Sunday, January 07, 2007
January 2007 TransGriot Column
Cleaning Up Our Own House
Copyright 2007, THE LETTER
Happy New Year TransGriot readers!
This month marks the third anniversary of my column, the third year of the founding of Transsistahs-Transbrothas and the second anniversary of my TransGriot blog.
Thanks to all of you who have expressed to me during the year how much you enjoy reading TransGriot. That makes my editor Dave and I very happy.
Something that didn’t make me happy was the drive-by show that Chuck Knipp performed at The Connection during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The reports that I’ve received about it from several people that attended were that they didn’t find it funny and they observed people leaving during the performance.
While that is gratifying to hear, the differing race-based reactions to the SQL minstrel show controversy have exposed the need to have a conversation about racism in the GLBT community.
We are a microcosm of society at large. Since racism is prevalent in the parent society, then our subset of it is also contaminated and it is naïve and foolish to think that we aren’t. When we started planning the first Transsistahs-Transbrothas Conference back in 2005, we had a critic of it post a comment on a predominately white transgender Internet list in response to my letter explaining why we were having TSTBC that said ‘It’ll make it easier for them to service their tricks.”
The March 2002 NGLTF report entitled ‘Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud’ highlights the problem. From April to September 2000 a survey was done at nine Black Pride events in an attempt to learn more about the African-American GLBT community. Guess what one of the issues was for the 2,500 respondents that cropped up?
When asked the question if the racism of GLBT whites was a problem for GLBT blacks within the community, 48% of the respondents agreed with the statement. The numbers were even higher among my fellow transgender survey respondents at 57%.
When asked about their interactions within white GLBT orgs, 39% reported negative experiences within those organizations, 29% reported positive ones and 39% of respondents reported both negative and positive experiences in White GLBT orgs.
When asked about their experiences in white GLBT clubs, 36% reported negative interactions in white GLBT clubs, 30% reported positive ones and 31% reported negative and positive experiences in those clubs.
I can cosign on that last one. I’ve been called the n-word by a white gay patron of one club back in my hometown and denied entrance at another one with the excuse that it wasn’t a transgender bar. However, I observed from the entrance door white t-girls not only inside the club but partying with the predominately white gay male crowd. I’ve had people in the pageant world report that even with equal status level in terms of titles, et cetera, they receive far less appearance money from promoters for performing in shows than their white counterparts.
Accumulations of those negative experiences over time and the frustration of dealing with white GLBT community indifference in tackling the problem head on eventually leads us to say ‘enough’. If you wondered why Black GLBT people have separate pride events, pageant circuits, and conventions such as TSTBC, racism in the community is a major component of why those organizations exist.
As GLBT peeps we are fighting for recognition of our constitutional rights. We need all sectors of our community engaged in this process. It is to our advantage to find a way to work together building a diverse, multicultural community that respects all of its members and face the reality that 40 years of post Civil Rights Movement education and policies did not magically erase 400 years of negative racial attitudes.
There needs to be a long-term commitment from all leaders in the GLBT community to aggressively tackle this nettlesome problem. However, it can’t be just people of color doing the grunt work on this issue. I’m glad to hear that Fairness will spend time in 2007 focusing on anti-racism work.
It couldn’t come at a better time.