Friday, May 09, 2008

Why A Transsistahs Convention?

TransGriot Note: This was written in February 2005 to explain to our Caucasian brothers and sisters why we were planning a convention of our own that took place later that year.

Why a Transsistahs Convention?
By Monica Roberts

Ever since the word got out that Dawn Wilson and I are helping a committee of young African-American transpeople to organize a convention for later this year, there has been much weeping and gnashing of teeth in the Caucasian transgender community. What does the Caucasian transgender community have to fear from a group of African-American transpeople getting together in Louisville to spend several days networking, learning and bonding with each other, just like you peeps have done at Southern Comfort, Gold Rush, IFGE, and various other events?

The simple fact is that we have cultural differences that aren’t being reflected in the current organizational setup of the Caucasian transgendered community. Our community is built with a belief in God as the central pillar of our daily lives. We don't see that reflected in the Caucasian trans community and we have issues and concerns that aren’t being addressed.

What issues you ask? Issues such as HIV/AIDS, the disproportionate number of African-American and Latina transpeople that make up the Remembering our Dead list, socioeconomic issues, ignoring the roles that people of color have played in shaping transgender history, and the pervasive racism within the community. When African-American transactivists and other activists of color have tried to point them out they are dismissively told that their concerns ‘aren’t trans issues’ or ‘quit playing the race card’.

We have qualms about the Caucasian transgender political leadership continually trying to align itself with HRC. It’s a group that has a sorry history of being disrespectful to the African-American GLBT/SGL community and repeatedly sabotaging transgender lobby efforts. The Caucasian TG leadership even sabotaged a 2002 African-American transgender led initiative to the Congressional Black Caucus that would have benefited the entire trans community and boasted about it afterward.

A conservative administration is entrenched in Washington DC. Many African-American transpeople reside in areas run by conservative state and local governments. It was past time for us to build our own institutions so that we may better weather the storms of ‘compassionate conservatism’ and the backstabbing from our so-called allies.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that there have been people and organizations within the Caucasian trans community who have tried to be inclusive and sounded the alarm that we needed to be welcomed into the fold or else. Their pleas and ours have fallen on deaf ears. I’ve noted the growing frustration within our community reflected in the posts on my Transsistahs Yahoo discussion list that I founded a year ago and other African-American GLBT/SGL lists. Those posts have repeatedly called for us to build institutions that will give African-American transkids something to be proud of and resources that they can tap into that reflect their cultural heritage. We’ve finally decided to act on that.

The gathering in Louisville is in the mold of our African-American cultural tradition. We have a proud heritage as African-American women of doing things that not only help us but also uplift the race at the same time. The sistahs are doing it for ourselves to paraphrase an old Aretha Franklin song. We’re not doing it to permanently separate ourselves from the Caucasian trans community, but so that we may work together with our mainstream African-American brothers and sisters. Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael to you folks who remember the Civil Rights Movement) stated, 'Before a group can enter the open society, it must first close ranks.'

Well, the African-American transcommunity is closing ranks. Louisville, here we come.

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