Saturday, July 30, 2011

Don Lemon, If You Were In Our Shoes, How Mad Would You Be?

I have my issues with Ashley Love palling around with the Tea Trans Klan, but at the same time in the name of Black trans solidarity I'm not and can't in good conscience let slide your disrespectful dig at her   I've had several phone conversations with her over the last year and while I'm not a clinical psychologist (and neither are you) I would say that she is far from being an 'unstable lady' and an apology is owed to her.

Perhaps you weren't aware that her passionate anger about the NAACP, one of  our iconic legacy organizations, erasing us from a historic panel on LG(bt) issues is a sentiment shared by many of us in the African-American trans community and our allies.  

So Mr. Lemon, if you were in our shoes, how mad would you be?

Being upset or angry about being excluded or disrespected doesn't make one 'unstable' any more than it did when your fellow gay and lesbian peeps were outraged about the way the 2008 Prop 8 vote went down in California and temporarily eliminated their ability to get married.

I didn't hear people calling them 'unstable', even when predominately white elements of the LG community began erroneously blaming African-Americans for their loss.   I didn't hear people describing GL  people as 'unstable' when they were getting in touch with their inner Archie Bunkers and disrespecting other African-American LGBT people who were there picketing in solidarity with them in the aftermath of that jacked up election.

Ashley's actions were no more 'unstable' as trans activist Ethan St. Pierre remarked as Lt. Dan Choi and friends chaining themselves to the White House fence in military uniforms to protest Don't Ask Don't Tell. 

Frankly, as a longtime award winning activist and African-American trans blogger, I'm not exactly happy about the NAACP erasure either and have been vocal about my displeasure with it. 

Had I been able to attend that Los Angeles panel I probably would have had some choice words to say about how the African-American trans community feels deeply wounded and hurt about being erased from a discussion on TBLG issues.

But Don, since you're newly out and probably haven't been around your African-American trans cousins yet, time to school you on some things you probably aren't hearing from the predominately vanilla flavored LG people that have surrounded you since you came out just three short months ago.

First order of business is that contrary to the meme that's pimped about us, we have professional, college educated and talented African-American trans men and trans women.   We have college professors, classically trained musicians, lawyers, doctors, writers, teachers, athletes, students and business persons in our ranks.

You may have even met some of them and didn't realize it because many of them are living lives similar to yours prior to coming out in which they don't reveal their trans status to anyone but a trusted few people with their secret.  

And why is that?   Because as the recent Task Force/NCTE survey reveals, we have a rough time just living our lives and it can sometimes have deleterious effects on our careers.  

That survey revealed Black transgender people live in extreme poverty with 34% reporting incomes of less than $10,000.  Black trans people suffer severe economic distress because of unemployment related to discrimination based on the oppressions of race, gender and transphobic bias.  Approximately 32% reported losing their job due to bias and 48% were not hired due to bias. 

And this is just the tip of the iceberg of the issues suffered by Black transsexuals.   We are taking the brunt of the casualties in terms of anti-trans violence aimed at us.  To get an idea just how bad the situation is, I urge you to attend this year's Transgender Day Of Remembrance events either in Atlanta or New York and you will see firsthand when they read the names of the fallen how many of them are trans people of color. 
There is also the invisibility aspect that NAACP played into with our erasure from that panel.   Trans issues have been discussed since Christine Jorgenson stepped off her New York flight from Denmark to the glare of flashing camera lightbulbs and the crush of media coverage in February 1953 but African-American transpeople are barely acknowledged as existing.

The conversations, activism and direction of the trans rights movement have been dominated by white people for almost 60 years.   Black transpeople are barely part of the conversation despite the fact that we have helped write much of the history and done much of the grunt work in terms of putting our lives and livelihoods on the line to stand up for ours and other people's civil rights.  It was African descended trans people in Philadelphia who jumped off the first trans specific issues protest in April-May 1965.   

When Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore began doing SRS surgeries in 1967, African-American transwoman Avon Wilson was their first patient. 

Yes Mr. Lemon, we African descended transpeople exist and we're not going away.  The reason trans issues aren't as advanced as they need to be is because of repeated deliberate actions by the GL community to cut us out of badly needed civil rights legislation as legislative bargaining chips or deliberate attempts to drown out our ability to be integral parts of the civil rights conversation.    

Black transpeople are beyond sick and tired of being sick and tired of the erasure, tired of our sisters blood being shed, tired of the erasure, tired of the disrespect and dehumanizing behavior aimed at us, and were tired of being excluded from the African American family table.

So Mr. Lemon, I ask the question again.   If you were in our shoes, how mad would you be? 

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