Brooklyn-born Ceyenne Doroshow grew up in a traditional Black middle-class family, religious and conservative to a fault. Her mother was an educator and neighborhood staple, though both of her parents fostered a harsh and threatening environment at home. Ceyenne’s life in Bushwick was punctuated by violence and mistreatment, from beatings over wrenches and car keys, to public debasement during church, to social shaming in school by her peers and teachers.
The source of this abuse was her identity as a transgender girl; from a young age, Ceyenne could not contain her true self. She latched onto any opportunity to express her femininity, like wearing her mother’s diamond rings or fur coat. Ceyenne ran away from home multiple times, but she made the decision to leave for good around the age of fifteen. Following a horrible beating, Ceyenne ran to her minister for help; he transported her to Long Island, where she spent a few months reflecting on her upbringing. She made a pledge there to never let a man overpower her like her father did. She had to carve out space for herself, outside of the mainstream, away from her parents. She eventually found her community, but it was a difficult place to discover.
After taking some money from her parents’ house, Ceyenne traveled to Spring Valley, where she went to hair school. Though she had escaped from her neighborhood, her environment remained intolerant to her intersecting identities; she had to take shelter at various facilities, including a psychiatric center, homeless refuge, and a sex workers’ “shelter” that became a brothel at night. She saw things at these places which convinced her to enter the activism sphere, to help others who, like herself, were taken advantage of by social systems.
In the following years, Ceyenne began to find new family ties in the queer community. Thanks to a handbook she found in high school, she discovered 96 West, a club that welcomed her with open arms. There, she met queer elders who helped transform her mindset into one of rejuvenation, care, and forgiveness. She also discovered another gay club called Andre’s which, surprisingly, happened to be managed by her uncle. This revelation introduced her to the hidden queer history within her homophobic family. Ceyenne had finally found a support network.
As an activist, Ceyenne has championed efforts to insert the neglected transgender identity into the national queer rights conversation. Always focusing on tomorrow, Ceyenne established the renowned Gays and Lesbians Living In A Transgender Society organization ( G.L.I.T.S.), which provides housing, transportation, and other support for transgender individuals seeking education and community. She also wrote a book called Cooking in Heels: A Memoir, detailing her cooking experience in jail. No recipe in the book has any static measurements, so the cook must use love, intuition, and thoughtfulness to recreate the dish — an apt metaphor for Ceyenne’s life.
Ceyenne, as a Black transgender woman, has found herself tokenized by oppressing forces her entire life. To claim recognition for marginalized trans voices in our community, she refuses to be controlled or contained. “The one way we can make a mark on this earth is by owning it, owning our own,” she says in her OUTWORDS interview. “Then nobody else can control us.”