Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Trans for Obama: Is the trans community becoming a "community?"

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | October 01, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: money, National Stonewall Democrats, transgender

There's something brewing in the trans community, and I think I like it. It has long been a question as to whether the transgender community really constitutes a "community", as commonly understood to mean a coherent group with common interests. Helen Boyd blogged yesterday about the Trans for Obama fundraiser; it was an amazing, amazing effort for a marginalized community, and I think it deserves further study.

Helen, a well-regarded transgender activist, put a post on her blog Sunday night at 9:15pm, calling for a "Trans for Obama Blog" day the next day, Monday. She suggested that bloggers publicize a transgender community and allies website for contributions to Sen. Obama's presidential campaign (via the National Stonewall Democrats' ActBlue web presence). Given the poverty, underemployment and marginalization of so many trans people, I would not have expected much of a response.

By the end of the next day, however, more than 100 people had donated over $6,000, for a total of over 200 contributions and more than $12,000 in donations. Contributors and contributions are still coming in. It's not the most money in the world, but from a marginalized community, it's a huge amount of contributors and contributions. What has happened to the "Shh!-be-quiet-or-they'll-hear-us!" transgender community I've been used to for the last decade?

How the Transgender Community Raised $12K for Obama

Here's what Helen wrote Sunday night:

The National Stonewall Democrats have a page for trans people + allies to donate to Barack Obama's campaign, which is a damned cool idea. Before this campaign started, over 105 people donated $5400, which is damned cool too. But if we really want to make ourselves visible - even in a small way - we should try to get that number - and the amount of participants - higher. So if you're trans, or a trans ally, & support Barack Obama financially, do consider donating to his campaign through the site.

& Then tell two friends, so they tell two friends... by the end of the day we can easily surpass a couple of people on ActBlue's list of top online donors. Post the info on your personal blog - on Yahoo 360, or LJ, or Facebook, or to a community message boards you post on.

I've started a Trans for Obama event on Facebook, too.

Unbelievable - she just asked for the money? And they gave?

Helen Boyd is a virtual transgender media empire, with her blog, (en)Gender, "a journal of gender and trans issues," her well-regarded books, "My Husband Betty," and "She's Not The Man I Married", her "My Husband Betty message boards and her Trans Group Blog. Plus, she's an all-around interesting, intelligent and beautiful woman who's not afraid to speak up. But still, I wasn't expecting much.

The Troops Arrive

Then blogger Caprice Bellefleur chimed in at Caprice's Glob ("not just for the dyslexic") around midnight. Helen describes Caprice as follows:

Caprice, who is one of the people who set up the campaign with the National Stonewall Democrats, has posted about Trans for Obama Day as well, adding her arguments about why McCain/Palin would be a disaster for LGBT people and why Obama needs all the small donors he can get.

So I'd like to take this moment to thank Caprice, who does more for the LGBT community than just about anyone I know, by being on boards and contacting politicians, taking regular trips to Albany for NYS concerns, and by working with the Name Change Project at the Center.

Then, a few minutes later, the well-known author Kate Bornstein posted on her blog, Kate Bornstein's Blog for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws. Then we had Andrea James (of LOGO's TransAmerican Love Story and Casting Pearls fame) speaking up on her blog: Andrea James: Shared Experiences. At this point, 23 people had donated $780. Then Lena Dahlstrom at A Dahl's House ("A guy who's also the girl next door") weighed in. 142 people and $9020.

The blogs kepts coming the next day. Leith ("crazy trans witch bitch trying to get by as best she can") over at "being T - The Riftgirl blog" chimed in, with a Sarah Palin imitation and an offer she couldn't refuse. (I can't describe it on a family-friendly channel like Bilerico - go there and see for yourself.) There was Annie Rushden at Gardens in Bloom, and me over at Transgender Workplace Diversity and the Transgender Workplace Diversity Resource Network.

Then, in the afternoon, Helen posted on Feministing, and there were posts from Angie at Dakota Women and Autumn Sandeen at Pam's House Blend. Monica Helms at TransUniverse also climbed on the bandwagon. Followed by Coming Out Trans, Laura Calvo of Oregon's Stonewall Democrats, Betty at Daily Kos.

The day ended with 196 donors and $10,746. That's a net of 91 donors and $5346 for Obama's campaign. "We did good!" crowed Helen.

But it didn't end there.

Trans for Obama: The Sequel

Although the blogging campaign had been set for a single day, it carried on. By 34 minutes after midnight, there were 200 contributors.

The next day, more blogs came into the campaign, including Just Out, TransCendence, and Not a Well-Behaved Woman.

