Trans Erasure

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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

Laverne Cox stated in an interview taken from an article by News Editor, Jamilah King Friday, September 13, 2013, “There’s consistently an erasure of trans identity when we have these discussions,” said Cox, who’s skyrocketed to stardom because of her pioneering role on the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.” http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/09/laverne_cox_and_janet_mock_talk_mister_cee.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.

©An Goldbauer

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The Problem with Political Correctness

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Here are some arguments why political correctness doesn’t have a place in public discourse. For those who spoke on bill 2012-296 at the city council hearings last year, reports came in that there was an attempt at censorship by some of those within our borders who served on the Jacksonville Committee for Equality, including manipulative control by city council members in undermining those who, as LGBT, spoke out about abuse and threats they had encountered over the years. One of the city council members compared the LGBT to citizens living in Egypt. Whether anyone at the time realized it or not, the insults weren’t just directed to LGBT in Jacksonville, but were also directed at Egyptians; Kimberly Daniels, one of the city council members stated she had heard that some of the Egyptians practiced bestiality and necrophilia; implying that gay people did the same. The outrage could be felt throughout the room and while there were many unkind and untruths spoken, ranging from some of the city council members to those in the audience, the LGBT voices seemed to be nullified in the eyes of those who were homophobic. The rules had to be followed and anyone who spoke at the city council hearings had (3) minutes without uninterrupted time by either party from the audience, which wasn’t always a practice adhered by some of the city council members. Much debate ensued on whether or not the LGBT were presenting favorably as citizens. Destiny children had their theories and those who had impressions based on absolutely very little historical fact and mostly false rhetoric were determined to lead the process under the assumption that political correctness would nullify any negative perceptions.

The measure to pass the bill failed as did the amended bill.

Two of the city council members, Denise Lee and Warren Jones voted in favor of the bill which encompassed the full inclusive language and if passed, would have protected LGBT; the watered-down version failed a 10-9 vote.

It became quite evident that the arguments presented weren’t enough. Very little focus was placed on statistics from valuable sources, such as Centers for American Progress (CAP), SAGE and GLAAD, including our local organizations, such as JASMYN; the civic leaders who spoke up didn’t present economic arguments other than to say “It is the right thing to do”, and while that may be what the LGBT and the community of their allies believed, it wasn’t a sentiment shared among mainstream Jacksonville. Civic leaders could have easily presented measured data to support the need to vote in favor of bill 296.

Reports came in from a few individuals that the civic leaders took measures in their own hands, moved through matters very quickly, barring very little time for educational measures by those who were well equipped to dialogue about the differences in the bill and the proposed amendment, causing the Committee for Equality to lose control of the process.

Hours of deliberation and months later, the community of LGBT felt betrayed and angered for a number of reasons. The discussions among those who talked about the process complained, they had been misled by those on the inside who served on the Jacksonville Committee for Equality. The Jacksonville Committee for Equality defended themselves and felt they had lost control – despite the well-intentioned efforts of those who spoke out on behalf of the bill. The LGBT community learned too late that the fully inclusive bill had been replaced with the amended version and was told that every measure would be taken to include the full inclusive language at another time. Historically, this has failed as what happened in Orlando some years ago and what had been pointed out by Equality Florida’s executive director, Nadine Smith and Joe Saunders who now serves House District 49 in Florida.

The transgender community felt deceived and for good reasons. The population of transgender persons runs the highest risk for homicides, worldwide and according to GLAAD, 45% of reported hate murders were Transgender women.

The LGBT community didn’t have any idea what had happened last year and by the time anyone had bits and pieces of various versions passed on down, the LGBT and some of the allies lost faith in the process, which brings us currently to the same concerns; the newly formed committee has some hoops through which to jump if they are to win back the trust of those who felt marginalized and thrown under the bus.

Is it any wonder why the transgender community of Jacksonville was angered by anyone from within the borders agreeing to the proposed amendment? Those from within the borders claim they did not see this coming and expressed heartfelt sadness over the shift that occurred. Will they be in control this time around?

When the LGBT could not have their feelings validated without being viewed as negative by even those from within the borders, they experienced what many victims experience, trauma. Claims were heard that they were blamed for having negative views and therefore, would somehow affect the political platform and took the criticisms personally. Some of these individuals will not speak out for fear that they will be verbally attacked.

In defense of the LGBT, not one individual was prepared to hear city council members pass degrading remarks at those who reported incidences of being fired because of their sexual orientation, or whose property had been vandalized. The LGBT who reported the incidences were led to believe that their behavior (simply for having a sexual orientation other than that of heterosexuality and gender nonconformity) caused the vandalism and were the reasons for losing their jobs. What would this mean for heterosexuals who are gender non-conforming? How many of these individuals have experienced marginalization? Is anyone listening? Does anyone care enough to ask these questions within this population who might be mislabeled as gay and who were denied equal opportunities?

