Last year the HRO was passed for LGBT rights in Jacksonville and last month I was invited to the Women’s Center’s Open Door celebration and given a personal tour of their facilities by one of the board members who had pointed out to me that they were supportive and all-inclusive of both LGBTQIA men and women despite the gendered bathrooms. She showed me two identical single-stall restrooms. One single restroom was for men and the other single restroom was for women. They were informed that in order to meet the city’s code they could not be gender neutral bathrooms. It seemed odd given the fact that the HRO had passed. I took note to think about this at a later time. This afternoon, I went and reviewed the ordinances online which, by the way, was an extremely tedious process. It seems a number of businesses including one I visited in downtown Jacksonville, Chamblin Bookmine, have gender-neutral single stall bathrooms. I decided to search the web instead. I came across this article.
“The law does not have any new requirements regarding bathroom usage.”
“Earlier this month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a set of guidelines regarding bathroom access for transgender workers. The guidelines recommend providing better access to options for transgender individuals with gender-neutral facilities.”
I’m not sure why the Women’s Center could not have single stall restrooms, but maybe this is one of those situations where the inspector was misinformed? I don’t know, but it all seems ridiculous to me. Can you imagine if we were required to have gendered single stall bathrooms at home? What about the campgrounds or art’s market? We seem to accept these single, gender-neutral bathrooms just fine, but we can’t or won’t accept the ones inside a building.
To some, colleges and universities are “ivory towers” isolated from the larger society. A closer look shows that this country’s academic institutions are reflections of our larger society, struggling with the same social issues and prejudices. Lorri L. Jean, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
The Spinnaker, a News Source from the University of North Florida, released an article reporting an incident which involved a transgender student who was assaulted and verbally threatened by a male in a campus bathroom. The report red-flagged the failure of the UNFPD to release a Clery report. The incident took place February 6 of this year and was reported to the UNFPD on February 7th.
It isn’t unusual to hear that police are poorly trained in handling cases of LGBT assaults nor unusual to hear of agencies, such as Victims Advocacy and LGBT groups reporting the way these types of incidents (as what happened February 6) are often minimized or dismissed. The article stated that Chief Strudel’s response was “it is rare and therefore, we aren’t going to do anything about it.” However, there were concerns expressed by Strudel that his statements were taken out of context when I spoke with him this afternoon. As someone who works as an advocate, activist and photojournalist on LGBT issues, my first reaction in reading this statement in the Spinnaker, was “Is this an accurately recorded statement?” My second reaction was to seek clarification since any incident involving an assault on campus would warrant a Clery report. If you aren’t aware of what a Clery report is, know that it is a set of federally mandated guidelines for universities. The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (20 USC § 1092(f))is the landmark federal law, originally known as the Campus Security Act, that requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses. The law is tied to an institution’s participation in federal student financial aid programs and it applies to most institutions of higher education both public and private. The Act is enforced by the United States Department of Education. Clerycenter.org
Both Title 9 and the Clery report serve to protect students on campuses, so to have guidelines in place and not follow the protocols would be an act of non-disclosure and not serve in the best interest of the population who are most at risk for hate crimes. Strudel denied that he stated that the case was not a hate crime and in fact, insisted that he kept having to correct the reporter. Strudel stated that the reporter took things out of context. A similar complaint by Kaitlin Legg, when I spoke with her earlier this afternoon, was that she had to repeatedly correct the reporter on a number of statements taken out of context. Legg is acting director of the LGBT Resource Center.
According to the article, the cameras were not checked by the campus PD. Strudel stated that initially when the report came in on February 7, the day after the crime, some of the details were not available, such as where the crime took place nor the name of the victim. Once the PD received this information the Communications sector on campus reviewed the footages. According to Strudel not all the cameras on UNF campus are updated; some are around 7 years old and are analogs and clarity is an issue. Dr. Thomas Serwatka, VP at UNF, emphasized the concerns he and President John Delaney had regarding the delay in releasing the Clery report and investigated the falling out with the campus procedure as soon as they learned of the article in the Spinnaker. Strudel stated that he recognized that he should have released this report immediately, regardless of not having all the information and felt he was protecting the student. Serwatka stated that UNF does not tolerate hate crimes nor non-disclosures of these incidences and are implementing protocols to ensure that procedures are followed regardless of the sexual orientation or gender identity and expression of the individual. The UNFPD is now implementing the procedure for all cases of assaults and had released the crime report later this afternoon. News coverage on First Coast News took place this evening at 11 p.m on the released crime report.
