My name is Bruce Parker. I have been seriously partnered with a transman for three years. After that relationship, I continued to primarily date transmen. When I was a college student, I was responsible for the implementation of a housing policy aimed at protecting and retaining transgender college students, implementing professional development trainings for staff and faculty around transgender issues, and ultimately creating guidelines for the college counseling center to assist trans students in their transitions. As a graduate student, I have become extremely active in the only statewide organization dedicated to transgender and intersex issues. I teach transgender issues to future teachers in my undergraduate multicultural education classroom. I have missed only one working group and one board meeting in the past year for the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance. I have served first as a board member and later as the first employee of an organization that I could not be prouder to get paid by and continue to donate to because I couldn't have a better cause to spend my nights worrying about. All of this aside, I have never and will never call myself a leader of the transgender community or ask the transgender community to not question my decisions. Serving the desires and best interests of the folks who dedicate their spare time and their lives to equality for everyone regardless of gender identity and expression is really the least I can do for the privilege of having known a real love and knowing what it means to have a family who loves you for who you are - not because you are their blood but because you belong.
In the past few months, my activist colleagues and myself have been told time and time again that we don't know what is best for ourselves and our organization, that I am not serving the needs of our organization, that if we would only trust self-described leaders of the transgender community who have never attended a INTRAA single event or meeting, we would be better for it. When asked for my understanding and interpretation of these complaints, I have largely endeavored to not speak my piece. Instead, I have let the women and men who have fought to be who they are in a society that is stuck in a binary gender system and uses this system to beat them into submission to make their own decisions.
I have attended meetings where self-described activists have attempted to beat me and the true leadership of my community into behaving appropriately, into not asking question and feeling lucky to be invited to engage in discussion and have our voices and perspectives heard at all.
Lately, I have been feeling like perhaps it is time to leave INTRAA and focus on my graduate coursework and a career as a scholar that is my life's desire. Today, at a very successful Transgender Day of Remembrance service, as name after name of transgender and significant others of transgender folk was read and the horrid conditions of their deaths were recited, it became clear that I am not leaving INTRAA because quite simply there is nothing I could do that is more important than the work I do with them.
One of my personal heroes, the current president of INTRAA, Vivian, spoke tonight. She talked about her life and the doubts that society forced upon her that almost ended her life of commitment to change and safety for those around her. We almost lost Vivian. I cried and took the hand of a woman whose life is so overwhelming with commitments to folks that she loves that I feel lucky to know her. And as Vivian said that we would not allow politicians, individuals or organizations to stop the march toward progress that INTRAA has been on since its founding and the march towards safety and hope that the larger transgender movement is on, I decided that I had no intention of letting a gay male self-described leader of the transgender movement who is far too busy to attend our meetings or events or a supposed ally who would choose a moment with a captive audience to carry forth a message of suppression and disempowerment to discourage me.
I am reminded of the regularly occurring conversations about why we need a Black pride in Indiana. It is always white folks who ask that question. It is always white folks who say that Black queer folk are too sensitive and are of course welcome at their organizations table. They would love to see a Black face at a meeting dedicated to their issues.
No, I am not a leader of the transgender movement. Instead, I am an eager follower - a happy employee - a dedicated ally - and a hesitant representative. My decision to stay involved and stay focused is based on a simple idea that it is the right thing to do. I am asking only that as we move forward in our larger struggle against homophobia, heterosexism, and transphobia in the straight community that we also acknowledge that arrogance and proclaiming ourselves leaders of oppressed communities that we are not a part of doesn't encourage involvement or analysis; instead it simply makes those of us who decide to make such proclamations look like idiots.
If you are interested in being a part of INTRAA or the work that we do, please visit our website. Take a moment and show your commitment to preventing violence against transgender folks by becoming a member. Don't pretend to know what is best for us if you are too busy to be a paid active member.