Tuesday, January 29, 2008

'Ejumacation' of the African-American Community

We wish to plead our own case. For too long others have spoken about us, but our virtues go unnoticed.

That 1822 comment by John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish was spoken over 180 years ago about African-Americans, but it could easily be applied to 21st century African American transpeople as well.

I remembered the quote after reading some unflattering comments on various gay blogs in the wake of the passage of Barney's transgender-free ENDA. Over 150 years ago the Supreme Court told Dred Scott that we African-Americans had no rights a white man was bound to respect, and sometimes I wonder if they still operate in the world under that premise.

It's bad enough when I hear white gay males, a gay US congressman, some conservative pundits and bigoted alleged 'christians' spout this bull. But when I hear like I did during our recent JCPS battle a longtime African-American civil rights warrior in Louisville say those same negative things along with a Black conservative pundit, it's time to say enough.

Time for the TransGriot to school my own peeps about their African-American transgender brothers and sisters.

There are 35 million African-Americans in the United States. It's estimated that transpeople make up about 3% of the population, so you're looking at about roughly 1.1 million transpeeps that share your heritage. Like you, we are concentrated population wise in the South, Midwest, Northeast, the West and many major cities.

We share those same cultural bonds that connect us back to the Mother Continent of Africa and are proud of that heritage as well.

We vote, too. According to the Black Pride Survey taken in 2000 at nine Black pride events in Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Detroit, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Oakland and Atlanta, we African-American transpeople participate in politics at much higher rates than our SGL brothers and sisters. The SGL community as a whole participates in politics at a higher rate than our bio brothers and sisters.

The only difference between you and transgender African-Americans is we had a medical condition that forces us to alter our bodies to match the gender imprint on our brains. Gender is between your ears, not your legs, and that fact is fundamental to understanding what we go through.

And what do we go through? Hell.

We face a double portion of discrimination based on uor race and being transgender. We battle faith-based scorn, disinformation and ridicule, massive ignorance and violence simply because we have the courage to be honest with ourselves and take the steps to openly be who we are.

All we're asking for as your transgender brothers and sisters is to be accepted and unconditonally loved as fellow African-Americans. Help us pass the civil rights and employment protections that amend us into the 'We The People' preamble of the Constitution and give us a chance to earn a living. Finally, give us the opportunity to not only take our place at the African-American family table, but do our part to uplift the race.

Is that too much to ask?



Excellent points, as usual, Monica. It is surprising to me (well, maybe not so much any more) how narrow civil rights advocates can be in defining who gets to be in their rainbow. We've got the same going on in our own trans community. I had the chance to hear Dr. Terence Roberts this part week. He's one of the Little Rock Nine, and now a professor of psychology at Antioch. Great speaker. Anyway, he made the point that you can't make people respect you, the most you can do is ask for their respect and then act respectably. I hope we can learn to do the same in our own trans community.

Monica Roberts said...

So true, Dr. Jill.