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Posts tagged ‘LGBTQIA’

Trans Erasure

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.”

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 Photo Voice 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 anymore 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 for 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 Transwoman in the group.

(2) Postscript was initially rejected.

The reason 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 Transwoman, 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 Transwoman 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 Transwoman 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 – who 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 on line, 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 Task force.

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 Photo Voice 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.

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.”

My perspective and expertise in Best Practices tells 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

Transgender Community

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.

Gender markers.
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 GLBIA. 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.

© an Goldbauer

Chester M. Pierce


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 of whom they play.

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 as 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 at 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 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; study of history, study of subcultures within the culture, as well as 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
  • Implementing antibullying policies in schools.9
  • 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. Make up 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 belly ache 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 bring 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 along side 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.

Dutch Study
Studies on LGBT