Language is everything. In its absence, expressions and body language, along with audible expressive sounds, assist us in understanding context within a framework of communicating with others. I hope to shape our understanding of words we choose, as well as labels, to which we attach ourselves. When I first heard the word “Straight Allies” my head went into a spin. I understood the good intentions behind the group who stand up for gay and lesbian rights, but I struggled with this title. Why? I struggled because it refers to sexual orientation rather than having the moral courage to state clearly the “who” or the “what”. I am not saying that anyone who is a Straight Ally is not morally courageous. In fact, I think this is the reason why some of us who have wondered about the title, do struggle with it. I know some of the Straight Allies and I know they are courageous and do wonderful things for the LGBT community, however, their title implies that they are allies to themselves rather than allies to the LGBT community. This was a safe and full proof marketing strategy and not risky. Advocates and activists take many risks in calling out the wrong and in naming the cause.
I had a discussion not that long ago with a friend of mine who is Trans – like me – and we talked about the frustration of how we consistently are overlooked and overshadowed by those who only think of LGBT in the context of “straight” versus “gay”.
We both had a rather misfortunate experience participating as part of a coalition and just in everyday life, in coming up against individuals who have a poor understanding and generally are ignorant when it comes to gender identity. It was disappointing to realize that the Straight Allies didn’t really comprehend the significance of this label and that it was misleading to the public. If I lived in a cartoon world – which we know doesn’t really exist and I replaced the words with LGBT – then, pulled out my remote control and selected “rewind”, the group may not have been as successful. It would have been wonderful if they could have, as individuals, chosen to make more profound statements such as “I stand up for Transgender individuals because …” or “I stand up for Gays and Lesbians because of…”. Perhaps some have done this while others definitely have not named for whom they stand, which brings me around to another point, that it is imperative we continue to educate on the subject of transgender identities.
We do not live in a cartoon world. I do get it. I think the intention behind this label was for a group of straight individuals to name themselves as a collective group who stand up for the LGBT as a way to show solidarity. The problem with this label is that it comes across divisive; “Straight versus Gay” and in reality some of the transgender individuals are straight. So where do they fit in?
It is too late to really do much about it since the title has already been embraced. I am shedding light on the title and hoping to effect changes in attitudes when those of us who express differences and to educate on the distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity. The correlation between sexual orientation and gender identity is individual and very separate from each another.
I recently had met over coffee with a Urologist, Dr. Judy Herring, who gives TedX talks about Gender. Her Ted Talks are insightful and she leaves us holding one thought “Do we really need labels based on our genitalia?”
Check her out. Judy Herring “Gender Bound: Lessons from the World Between”. In the meantime, I appreciate any efforts put forward by anyone who stands up for my rights, my trans identity and simply for being a decent human being in helping in ways they are comfortable and with the willingness to learn about LGBTQIA along the way. Oh … the “A” in this acronym stands for asexual; another type of sexual orientation and not ally.
Aristotle once said “To give away money is an easy matter and in any man’s power. But to decide to whom to give it and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter.” nptrust.org
This is a case in point for those of us who – not only do gratis work but – who also help fund work. When we speak out as Philanthropists expressing concerns that end up being dismissed, we realize that our concerns are not taken seriously. So, we ask ourselves “do we continue to support an organization whose leadership dismisses our concerns or do we affect change in addressing these concerns privately and when this fails, then publicly?”
As an Activist, Philanthropist and Advocate, I can only share my experience working, on a project for elderSource. The PhotoVoice project comprised of six participants. I tried to remain true to the participants but this was not without challenges. I witnessed how others, who like me, expressed sentiments of not being treated with respect or whose concerns were dismissed.
The gratis work and amount of hours I and my intern put into this project to uphold the authenticity of what the LGBT elders voiced, was not valued any more than the participants’ contributions, as evidenced in the end. All that the leadership cared about was their funding, not the profound statements made by three participants – all on film – all very compelling – rolled out in one statement (Precarious Legal System). Leadership argued that a statement such as this would place their organization at risk of losing funding.
(1) The statement “Precarious Legal System” was made and disputed by the leadership.
One of the participants (near the end of the project right before the exhibit) passed away. The participants had come to know her in all the months we worked closely with them. We suggested a postscript in her honor and as a way to celebrate her contribution as a valuable member of society. She was our one and only trans woman in the group.
