Last night, I was channel flipping and stopped on Oprah’s show Where Are They Now. A photo of Teddy Pendergrass flashed across the screen and then I heard Oprah say, “Next we’ll hear from the Tenika Watson, the transgender woman who was in the car with him during the horrific accident which left him paralyzed.”
I’m not gonna lie y’all… I was stuck. I mean, I actually remember when it happened. I was about six or seven years old and I remember waking up one morning hearing my mom on the phone talking about it and my dad outside, smoking a cigarette talking with a neighbor about it. It was salacious indeed. Huge news!! Handsome soul singer Teddy Pendergrass losing control of his car while a ‘she-male‘ he met at the club was in it with him. Ooh wee… there must have been some SERIOUS hanky-panky going on. Right?
(In progressive 2014, we now are educated on the terminology of a person like Tenika Watson and know the appropriate term is transgendered.)
As I intently listened to Ms. Watson’s account of events, there was a moment of shift for me. As she told the story in her own words, I found myself in tears…feeling so much compassion for her and all she and Teddy went through at that time. She did not speak about her journey in becoming a transgender female. That wasn’t what the show was about. She only spoke about ‘the accident’ and the circumstances which surrounded it.
Here you have a man who was just in a devastating car crash…he lost his ability to walk, permanently. But all people could talk about was his sexuality (which was a big deal in the 80’s). He must be gay. He knew “it” was a man… he had to! Ms. Watson was minimally injured, but her life would also be marred after that. Although she had a past in drug addiction and prostitution, by the time she met Teddy, she was clean, sober, and no longer prostituting herself. She was actually doing well in life. She was performing in night clubs and had signed a modeling contract the year before the accident.
After the story broke about the accident, her past history of being born male and having had gender reassignment surgery, came out and shortly thereafter, Watson was dropped by her modeling agency and ridiculed everywhere she went. Subsequently, she felt hopeless and depressed and became addicted to prescription drugs and later, narcotics; then entered back into prostitution.
But here’s the kicker…
Nothing sexual ever happened between the two of them…not even remotely close.
Not only did nothing sexual ever happen, they were acquainted that evening and in the conversation, she mentioned needing a ride home and he nicely offered. So Mr. Pendergrass had no idea of her gender status and had no reason to ask because it wasn’t like that. He was only being nice to someone. Yes folks… sorry to disappoint our drama-desiring sensibility but there were no lewd sexual acts happening to cause that accident. In her words, “First, the car started speeding up really fast, and I was wondering, ‘Was he driving fast?’ — but he wasn’t. It was out of control. “Then I noticed he was struggling with the wheel, and all of a sudden I heard this great big bang. The next thing I know, the press was there.“
The moral of this story is, everything is not always what it appears to be on the surface. Before making any kind of judgment call regarding things we read and see, especially regarding people…remember there are human beings with feelings who are the targets of these stories. People have testimonies…lives that stretch far beyond one story. Yes there are some twisted things going on in this world. But we are all twisted…just twisted in different ways. It is only by God’s grace that some of us aren’t in worse predicaments. Remember that even the twisted have hearts; hearts that get broken, hearts that receive love, hearts that beat and stop beating. Be careful how you talk to and about people. Stop thinking the worst of people. Believe the best for everyone and for yourself. No one is perfect, but the next time you think about making an assumption based on how a situation appears, ask yourself… Do I deserve be treated this badly or talked about so harshly based on speculation. Please, be kinder to one another. #thatsall4now