Monday, July 16, 2007

The Color Line IS A Transgender Community Problem Too

At the dawn of the 20th century, W.E.B. DuBois made his famous prediction that 'The problem of the 20th century will be the problem of the color line.

Seven years into the twenty-first century, not only was DuBois on target, but the twenty-first century has an American color line exacerbated by conservative policies and rhetoric that's worse than the one in DuBois day. While I don't face the prospect of being lynched because I dared to vote or forcefully speak up for myself in the presence of a white person, the two centuries of racist negativity still lives.

I have often said that the GLBT community is a microcosm of society at large. It is illogical to think that we GLBT peeps are free of the ills of the parent society. Since we are a subset of a racist society, we're infected with the same sickness as well. Every now and then I get reminders of the racist past that permeates our present.

During the recent lobby day I participated in two months ago AC and I were taking some peeps back to a DC METRO station past The Mall. We'd had a debrief in our hotel room in Silver Spring about the day's lobbying effort. I'm the lone African-American in this vehicle and we took Georgia Avenue enroute to the METRO station. We got stopped at a traffic light on the Howard University campus. While waiting for the light to change I noted just to my right a DC police officer executing a patdown search on an African-American male. I made a comment to AC about it and one of the peeps we were chauffeuring chimed in, "They must be searching for the crack cocaine he was selling."

I turned my head and shot that person a lethally nasty look before saying, "Most of the peeps selling and using crack share your ethnic background."

It isn't the first time I've been confronted with racism inside the transgender community. I've been called the n-word multiple times on various transgender oriented discussion lists simply because people disagreed with me. When a group of us started putting together the first Transsistahs-Transbrothas conference in 2005 we were motivated to make it happen after a person made the comment that 'it will make it easier for them to service their tricks' along with other racist tripe in their posting.

When the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition was founded in 1999 by a group that included transpeople of color, some people in the white transgender community savagely dissed it. Never mind the fact that some of the NTAC founders exposed the duplicitous relationship HRC and GenderPac. Some of them hated the idea that transpeople of color had the temerity to not only form an organization, but step up to the plate and provide leadership for the transgender community.

The racism in the transgeder community has created a situation in which African-American transpeople feel the same disconnect they feel in the parent society. We don't feel respected or valued. When we do try to offer our input, expertise or suggestions, they are dismissed or vilified, then we find the white community after trying it their way and failing eventually doing what we suggested years before.

It aggravates many of us in the African-American transgender community to no end. It has led me to the conclusion that in order to get our voices into the mix and make rapid progress toward gaining our civil rights, we may have to do what our parents and grandparents did.

Do it our damned selves.

We have issues in our community that only we are qualified to deal with. It is African-American transpeeps who will have to take on the sellout Black church folks and call them on their hypocrisy. We will have to do the 'ejumacation' on transgender issues in the African-American community. We will have to do the things within our own transgeder community that build self esteem and pride. We will have to forcefully demand that we get our rightful seat at the African-American family table.

To accomplish that, we may have to form our own organizations if we are ever going to make any headway toward dealing with the problems that affect the African-American transgender community. We realistically can't count on help from people who are 'scurred' of us or get jealous of whatever progress we make and seek to retard it.

We must embrace our proud history. We are a people that have accomplished great and wonderful things when we pull together, brainstorm, roll up our sleeves and just do it.

It time for us to prove to the world that we can do it again.

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