(2) Postscript was initially rejected.
The reason that was given for rejecting the postscript? It would take away from all the other participants’ stories and overshadow the voices of the others, even though, her voice was a part of this project.
I worked hard helping the leadership realize in a one-on-one discussion at my studio that this participant had worked equally as hard throughout this project. To not have a postscript in her honor would be a dishonor.
The statement “Precarious Legal System” was placed on the wall of the exhibit at MOCA.
(3) Despite the rights for creative control written in my job description, the statement was shrunk down to a size that conflicted with directives I had given. I was never informed and did not know about the alteration until I arrived at the opening of the exhibit.
(4) I also received the directive, after reaching a compromise, to keep the postscript of the trans woman to one page.
The exhibit was to travel to Baker County, an oppressed area where topics such as LGBTQIA are controversial. We were initially informed that this project would not pose any problems. We were given space in their conference room and hallway right outside of the conference room.
(5) My colleague and I traveled to Baker County’s Health Department where we were informed that they were in a meeting, apparently elderSource and the Director at the County Health Department, all agreed ahead of time to remove the trans woman from the project, despite earlier emails confirming my role and time of arrival.
(6) Rather than stand by their promise to give voice to all participants – and honor terms throughout the traveling of this exhibit – they agreed to erase the trans woman from the project in favor of the organization’s self-interests. In doing so, they devalued the human being – now -deceased and unable to defend herself as one of their participants – like all the others – was informed that her voice mattered.
The act of trans erasure sent a strong message of non-acceptance and rejection to our trans community.
When we asked for a list of their board members, which at the time was not available online, we received only one name.
(7) The President of elderSource’s Board was sent a letter addressing all of my concerns.
(8) The Board sent a response that I felt was condescending and served as a way to shut those of us up by returning the funding to the foundation.
(9) The leadership announced they would do the project themselves and shortly thereafter dissolved their LGBT Elder Taskforce.
Cultural competency is an added value to any organization’s Best Practices. transogyny is serious and permeates our culture.
Holding organizations accountable who accept funding from those of us in the LGBTQIA community – when their leadership diminishes concerns raised by those in our community – is out of necessity and not meanness. Some of the individuals involved with the LGBT Elder Task Force throughout this project tried to reason with the leadership, but instead of listening, the leadership decided to dissolve this task force comprised of individuals who wanted to improve the quality of lives within the elder LGBT community. Just for the record, I was fortunate to have a witness to the Baker County incident and I knew I did not stand alone. There is history at this organization for blatantly disregarding the issues raised, ranging from concerns expressed over lack of materials available at Pride celebrations to criticisms made by leadership that the LGBT community failed to support the PV project, never acknowledging that neither did the cisgender community and needing reminding that two LGBTQIA individuals from this community had put up funding prior to the Kickstarter campaign.
This experience of mine with this particular organization has me evaluating how we can affect change in a positive fashion. Continually receiving conflicted messaging was disturbing to me. Other participants also verbalized receiving conflicted messaging. What stood out even more profoundly was a letter from an LGBT Elder Task Force member, counseling the leadership to try to work matters out with me to save the project from collapsing. After receiving a copy of the letter from its author, the author resigned from the task force. If the project was abandoned because I chose to uphold my end of the terms and adhere to my commitment to the participants as opposed to upholding the self-serving interests of the leadership, then it is not a surprise to hear others say that their concerns were dismissed. This says a lot.
When I inquired who would deny them funding, I was informed “The State”. What happens to elders who express concerns about this agency or others in not meeting their needs? Are they heard? Are they dismissed?
During one of our meetings at MOCA, there was another attempt made to revoke my creative rights. I reminded everyone that I had been working on this project for six months before completing it and to have it completely altered was not in the agreement. We were running out of time.
Some of us were dismissed a number of times and at one point I was called names during a phone conversation I had with one of their staff members. I was accused of being aggressive (typical of sexism when females assert themselves in business). I had insisted that the terms of my job description gave me creative rights over the project.