The Transgender Community and Allies contributions page climbed to 7th from the top in Act Blue's list of contributors. The contributors and the contributions keep rolling in. Here's where we are now:

Goal Thermometer

They're talking about making it a Trans for Obama Blogging Week.

This marks a sea change, to my mind, in the transgender community. I've never seen this level of participation before. The only exception in my experience happened two weeks ago. I started a resource network for transgender workplace diversity issues on Sunday evening, September 14, on a whim after being referred to ning.com. By the end of the evening, there were almost three dozen members. Two weeks later, we have 265 members. (You're invited to join, by the way, at transworkplace.ning.com, if you're interested in transgender workplace issues. We have HR managers, diversity professionals, trans employees and allies, and invite anyone who wants to learn more about these issues.)

There's something brewing in the trans community, and I like it. In the past, we've often been afraid to stand up and be counted. We've wondered what we have in common with people with different transgender identities. We've openly questioned whether there is a transgender "community."

I'm for standing up and being counted as a community.

Should I Contribute to the Transgender Community and Allies fund for Sen. Obama?

Yes, you should. If you are one of the people in the LGBT community who feel very strongly that gender identity and expression should be included in legislative protections alongside sexual orientation, you should go to http://www.actblue.com/page/trans.

Over 300 organizations and thousands of community members stood up and demanded that transgender people be included in ENDA. That wasn't enough to make it so. Here is a chance to show the power of this issue at http://www.actblue.com/page/trans.

If you want Washington to give to the transgender community and its allies, then the transgender community and its allies must give Washingtons (George Washington, that is, as he appears on the face of the dollar bill) at http://www.actblue.com/page/trans.

While transgender workplace diversity issues are not inherently tied to any political ideology, it is clear that Barack Obama is supportive of transgender workplace rights and that John McCain is not supportive of transgender workplace rights.

The transgender community and its allies have a voice and political influence, and the blogging community is working on exercising these. And it's working. In the past, transgender bloggers have been disparaged by some of our political leaders as dreamers who talk only to each other and do nothing in reality to support legislation and political leaders. Here is a chance to show that the transgender community and its allies do support political leaders at http://www.actblue.com/page/trans.

On a professor's salary, I can hardly afford to support presidential campaigns (or Wall Street bailouts), but I also know that failure to support will cost me far more in the long run. Furthermore, as a group, if we each give even a $5 donation, that will amount to thousands of dollars. It's asking a lot to ask you to shell out at a time of national financial crisis, but good leadership will make a difference for you and for all of us.

We have just won a major legal victory in the employment case brought against the Library of Congress. The momentum gained from this decision will help Congress begin to understand the importance of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for transgender and gay people. Donating to help usher in a new era of more progressive leaders is another way to make trans-inclusion a reality.

I ask you to donate also to show that the transgender community is alive and well, and that there are many of us out there who are willing to stand up and be counted. It is easy to read this and do nothing, feeling that nothing will make a difference. I know that what I am asking takes courage and willingness to go beyond the feelings of helplessness that have been drummed into us by our national leaders. Please join me in standing up and being counted. Just click on this link: http://www.actblue.com/page/trans

Thank you for being willing to make a difference for our community.

Go to the website for the Transgender Community and Allies fund for Senator Obama's campaign. There, you can check how many supporters and contributions have been added. There is also a "Contribute" button next to the thermometer. Let's go for 300 contributors! (You can give any amount. Brother, can you spare a dime dollar?)


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Jillian,
It is amazing the number of people that a hand full of trans bloggers can reach if we work together as a team. Monica Roberts also sent out the word on her blog.

Today, I am in San Diego to attend my son's wedding on Saturday. I type this from the living room of the house of Autumn Sandeen. You can bet we will be discussing this and seeing how else we can spread the word. I hope Obama takes notice of our efforts. His voice in our favor when ENDA comes back could make the difference.

Responsibility for our own community...what a concept!

While this is wonderful, this community still needs to work on getting transpeople of color involved in these things from the outset, not as an afterthought.

I didn't get to read the e-mail notifying me about this event until a little after 2 AM on Tuesday morning.

Did it occur to anyone that if you're putting together a 'Trans For Obama' blog day, you might wish to start with the African-American transgender blogger who's been supporting him since January 1 and has a blog ranked in the BBR Top 100 Blogs?

Careful there, Monica. It's not about you, it's about Obama. No one can know when you'll open an e-mail... From the article it looks like this was just a blog post that grew like wildfire. I doubt there was any slight intended.

I think Monica makes an important point here. I don't know how the idea for a "Trans for Obama" day got started, but it does not seem to have been coordinated in a way that would get all constituencies and stakeholders involved. Without outreach to our various communities, trans events tend (unintentionally, I think) to become "politicos only," or "whites only," or "middle-class only." (I could add a dozen more identities and add "only".) The fact that this is "unintentional" does not make it less divisive.

