Monday, October 08, 2007
TransGriot Note: This is a guest post by 2000 IFGE Trinity Award winner Dawn Wilson
You may be wondering why I've been selective in terms of picking and choosing the times that I commit myself to helping the transgender community over the last few years.
Frankly, the reason is that I don't do business with morally bankrupt leaders or paper tigers.
I say this because at this juncture in our history Washington DC is in a state of confusion these days. It started with arrogance and pride, and has led to a downfall of serious proportions.
For the last ten years we've been struggling to not only get into ENDA, but stay there. Unfortunately due to the arrogance, pride, ineptitude and ignorance of some people the TG community was sold a bill of goods that turned out to be counterfeit.
What am I speaking about? The fiction that was being pushed by certain transgender leaders that HRC was our friends.
When NTAC was pushing HRC to do the right thing in 2002 and include us in ENDA, some people decided to collaborate with them after being told they didn't want to talk to NTAC.
But as author Alice Walker pointed out, "No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow."
The transgender community decides who our leaders should be. It was pure arrogance on HRC's part to think that they have the power to dictate to the transgender community people who they deem acceptable to meet with. If HRC were truly our allies, then they needed to talk to whomever WE chose as our leaders.
Unfortunately some people fell for that 'okey-doke' illusion of inclusion strategy and instead of giving a multicultural NTAC a chance to represent us, went out and formed another white-dominated organization and anointed its leader as THE spokesperson for the community.
Because of this, the tranquilizing drug of complacency was injected into the transgender community and put us in the position once again of being sold out. The community was jolted out of that haze as a result of Rep. Barney Frank's recent actions to cut transpeople out of ENDA.
As reprehensible as those actions were, there was a silver lining in all of this. While it exposed some of the paralyzing inaction and lack of political vision of some of the TG leadership, others rose to the occasion. I was pleased to hear that five Trinity winners and a Virginia Prince winner were present at this weekend's protest of the Washington HRC dinner.
One of the lessons I was taught by my Sunday School teacher Sister Willie Mae Lewis was a mantra drilled into us that I remember to this day that resembles a math equation.
Accountability + Responsibility = Credibility
She also reminded her students that before one can lead, one must be willing to follow and hold themselves accountable for their actions.
It seems that some TG community leaders and other people inside the Beltway have forgotten that lesson, much less been taught it.
We need profiles in courage more than ever. Donna Rose's resignation from the HRC board was not only courageous and principled, she exemplified what this community desperately needs: Moral leadership.
Before we start castigating HRC and Rep. Frank for their failures of moral leadership, we need to take a look in the mirror ourselves. We need visionary, intelligent, morally upright, and scrupulously honest people of integrity to step forward to represent us.
But what we get is misbehaving egocentric kindergartners that refuse to play nice and work well with other transgender leaders that may be more skilled than they are. In some cases personal issues such as racism and jealously factor into this equation.
It not only makes us look bad and puts us at risk of undoing all the hard work of our transgender pioneers, it nearly had catastrophic political repercussions for our community. Had it not been for the timely interventions of NTAC, TAVA, IFGE and other individuals providing courageous and decisive leadership in our time of need, I submit that our community's political viability would have been destroyed. This debacle causes us to question the perceived political acumen of a certain highly touted TG political leader.
The moral leadership point is critical to garnering and keeping the support of the African-American transgender community. We take civil rights seriously. We want and need to have leaders and allies we can trust. If you say you're going to do something, we expect you to follow through on it. If you tell us one thing, then stab us in the back to cut a deal, we may forgive you for it, but we won't forget it either. We will NEVER trust you again and to compound your problems, we'll make sure to tell our peeps to avoid you like the plague as well.
We also have a severe problem with incompetent leaders as well. If you show by your actions that you don't have a clue as to how to acquire them (civil rights)or zealously protect them, we aren't down with your cause.
I will also step up as my schedule allows and do more to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. If you need a poster child for the type of leadership we need in this critical time, I'm willing to provide it, but I also need others in the transgender community to step up their game as well and provide the type of leadership we all deserve.
Who's with me?
TransGriot Note: Dawn Wilson in 2000 became the first African-American transperson to win the IFGE Trinity Award, and was a founding member and first board chair of NTAC.