This organization was not interested in agreements, let alone upholding any agreements with venues for the exhibit. At one stage, the struggle became overwhelming and I realized very quickly that my creative rights to ensure that this project would remain intact was about to fall through, I offered to revoke funding until they could live up to the terms of my job description or decide to do otherwise. I was accused of sabotaging the project. Shortly after this, I was told that I am a “bitch” in a private conversation held at late hours over a four-hour phone conversation to try to work through finalizing the marketing and brochures for the exhibit. The lack of professionalism was very telling. I was told – during this conversation – that the leader of the organization was the one who everyone upheld – despite the concerns I raised on how the participants were selected in the first place (no men, no people of color etc.,) and why the PhotoVoice project was an interest at all when they were not willing to use the one profound statement of the three participants who used it?
The censoring of this statement opened Pandora’s Box for some of us. After all, what legal system is not precarious? Those who experience marginalization and discrimination have not always had the law on their side, particularly in the absence of human rights protections. The educated individuals at this organization failed to understand terms of the job descriptions they approved for this project. As someone who worked with Best Practices in healthcare, I wondered what their understanding was of other contracts they held with service providers? The lack of cultural competency could be pulsed and if I were to ever fund or recommend to others to fund an organization’s project again, I would begin with funding a healthcare consultant trained and well versed in cultural competency.
In the end …, the leadership (prematurely) received an award for the project before it went on display at MOCA. The Board probably never really knew the other side of this story and the participant will never know that she did not make a contribution once the exhibit traveled.
Trans erasure occurs every day. JamieAnn Meyers in The BLOG of the Huffington Post wrote a beautiful article on Trans* Invisibility. It’s up to trans* people to be proactive and make certain that our individual and collective voices are heard loud and clear by the public and the media, and that we continue to be written into the record of queer history. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamieann-meyers/trans-invisibility_b_2619929.html
My perspective and expertise in Best Practices tell me that this isn’t unique to this one particular organization. It raises the question that when organizations make statements they are allies to the LGBT community, whether they do so to try to get funding or whether they actually understand their allyship to the LGBTQIA community, needs to be demonstrated through actions and not run parallel with conflicts of interests.
Some thoughts on a previous dialogue … This is to serve as a gentle reminder that trans people have reasons to raise concerns and if not concerns, at least some questions. Some of us continue to read about how the law erases who we are and how complacency contributes to the marginalized group at an alarming rate. Celebrating a marker without considering points raised by trans people is participating in silencing our voices when we raise concerns.
Will they serve the transgender population well? What about the gender queers? How will cishets and cisgays know the differences in determining how to move forward in treatments, asking questions and simply just having the dialogue? Does it matter to differentiate? Should a medical form encompass a bit more than just the umbrella terms, transgender? Some of us think it should. For instance, on a medical form, the term transgender could also accompany a series of questions to seek clarification and to help with codifying and classifying for actuarial studies. This makes a tremendous difference in a number of ways. Let’s look at some of the ways this could actually foster dialogue among practitioners to better serve the transgender population.
Are you MtF? Are you FtM? Are you in transition? Are you female but identify as male? Are you male but identify as female? Are you gender fluid and MtF? Are you gender fluid and FtM? Are you straight? Are you gay? Are you a lesbian? Are you a bisexual? Are you pansexual? Are you asexual? Are you intersex? Are you aromantic?
By what pronoun do you prefer to be addressed?
The above questions are some of the ways the exploration towards understanding the patient who presents for the first visit can help clarify who they are as an individual.
This matters. It matters because it will determine who we are as transgender-identified individuals. We are part of a rainbow. This same marker should be used for GLBT. It should not erase anyone else from medical forms from exploring their preferences and identities.
When non-trans people are quick to accept limited representation and dismiss questions by trans and take an adversarial position towards this very marginalized group – despite the validity of their questions, they must welcome questions and not view these as attacking. We need to move away from personalizing any criticism raised by those who are transgender individuals. We experience marginalization every day. Markers on forms are not necessarily all-inclusive and to hear anyone state that “this is a start” is farthest from welcoming all inclusive and intersectional sectors who serve under this umbrella term. “Microaggression, a theory coined by Chester M. Pierce back in 1970, hypothesizes that specific interactions between those of different races, cultures, or genders can be interpreted as small acts of mostly non-physical aggression.”
“Verbal and behavioral indignities are classic symptoms of microaggression.” Mary Rowe in 1973 who wrote about it on sex and gender.
Some of us have served on committees and experienced microaggression in settings right within our borders. This is not okay. It feels attacking when we raise valid concerns. It is time to move beyond the power struggle and move towards harmony, without taking positions that those of us who raise concerns are delivering these in an attacking manner.
