By KJ Philp, Oct. 23, 2014. Back to Hall of Fame Home Page.
As an author, activist and avid volunteer Millye Carter Bloodworth is The Exceptional, Impossible Woman Indeed – which is also the title of her autobiography.
Though she grew up in Illinois and Michigan, Arizona has been home to Carter Bloodworth since 1975 and she’s been committed to community causes for just as long.
During her employment at Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) she became involved with many LGBTQ clients and patients seeking services.
“I realized how difficult it was for the community and decided to assist where I could with their quality of life,” she said. And she did.
In 1983 Carter Bloodworth met her husband, Donald Ellis Bloodworth, at the Village, a patio bar in an old stucco house at 10th Street and Camelback Road. In the years that followed, the couple has worked together in various capacities, including collaborating on Carter Bloodworth’s book that follows “the awesome, anti-bullying adventures of the transgendered trailblazer.”
But according to Carter Bloodworth, the couple’s greatest achievement was the six years they operated Buffalo Haus, a care and hospice home that was near and dear to her heart.
Since then, Carter Bloodworth has volunteered at Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS and The Bob and Renee Parson’s Foundation, served on the community action and women’s boards and attended Camp Incredible, a summer camp experience for families affected by HIV and AIDS. Carter Bloodworth also contributed to This Is HOW, a nonprofit housing program geared toward the transgender population.
Though she enjoys working with “all characters,” Carter Bloodworth said she is most passionate about her work with children. “ … no matter their race, creed, color, religion or gender. After all, the children are our future!”
For many years Carter Bloodworth worked as a life skills consultant, teacher’s aide and developmental aide in local school districts. Upon retiring in 2013, she turned her efforts toward advocating for trans issues.
“I am a caregiver a heart, always have been,” she said. “As for now, my LGBTQ involvement is critical because early intervention is key.”
Today, she serves on the Board of Directors at Joshua Tree and can be found volunteering each Wednesday for the feeding program. And, in recent years, she has co-facilitated a Veteran’s-only transgender group at Carl T. Hayden VA Hospital, a cause important to the Vietnam Veteran who said she sees a climate shift coming for trans service members.
“Hold on, it’s been a bumpy ride,” is how Carter Bloodworth summarized her efforts and experiences leading up to 2014. And she has no plan of slowing down any time soon. “I have several projects I am working on with Donald, my apologies but I can’t share yet.”
Web-Exclusive Q&A with Millye Carter Bloodworth
Echo: You grew up in Illinois and Michigan, when did Arizona become home?
Carter Bloodworth: First in February 1975 when I arrived at Sky Harbor Terminal One and stepped off the plane to a shimmering tarmac. I was wearing my Ranch Mink waistcoat after having just left Chicago. Then again soon after when my late brother Morrie “Miss Ebony” and I purchased a home along East McDowell Road.
(Editor’s Note: Morrie “Miss Ebony” Carter, inducted into Echo’s Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2007, passed away Dec. 31, 2013.)
Echo: Was there a defining moment when you realized you wanted to tell your story?
Carter Bloodworth: In 1988, when I was ‘outed’ by an employee of the City of Phoenix Licensing Department for care homes who questioned why my fingerprints came back with the name I was born with. I felt offended and ashamed because my ‘ghost’ came back to haunt me. I realized days later I was wrong to feel negative and coming out made me feel positive, hence lemon pie from lemons.
Echo: How did writing The Exceptional, Impossible Woman Indeed! come about?
Carter Bloodworth: I had always kept some form of a journal, notes on backs of photographs, etc., finally after maturing a little more, I decided it was right to put deeds to paper. My first paid writer wanted my story written from a side that being transgender was somehow wrong or my choice. Donald offered to attempt writing my story and we put it together. We published it once many years ago, than later on with newfound photographs and a fresh edit, we republished!
Echo: Why do you feel it’s important to be involved in so many capacities?
Carter Bloodworth: In my book there are references going back to my youth. In my youth, during those misspent moments, there was not any variant ‘labels,’ if you did not pass the daylight test you went to jail. As for now, my LGBTQ involvement is critical because ‘early intervention is key.’
Echo: Who are some of your role models/inspirations and why?
Carter Bloodworth: Though there are more, my mother, Anne, Cicely Tyson, Nichelle Nichols and Ruby Dee, because they were instrumental in creating positive role models for me as a young African American.
Echo: Do you consider yourself a role model? Why/why not?
Carter Bloodworth: Yes, I had good role models in my mother, good mentors on many of my jobs and good friends whose criticism I respect.
Echo: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Carter Bloodworth: “To thy own self be true.”
Echo: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Carter Bloodworth: After 20 plus years of marriage, 30 plus years of living together, as many ups and downs along the journey, I will share that I am the negative half in a long-term, loving, serodiscordant relationship. So when life gives you lemons, I make a lemon pie.
Meet the rest of the Class of 2014: