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.

(group laughing)

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.

You know?

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?

- Okay.

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.

(group laughing)

- 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 ♪

(upbeat music)

- [Narrator] Funding for Afropop:

The Ultimate Cultural Exchange

is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

and the National Endowment for the Arts.

(upbeat music)

(upbeat music)


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