Each year the Oscar Awards are given to individuals who were nominated as Best Performing Actor followed by all those in other categories for their excellent performance and achievements.
Having directed sets, plays and teams, I am cognitive of the hard work each individual contributes in efforts put forth to ensure that recognition didn’t happen because of just their singular part; that it happened because they were a part of the team.
If anything cannot be stated enough throughout this essay, it will be this very sentence just written; emphasis on the importance of any participant’s collective work of art or act of force, in their role to deliver an exemplary outcome, cannot be undermined and only happens when everyone respects each person’s contribution.
In a few weeks in an upcoming conference at UNF, I will be sharing thoughts on the slow process the media plays in addressing public representation as well as misrepresentation of Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer-Questioning-Intersex-Asexual (LGBTQIA).
I don’t want to detract or undermine the efforts of actors who – on stage -as well as – on sets – come prepared after agonizingly studying their character roles, to ensure they deliver, as convincing as possible, without having to appear convincing at all, the character they portray.
While I recognize that actors are acting and aim to have a strong connection to their characters, even going as far as portraying the character building throughout their work and personal life, all in an effort to strengthen their identities to the character they portray, I know that it is through developing, practicing and shaping their roles in character studies, which will deliver an outstanding performance and that it is a lot of bloody, hard work.
Why is it that those of us who are transgender and/or gay persons, belly ache rather loudly about cisgender persons taking on roles of those who are transgender or gay? Why do we sound angry or unappreciative? Is it because we are not even considered capable and therefore, leave others who cast actors in these roles, to feel culpable? Is it that we are disqualified because we are transgender or gay persons? Why are we passed over?
Some of us feel it is an injustice to impart roles to cisgender persons when these could be played by the very party who represent us or any particular population for that matter. An illustration dates back to just a few decades ago when white actors portrayed Native American Indians. I must say that their performance wasn’t all that convincing since it felt off somehow, (not meaning any disrespect) but, I think the same could be said of the white man portraying an African American, African, a Middle Eastern, Mexican, Latino and Asian character.
As someone who has performed the roles of characters, I know that it is hard bloody work. It is even harder work for the minority actor to perform, because of all the cultural practices of the misunderstandings, misappropriations, misogyny and the long ties to cis behaviors, within a binary world, whose players participate in marginalizing a population – directly affecting the minority individual – cast in the role representative of them. The minority among the majority has been examined time and time again by sociologists, interested in the field of study, including preschoolers of the minority functioning within a native group. Studies show that they have behavioral problems unique to their culture of which there is a correlation between socio-economics and psychological factors stemming from the first generation of immigrants. One such study referred to as the Generation – R study from the Netherlands included 7925 participants. This study was not in anyway including or pertaining to LGBTQIA, but rather to any minority race and culture. “When considering generational status, we found that the risk was particularly increased in children of first-generation immigrants, though the second generation also presented more problem behaviour. A potential explanation for this finding is that immigration risk factors such poor proficiency of the native language and cultural barriers, more common in first than in second generation immigrants, can lead to social isolation and associated stress in mothers, which may affect children’s behaviour [1,34].”
We can say the same about our culture since many cisgender persons simply do not understand the language binding our sense of who we are as much as how we live and practice. When some of us are asked why we dress like men, when we are women, we have to explain ourselves. When we are asked why we don’t hang with our gender, we have to explain ourselves, once again. When we are asked why we emulate certain characteristics, we have to remind those posing questions and seeking clarification that we are who they see and that emulating is cross-sectional throughout history as much as it is in the world of cisgender persons. We have to continuously explain ourselves even to the detriment of exhausting ourselves. We have to step out even among some of our subcultural groups, who seem to also fail to recognize differences.
The roles are given to actors who portray people from other classes, rich or poor; other populations and subcultures among cultures; race, creed; blind or deaf etc, in no way make the actor a lesser human being. In fact, their role requires some really hard efforts in character studies; the study of history, the study of subcultures within the culture, as well as the study of current affairs in order to understand the character role they portray. It is doubly hard for the minority; simply because, the majority truly doesn’t really “experience it through our eyes and ears” – for lack of better words – Living a life of a minority everyday, every waking hour, calls within us an alert state; at a heightened level, which we cannot afford to reduce to a low hum and not because we don’t want to, but rather because when we do, it is then that we are at risk in falling prey to the misogynistic and homophobic/transphobic practices by those who think it is their place to stand against or for us without realizing their role and how they affect us on a level impossible with which to connect, because in their daily life they are not having to defend themselves. Why is it that in the Dutch study and many others like it, the minority are classified as having behavioral problems? Pathology assigned and we are labeled as disturbed in some way. Is it any wonder that we appear angry? The studies are done to protect the minority in efforts to reduce the pitfalls of any minority group not well understood. We implement practices and hope that we can actively legislate on behalf of the minority who are victimized and often lack representation across all realms.
