Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What About Our Legacy?

TransGriot Note: I was shocked and pleased to discover that in Dr. Susan Stryker's latest book Transgender History, I'm not only listed on Page 150 of it, this humble blog is listed as a resource for further transgender info.

It's an honor to be considered by Dr. Stryker, a person that I admire as a resource.

It also means I have to step up my blogging game another level and be a BETTER historical resource and repository of information.

Since the community seems hellbent on erasing the voices of our Black transleaders, and some of y'all don't know (or in come cases don't care) who they are, I'm going to take it upon myself and start an ongoing TransGriot project to invite those history making leaders to talk about whatever's on their minds on a regular basis.

First up is A. Dionne Stallworth. She's one of the original founders of GenderPac, and a longtime advocate and activist concerning issues of mental health, homelessness, people of color, and equality for all LGBTIQ people.


Among her many accomplishments, Dionne was one of the original founding
members of GenderPAC, a former officer and board member of the Pennsylvania
Mental Health Consumers’ Association, founded and ran the first organization in Philadelphia dealing with the issues of transgender youth of color, and one of the founding members and original co-chair of the Philadelphia–based Transgender Health Action Coalition.

Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my own mortality. I guess that could be that Michael Jackson and I shared the same age when he died. It could be that in the past five years, I have lost 6 others who I loved – an ex, two brothers, and my father among them. With that being said, I have sat by and watched the same-sex marriage take over the equality discussion for all queer or LGBTIQ2S rights. I have watched Lt. Dan Choi, in a real “David and Goliath” moment, fighting for gays to serve openly in the military. I have watched in recent days as ENDA includes gender-variant people and is being seriously discussed on the Hill.

With all of these occurrences, I wonder what kind of legacy will we as queer people actually intend to leave behind for our families, the kids who seem to be coming out even earlier to a world that hasn’t figured out how to deal with them fairly, justly and with dignity. I begin to actually wonder what has happened to queer history and our leadership.

I had the pleasure of meeting Barbra Gittings before she left us, admittedly too soon. A very wise woman. At the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, I met a woman who I had only heard whispers about. When I first saw her, I thought: “Naw, it couldn’t be her. Just couldn’t be.” But as sure as I breathe, it was her. It was Miss Major, one of the two transgender pioneers I knew who were at Stonewall in 1969. She was dressed comfortably, and was poised and elegant. I wonder how many people besides me even knew she was there.

This brings me to my point of the day, folks – if we were there at Stonewall and before, and even at the subsequent events, why does there seem to be no trace of us in populist queer history? I mean, some of us may have been Black, but I don’t think it was that dark all the time to miss all of us. What about the Asian leaders like Pauline Park or Sabina Neem? What about the Latino/a leaders like Gloria Casarez or David Acosta? What is with history or herstory when all the pages and accomplishments are all white? What does this say to the next generation of queer people of color? What does this say about the fight for inclusion and equality? Does it mean that people of color are expendable? Does it mean that transgenders and gender-variant people are less queer than their White counterparts? From what I see and hear, with very little exception, some people are more deserving of equality than others. I see and hear that my human rights, my very right to exist, are less deserving than the right of gay people to be married. I ask the people reading my words now – is that the legacy, the true legacy, you wish to pass on?

In my lifetime, I have witnessed the election of the first African-American President of the United States. To be perfectly honest, I had my doubts that he was gonna make it, but he did. However, I remember another candidacy that virtually was done before it started – the candidacy of Shirley Chisholm. Look that one up in your history books.

I have watched the constant refrain from the leadership to the mainstream media: “We don’t want special rights. We want equal rights.” They say the more things change, the more they stay the same. It would appear to our leadership in organizations like HRC and GLAAD, and to representatives like Barney Frank, some people are more equal than others. Are they right? Is this the legacy we want to send to queer families and the next generation of our leadership?

We are at a most crucial point in our history. We can begin to truly call into question the “isms” that in the past have separated and divided us and made us easy prey for the purveyors of hate and division. We can begin to really what is necessary to take care of our next generation of leaders by investing in adoption not only for gay and lesbian children, but for transkids as well.

We can say no more to the hundreds of thousands of kids and adults who die from suicide each year. We can learn and teach each other our true history, which includes everybody and I mean EVERYBODY! With all the pain, hate, injustice and intolerance, we’ve all seen and experienced, do we really have time for the whitewashing of our history? Do we really have time to be so myopic that our own legacy slips right through our fingers?

What’s it going to be? It’s your move and ours.

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