Sunday, July 12, 2009

Approaching The Danger Zone

Benjamin Franklin once stated that 'the definition of insanity is doing the same thing in the same way and expecting a different result.'

Recent incidents of erasure and disrespect combined with the current state of the African-American trans community are causing us either at individual or group levels to reexamine and reevaluate our relationship with the white transgender community.

Trans community, you are dangerously close to approaching the point that feminism did in the early 90’s.

Black women got so fed up of repeatedly dealing with the same issues of racism, erasure, and disrespect in feminist circles that are similar to the issues that Black transwomen currently deal with in the white-dominated trans community, they permanently split from feminism and became womanists.

The point is Black transpeople have problems in the trans community with lack of exposure, leadership ranks that resemble a Republican party convention, and the blase, hostile or dismissive attitude that comes out when we Black transpeople attempt to discuss them with our so-called allies.

This isn't a new problem, nor is it an issue unique to the 2K's. I and others have been talking about these issues since I became an activist in 1998. The Task Force's 2002 'Say It Loud' report on the Black GLBT highlighted racism in our interactions with the white GLBT community as an issue.

While there has been some progress, it has been glacially slow as we continue to watch our sisters take the brunt of the cisgender community's virulent and sometimes violent reaction to the push for transgender civil rights.

We need to see tangible, positive evidence that the partnership works for the Black trans community. Right now, the cost-benefit analysis doesn't add up. We are paying in blood for transgender rights and not seeing positive returns out of it.

We definitely aren't happy about the state of our section of the trans community. While we have some individuals doing well, others aren't.

We're also saddled with a negative public image while trying to negotiate the pothole filled road of our own gender transitions chock full of issues unique to being African-Americans.

It's why every slight hurts and is keenly felt by African descended transpeople.

In response to the latest DC dissing, in which a historic White House GLBT meeting had a transgender contingent with no African-Americans in it, a summit has been proposed.

However, a summit without an aggressive action plan to permanently cure the problem will only put a Band-Aid on the festering wound of transgender community racism that feeds into many of the problems we are experiencing with the white transgender community.

Many Black transpeople are skeptical and pessimistic about the results of a summit.

Our take on the proposed summit is while it is needed, all that will come out of it is that it will only be a feel good moment for those involved in said summit and elements of the transgender community.

We also feel the summit will be used as cover for people to point to it and say, "See, we addressed the problem," then the white transgender leadership will go right back to repeating the same privileged fueled crap that got us to this critical juncture in the first place.

But despite this skepticism that I share with my African descended transbrothers and transsisters, I'm putting it on the record that I'm willing to try and would attend such a meeting if it's called.

But if I show up, it's with the understanding that the summit be a prelude to finding permanent solutions to the problems we face.

The summit will need to break the cycle of negativity. It needs to hammer out specific remedies to cure the illness, not a panacea or a 'get out of jail free card' for the transgender leaders who created the mess in the first place.

So what are some of those bold steps?

*Transgender leadership ranks that reflect this community's diversity.

*Input at the outset in formulating policy for the community that doesn't just benefit middle/upper middle class transpeople.

*Transgender orgs aggressively looking for transpeople of color.

That last point is an irritant as well. Too many white run trans orgs are hiring just young white transmen and calling it 'diversity' when there are talented transpeeps of color who are just as qualified or even more so.

That also means you may need to hire some thirty and forty somethings to address that avalanche of snowfall in the leadership ranks.

*When this community holds up people as transgender role models, it needs to have as diverse a lineup as possible.

As this blog demonstrates, African-American transpeople and other transpeople of color are perfectly capable of speaking for and about issues in this community. It's past time to see us on news and information shows.

*When we discuss and compile our history, it must include the contributions of transpeople of color.

*When you have the media opportunity, start talking about the contributions of transpeople of color.

To help you out, I'm planning to do a series of interviews with Black transgender leaders and will be talking about the history that I'm aware of.

All you'll have to do it use it and give me proper kudos for the work.

And I can't stress this last one enough:
*A serious effort must be mounted to PERMANENTLY eradicate racism in the transgender community ranks.

This can't be a hit it and quit it when no one is looking effort. To overcome the racial tension in this community will take consistent sustained action, bold leadership and constant vigilance.

It has to be a consistent, sustained multi-year undertaking with regular reviews as to how it is (or isn't) progressing with immediate follow-up action to correct the problems.

In conclusion, the various dissings over time have caused the simmering anger of the Black transgender community over the ongoing inaction to boil over.

If you cavalierly dismiss this, think this will blow over, go right back to 'bidness' as usual and don't take decisive action to fix the problem, you're going to inch closer to the day that our pissivity with the white transgender community will boil over and we say "Enough!"

Black transpeople will walk away and do our own thing like our cisgender sisters did from feminism and won't look back.

And you'll be sitting there with a dumbfounded look on your faces asking why.

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