Efforts to improve LGBT health include:
Curbing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) with interventions that work.8
Providing supportive social services to reduce suicide and homelessness risk among youth.9
Appropriately inquiring about and being supportive of a patient’s sexual orientation to enhance the patient-provider interaction and regular use of care.10
Providing medical students with access to LGBT patients to increase provision of culturally competent care.11
If the actors, as a collective measure, stood their ground on behalf of those from minority groups, who are not given these roles, or stood their ground on pushing for talent agencies and scout agents to seek individuals representative of the minority group, that would shed light on efforts made by everyone to ensure that the measures were taken to insist that these roles are filled by those who could best portray the character.
Is this being done? Are we assuming that it isn’t being done?
The worst representations were of those who as whites performed as Africans. Makeup artists had to work hard in producing a convincing outcome. Not quite.
What about those who pass? An illustration of someone who passes is the person with sight and hearing who portrays a blind or deaf character. Do we bellyache about the lack of representation when casting blind or deaf characters? Do the blind and deaf actors complain? Do we ever hear, see or read about any of the blind and deaf actors complaining? Pause … yes. They have and had to prove even more so than those with sight and hearing that they are exemplary at acting. Why is it that we have to “pass” at all?
What about Down Syndrome characters? We now have Down Syndrome actors who portray a character with their genotypes. They are not portraying themselves. They are performing the role of a particular character.
Is it fair to state that a really superb actor could perform any character of any population? Yes. We would say that this person had to work doubly hard to be convincing without appearing this way. Do we even understand that it is even harder for the minority to portray someone from their group? Do we understand that the minority are inside the borders of the majority? Do we “get this”?
Is it fair to state that the marginalization of a population hinges on participatory efforts by those who are unaware of the role they play in real time opposed to the role they should be playing? They could turn down the role. Right?
Actors earn a living. Inside the borders of the entertainment industry is a world comprised of shareholders, bankers, board members, producers, etc., who play an even more powerful role and in a twisted sort of fashion could end the careers of many individuals. I, therefore, am reluctant to bash an ensemble, who as a collective force, participated in delivering their contribution to bringing a successful outcome.
I am one of those individuals who wants to affect change in the way our industry, repeatedly casts actors who replace those from the very population they portray.
Some of us even have felt this way about efforts put forth by allies who should be giving the LGBTQIA the platform but, who stand in place of all these individuals representing us as if we are incapable of representing ourselves. We know we need allies! Not anyone of us denies the strength in collective bargaining tactics. We understand more than anyone outside of our borders that we must align with the forces of those who stand up on our behalf to show support as well as encourage others of their group to do the same. Political strategizing consists of a number of principle practices without participating in criminalizing or marginalizing minority populations. Yet …, we experience the counter-intuitive.
I will not bash actors who performed the role of you or I. I will criticize their speech delivery in not addressing the issues and why acting the role of a minority is a privilege. Many actors have stood up and made political statements as the world looked on. Last night would have been a successful evening if a transgender person could have performed a speech right alongside Jared Leto on behalf of transgender persons. How about Janet Mock?
I think what many of us, who have opinions about the Global Awards feel, is that the privilege of playing the role of a minority isn’t exactly recognizing that LGBTQIA are a minority, and it feels a bit as if we are removed from the human element. Even comedy has a place at the political helm. Otherwise, we are behaving entitled. We fail to underscore the messages. We fall short of our human side when it becomes all about accolades and very little about the roles of human suffrage.
“There is a lot of brokenness in the Gay community” once said a friend of mine during a conversation we were having on his porch about what life is like inside our borders. Eventually, I would have to agree with him.
There are many individuals who, as children, did not have their emotional process affirmed or accepted, because of parents and caregivers being dismissive of their gender identity/expression or fluidity during their growth and development; a painful journey for many and certainly one, in which anyone who has gone through it in their childhood, leaves residual, emotional scars.
