Saturday, November 13, 2010

Transgenders of Color - Why Many Aren't In The TG Movement

TransGriot Note:  While surfing ran across this post I wrote during my NTAC days in August 2000.   Sadly seems like not much has changed in ten years. 


One of the questions that I get asked as a TG activist of color wherever I go is why has it been so difficult to get POC's involved and active in the TG movement. As a middle-class African-American who grew up in the 'hood this is my assessment of why many POC's prefer to not publicly identify as transgendered or get involved in the T-civil rights struggle.
Gender roles in communities of color are rigidly enforced, and transgressing those roles can sometimes provoke a violent reaction that may result in your death. You avoided being called a 'sissy', 'dyke', or 'punk' at all costs. Last year Lynn Vines of Baltimore was shot six times at point blank range by a 13 year old because she was a drag queen visiting her sister. The words of this kid as he shot Lynn were: "We don't want no faggots in our neighborhood." 

Many TG's of color are also reluctant to join T-organizations because of our working partnership with the GLB community and their self-perceptions of themselves as hetero members of their new gender.
Transgenders of color don't see TG organizations addressing their most vital issue... JOBS. A job is a precious commodity to a person of color, and many of us aren't going to put that job in jeopardy if we know for a fact that identifying yourself as transgendered will cause you to LOSE that job. no job = no money = no transition.

Transgenders of color don't see people that look like them in many T-organizations, and that sets up a vicious cycle. They don't feel like valued members of the community because of it or feel that they have a stake in the organization. It also sends the unspoken message that they aren't welcome in the T-community. 

There is also a reluctance among transgenders of color to join a predominately white organization or be the 'first POC' in an organization. Any T-POC that does has to have a very healthy ego and infinite patience to withstand the slings and arrows that come from both the T-community of color and the white T-community. Heaven help that T-POC if they rise to a leadership position within that organization. Every decision that they make is nitpicked or criticized by the white T-community and they are ripped as a sellout by the T-community of color at the same time.

So what do we do about it? Frederick Douglass once said in 1862 that "the destiny of the colored American is the destiny of America". That means that if we are to achieve our goal of gaining our constitutional rights, we must have the T-community of color actively taking part. Capitol Hill, the statehouses, and city halls of our nation must see the full diversity of our community. We must also honestly address the issue of racism within our house if we are to ever have any hope of building a united T-community.

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