Lastly, the LGBT were angered by political correctness enforced upon them within their borders. One such individual, Professor Steven Lance Stoll, spoke up and challenged the city council members on why they were following a book written back in the Bronze age. Did any of the city council members vote against the bill and the watered down version because of their religious beliefs?

Currently, there are nine city council members who were honored at First Baptist Church for heeding FBC advice to vote against the bill. Please visit YouTube for more information on FBC honoring the city council members. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJxO0D4d9Fo.

The Witherspoon Institute on August 13, 2013, published an article on Dissecting Public Discourse written by Stella Morabito who points out that the problem with political correctness, or PC, is that “we all perpetuate political correctness when we succumb to the fear of contradicting PC” truth.”

What happens in groups? Is it normal to witness self-assignments without any votes being cast? What makes some of these individuals privileged? Granted, some of the individuals now have experience from which to draw that they did not have last year. Will they listen to those who raise concerns or are they more concerned, once again, about behavior, personalizing the criticism received by those who do speak up or raise concerns?

I was one of these individuals who was told that I am half cocked because I called people to task and asked a lot of questions. I removed myself from the committee after realizing that my voice would not count and was viewed as politically attacking and inappropriate, even though, I raised concerns based on rumors circulating from last year and public comments made by the LGBT. My overall concern with the process is will the floor communicate with the committee? Will those who question the process encounter repeated harassment with emails calling for private one on one meetings. Will they be accused of being half-cocked?

Morabito talks about psychological manipulation and its correlation to suppression. “If we think of PC as bacteria, suppression is like the dark room and the culture required for the bacteria’s growth and replication.”

She refers to suppression as one of the twins while the other is “saturation”. Morabito dissects the outcome and pointedly refers to this as producing an illusion that shifts public opinion by heavily saturating them with an impression, ‘opinion cascade’ as she calls it. The outcome? Regulating opinions of others. Politicians understand twin processes well enough to know that it results in “shaping public opinion and the political process.” according to Morabito.

Morabito writes that in 1999, an article on ‘availability cascade’ was published on a ‘related concept’ in Stanford Law Review where the purpose is to prevent people to think freely and fall victim to practice survival mode for social acceptance.

We have some people within our community who have been successfully silenced in this manner through social isolation and vilified as the enemy by those who might have experienced fear of going against PC.

Some of us watched and observed the toxic effect this had on our community and soon realized that some of the players were classifying themselves as our allies. A rhetorical question some of us had “Are some of our allies dispelling truth?”, and no pun intended here with the use of the label ‘all lies’, but it seems even some of them are propagating the idea that censoring behavior, expression and individual style must meet standards of their idea for PC. Are they correct? Are they suppressing voices within our own borders from the outside? Do they have the right to do so? Who grants them this privilege while we stand by and recognize that even among some of these allies they do not understand the gay culture. It is even more disturbing that within our borders even some of the LGBT want to compare LGBT rights to the black race issues. A black person will tell you that there isn’t any comparison, because the race issue continues to exist in present day. They cannot escape being black. Why then is there this need to continue to focus on the religious argument and play the race card? Why are we not educating the public on the different types of sexual orientations since anyone of any color and creed can have any of the sexual orientations? Is it because the religious evangelists have successfully managed to brainwash individuals from birth through tainted, hateful rhetoric? Isn’t this equally as damaging as any other addiction or is it deliberate and can we call this out as abuse? Isn’t it disturbing when we hear of people raised with fundamental religious views who take their own lives or those of others, because of their sexual orientation?

Morabito points out Cass Sunstein in a chapter of his book titled “On Rumors” 2009, referring to “chilling effect” as a tactic and essentially did everything he could to discredit Obamacare. Could we say this is what FBC and the Family Policy Council attempted?

What is Morabito’s recommendation in all of this? She suggests avoiding isolation and instead, to do the work by having conversations with others in the community in order to build a stronger voice. Morabito writes “if enough people come out of isolation and shed the fear of speaking their minds, a genuine cascade of truth will ensue.”

Social media allows for this opportunity, however, some of the LGBT and allies have been verbally attacked on FB by those who viewed their remarks as negative. Who are these destiny children? Why are they so afraid? Do they really believe that speaking the truth and raising concerns will result in bad outcomes?

To read more about Stella Morabito please refer to her article on Public Discourse. It is an excellent read. The Washington Examiner, American Thinker, and The Human Life Review feature some of Morabito’s articles.

transgenderdor.org/statistics

glaad.org/blog/violence-against-transgender-people-and-people-color-disproportionately-high-lgbtqh-murder-rate

flfamily.org

thepublicdiscourse.com

The information pertaining outside of any references made to Morabito’s article does not in any way reflect her views. These are views gathered from various LGBT members in the community who over time have expressed similar sentiments along with the author.

©An Goldbauer