Brokenness can be seen within our borders with the use of drugs and alcohol; measures to self-medicate are not all that unusual. Brokenness can be witnessed among those who are religious addicts who have swapped out chemicals for religion. Then there are those who are unable to stop the G-d talk or giving lectures to the point of saturating and driving everyone away; compromising friendships.
Another friend once said “We have allies who try to convince us that they are our best friends and have our best interests at heart. Don’t believe all of them.” She was referring to outside of our borders and in particular, referencing straights who claim to be allies, because they happened to like gays. What does it take to be an ally for any cause? Isn’t it good enough to like gays?
Good allyship requires training and education on the culture the ally supports. Allies who do not seek proper training and education fail to understand the dynamics, the history of how critical issues played a force in the human rights movement and they won’t know how to hold a conversation if the translation of language is not well understood, so in seeking information it is equally important to speak with individuals who are able to translate the gay language. Speaking on issues which affect the rights of a human population requires having the conversations, being able to participate in dialogue and agreeing to remove all caution and stop signs and signals in order to keep the dialogue flowing and moving forward. Once censoring is employed traffic jams occur and the conversation stops; imploding the process. We welcome allies who are schooled, but we run from those when we see the damage that was done because they failed to understand their position on issues affecting the oppressed group.
“Straights who think they can speak for the LGBT and who claim they give LGBT a voice is somewhat insulting”, said another friend of mine. “We have a voice. We aren’t heard because they don’t want to hear what we have to say. Big difference!” We hear the expression Giving Voice, a lot.
Do people realize how this is perceived by those, whose voices are never heard, because they either are not invited to the table or if they are they are overshadowed by the greater force? Do people realize that when they speak out on behalf of the marginalized group that this is still not really giving the individuals of the oppressed group their voice? Do they not realize that the more they speak out, swapping places and swapping expressions, which originated with the oppressed group, that they are partaking in silencing the very group to whom they should be giving the stage?
Another friend of mine said this … “They don’t really respect us; if they did then they would ask for our insights and knowledge on the subject.” We see LGBT human rights groups send in straights to serve as leaders and role models for LGBT organized action as if the LGBT movement for decades has never had any experts in this realm.
LGBT see B.S. a mile away. We recognize mixed messages in a heartbeat. We see patronizing behavior coming before the person finishes delivering. This stems from years of marginalization, having to identify sublimable behaviors and messages. When we witness this within organized groups for action we see the writing on the wall.
My personal accounting, living as a gender fluid queer, has been agonizing – while at other times – liberating when I surround myself with other queers who understand the language and the power in words to help raise awareness of a subculture within a culture. When we are prevented or reminded of who we are through messages from well-meaning straights that sound something along these lines, … “Why do you have to talk the gay stuff all the time?”; we realize we don’t have the same rights to joke or have access to conversations unless they are heteronormative. The conversations are driven down a one-way street. The traffic only flows in one direction. To cross over into other lanes of identities and discussions becomes a hazardous endeavor.
I can talk the gay talk, walk the gay walk, live and breath the gay who I am, but only if I am with gays. This privilege is not extended to me once I cross into the hetero world of those who practice living heteronormative lives as cisgenders in a binary world. I have watched the gay community agree to the limit setting imposed on them by cisgenders.
Even in our gay community, we have people who don’t want to move away from heteronormative roles. It is perplexing to me how someone can be gay and be so closed off to the rest of the gay culture. These individuals are equally as guilty as those who refuse to listen and learn about the gay cultural movement.
My friend was correct. We are a broken community inside our borders, but we are also witnessing the brokenness outside of our borders from cisgender allies who insert themselves, uninvited and challenge our gender non-conforming behaviors, swapping the language and describing those who are gender benders and non-conformists as aggressive and angry while they would herald these qualities in cisgender men, challenge these qualities in women and the LGBT.
Privilege is a lovely thing to have, but it is only lovely when you recognize it and appreciate having it. It is an ugly thing when it becomes a power struggle, leads to entitlement and superiority; egomaniacal individuals who need their egos fed at the expense of another end up serving in roles as predators looking for a host on whom to feed and in the end serve only their own best interests.
If we could just stand up for each other, be kinder and forget what it will do for our popularity, we would actually get somewhere to civil and the world might be a better place for all of us. It must start with language and not just a few words as this would abandon the rest of the gay culture. A lesson which could easily apply to any oppressed group.
Bring out the dictionary and let the lesson begin with words.
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