Transphobia and Racism Within the LGBT Community

From the November-December 2014 #839

by Elliott DeLine

 

Transphobia and Racism
Within the LGBT Community
Elliot is a transgender author and activist living in Syracuse.
Elliott DeLine
While the gay rights movement has made many advances in the past decades, many of the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community are still struggling for basic rights and resources. Transgender people, working class, and people of color, are often overlooked by the largely white, middle class, cisgender* LGB movement. 
In Syracuse, we lack basic structures to care for transgender people, especially when it comes to healthcare. Many LGBTQ activists fail to recognize how the more vulnerable members of the community are so marginalized that their basic needs are not met. These needs include food, shelter, healthcare without discrimination, workplace protections, access to public bathrooms, and protection from harassment and assault. Ironically, it is those of us who stand out most –  such as transgender people and queer people of color  – who are most targeted by society, and yet least represented and visible within organizations and in the media.
I spoke a with trans woman of color, author and activist Dane Edidi, on this topic. 
“I find that there is an air of racism and transphobia involved in the agendas [of LGBT organizations],” Dane said, “and the ways which they act as gatekeepers to legislation, funding, and media attention.” 
“I have watched as bigger organizations with perhaps one or two trans people (and typically not of color) have used a system of tokenism to get funding and then in turn ignore the needs of the most marginalized.” 
A great example of this is the way the Stonewall Riots are often invoked by white gay people as a turning point for their cultural revolution, when it was in fact led by transgender women and drag queens of color. Dane added, “The LGBTQ movement was sparked/created by trans women, drag queens and gender non-conforming people who were in turn pushed out/shamed and forgotten.”
How can this change? Dane said, “I believe we all deserve liberation but as I have stated these organizations should not get government funding and backing for doing trans work or even speak for the trans community when in fact they have no intention of creating spaces for trans women of color in their organizations. If they really want to combat the war on trans people and in particular trans women of color, they will have trans women of color in leadership positions and that means making decisions, that means paying for the work they do.”
Holly Ferry is a board member of CNY for Solidarity, non-profit organization that provides vital resources and support to gender variant individuals and the LGBTQ community. She also often runs Intersections, a support group here in Syracuse for LGBTQ people. She says that as a trans person, she feels she belongs in the LGBTQ community, but it was not always this way. At the first group she attended for transgender people, her experience was not a positive one. 
“They didn’t give me any sort of resources or tips, and when I did ask questions, I’d get short answers,” Holly said. “They weren’t understanding of who I was and where I was coming from as a person...It wasn’t until I finally got resources from CNY for Solidarity that I even knew I had options. All I was ever really offered at the first group was a wig. Nothing about hormones or how to reach my goals. They didn’t even ask me about my goals or what kind of trans person I was. If you weren’t doing what they were doing, then you were wrong.”  
I asked Holly what makes Intersections different as an LGBTQ support group. 
“The reception at Intersections was always warm. I never felt like I was judged there...At Intersections, people stopped and listened to me. The group was respectful and supportive, and not just run by one person.  Intersections is shared. We ask everyone what topics they want and they are welcome to do their own.”
Joseph Mudge is the president of CNY for Solidarity. He is a transgender man, and believes it is important to have broad, transgender leadership in LGBTQ organizations. I asked him what he thought was the solution to the problems of transphobia, racism, and other forms of marginalization within the LGBTQ community: “The solution is grassroots organizations, by trans people for trans people. Empowering transgender people, and not just ones who are  ‘successful,’ but trans people who are actually experiencing hardship and who are needing resources. They will be best in touch with what they need.”
 
*A cisgender person is someone who identifies with the gender that she or he was assigned at birth.
For more information on CNY for Solidarity visit cnyforsolidarity.org.

 

While the gay rights movement has made many advances in the past decades, many of the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community are still struggling for basic rights and resources. Transgender people, working class, and people of color, are often overlooked by the largely white, middle class, cisgender* LGB movement. 

In Syracuse, we lack basic structures to care for transgender people, especially when it comes to healthcare. Many LGBTQ activists fail to recognize how the more vulnerable members of the community are so marginalized that their basic needs are not met. These needs include food, shelter, healthcare without discrimination, workplace protections, access to public bathrooms, and protection from harassment and assault. Ironically, it is those of us who stand out most –  such as transgender people and queer people of color  – who are most targeted by society, and yet least represented and visible within organizations and in the media.

I spoke a with trans woman of color, author and activist Dane Edidi, on this topic. 

“I find that there is an air of racism and transphobia involved in the agendas [of LGBT organizations],” Dane said, “and the ways which they act as gatekeepers to legislation, funding, and media attention.” 

“I have watched as bigger organizations with perhaps one or two trans people (and typically not of color) have used a system of tokenism to get funding and then in turn ignore the needs of the most marginalized.” 

A great example of this is the way the Stonewall Riots are often invoked by white gay people as a turning point for their cultural revolution, when it was in fact led by transgender women and drag queens of color. Dane added, “The LGBTQ movement was sparked/created by trans women, drag queens and gender non-conforming people who were in turn pushed out/shamed and forgotten.”

How can this change? Dane said, “I believe we all deserve liberation but as I have stated these organizations should not get government funding and backing for doing trans work or even speak for the trans community when in fact they have no intention of creating spaces for trans women of color in their organizations. If they really want to combat the war on trans people and in particular trans women of color, they will have trans women of color in leadership positions and that means making decisions, that means paying for the work they do.”

Holly Ferry is a board member of CNY for Solidarity, non-profit organization that provides vital resources and support to gender variant individuals and the LGBTQ community. She also often runs Intersections, a support group here in Syracuse for LGBTQ people. She says that as a trans person, she feels she belongs in the LGBTQ community, but it was not always this way. At the first group she attended for transgender people, her experience was not a positive one. 

“They didn’t give me any sort of resources or tips, and when I did ask questions, I’d get short answers,” Holly said. “They weren’t understanding of who I was and where I was coming from as a person...It wasn’t until I finally got resources from CNY for Solidarity that I even knew I had options. All I was ever really offered at the first group was a wig. Nothing about hormones or how to reach my goals. They didn’t even ask me about my goals or what kind of trans person I was. If you weren’t doing what they were doing, then you were wrong.”  

I asked Holly what makes Intersections different as an LGBTQ support group. 

“The reception at Intersections was always warm. I never felt like I was judged there...At Intersections, people stopped and listened to me. The group was respectful and supportive, and not just run by one person.  Intersections is shared. We ask everyone what topics they want and they are welcome to do their own.”

Joseph Mudge is the president of CNY for Solidarity. He is a transgender man, and believes it is important to have broad, transgender leadership in LGBTQ organizations. I asked him what he thought was the solution to the problems of transphobia, racism, and other forms of marginalization within the LGBTQ community: “The solution is grassroots organizations, by trans people for trans people. Empowering transgender people, and not just ones who are  ‘successful,’ but trans people who are actually experiencing hardship and who are needing resources. They will be best in touch with what they need.”

 

*A cisgender person is someone who identifies with the gender that she or he was assigned at birth.

 

For more information on CNY for Solidarity visit cnyforsolidarity.org.

Elliot is a transgender author and activist living in Syracuse.

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