My post notes my surprise at seeing transgender people (of any interest group) getting together to raise $12K for a political candidate. This is because we do not yet have a coherent community, and Monica's point is more evidence of same. At most, we have some moves towards community.

In our moves towards creating community, let us be sure to outreach to all people, lest we continue to ("unintentionally") only include "people like us" (whatever "us" may be in your case).

Thanks for raising the point, Monica.

Monica, I think the whole thing just happened fast. I'm sure there was no intention to overlook anyone at all.

The only reason I found out in time is that we subscribe to Caprice's blog. Nobody actually reached out to me either.

Perhaps tap into the feeds of the community yourself to make sure you get information and pass it along?

This community is by and large a grassroots community, which means that it is up to every individual to follow and pass information on to their own friends/families/communities.

Annie

Rosie Schneider | October 2, 2008 8:29 AM

Yeah, and uh what about the right wing Christians that Obama supports?

Apparently we trans people, the poverty stricken victims of hate criminals including all fundamentalist religions are ever hopeful that someone will come to our rescue.
The definition of politics is the manipulation of a system of governance for PERSONAL gain. We are the marginalized group that fascist governments need for the purpose of scapegoating.
For a PAC to work, their must be a level of affluence that supports discretionary spending. Accoring to the general estimates there are several million of us in the U.S., but disparities in geographic locations, the politics of diversity, and widespread unemployment render us impotent as a political force.
This country worships wealth, not human potential. This country still thinks an acceptable defence for murder is panic regarding the unknown genitalia of their date.
This country officially SUCKS.

You all don't have to respond to my vitriol, yet I shall not cease in my radical diatribe, for anarchy is my passion.

Thanks Sista Rosie, Order of Our Lady of Perpetual Suffering

I also didn't hear about this effort until after the fact as it's been a busy week at work and I've been away from my computer for most of that time. I just wish I'd have had more notice on this thing.

As far as the community coming together is concerned, I think we've come out of closet, so to speak, because of one main factor: ENDA. Not only has the way this bill has been handled by both Congress and HRC so enraged our own community, but also fair-minded progressives nationwide.

I strongly suspect that things would be different if Democrats like Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi hadn't been so dismissive of willing to trade away equality in the workplace for transgender Americans to avoid inconveniencing Congressional Democrats and protect them from having to act as actual government leaders instead of merely partisan politicians.

In addition, if HRC hadn't been quite so arrogant and so willing to sell out their own purported constituency just to please their Democratic Congressional masters, we wouldn't have seen anywhere near the kind of reaction in favor of an inclusive ENDA we have here in our own community.

So raise a toast to Barney Frank and the Congressional Dems and HRC. Thanks to them we've been able to unite our community and our allies to speak out and fight against the way they do business and their dismal failures of leadership here.

Truth is proper and beautiful at all times and in all places.

Frederick Douglass April 14, 1876


Bil,
I didn't say it was about me, nor did I say this was intentional. The person who put the idea together is a big supporter of my blog and has privately expressed regrets for the oversight.

I'm simply doing what I always do, stating the obvious.

But when I state the obvious, I have the weight of being one of three African-American IFGE Trinity Award winners, have been active in the national level for a decade and I'm considered by elements of the African-American transgender community as one of its leaders.

A leader that just happens to have an African-American oriented blog that has been around since January 1, 2006 that gets 1000 HPD.

FYI Anne, I monitor two transgender lists.

But this issue I'm raising is the same I raised back during the congressional hearing mess. Too many times in this community people of color are treated as afterthoughts when initiatives are started instead of integral parts when they are put together

I was able to participate in time because I got lucky. The problem with a big loosely formed grassroots campaign is just that: that it is loosely formed with no formal methods of communication. Claire and I actively look for trans news: We have google news alerts set up, subscribe to several mailing lists and receive rss feeds from several trans blogs.

I must also note that I didn't get anything at all about this from the big activist groups I subscribe to (NCTE, NCLR, etc). That means that notification didn't just skip the African-American Trans community. It skipped a *LOT* of the community.

The most frustrating thing about the trans community is when it splinters itself starts infighting. So my point is this - why not just point out that this effort was great and that we *ALL* need a better way of finding out relevant information?

With respect,

Annie

I just wanted to add that it is not too late to donate to the Obama campaign and raise transgender visibility. Currently the fund drive is above the level of "Wesley Clark for Obama", so its looking good! But your support can really help make the transgender community visible to the Obama campaign, so if you can spare a few dollars, please consider doing so.

I just wanted to clarify that I didn't "put this together." I was contacted by a few people at Stonewall Democrats, along with a few others, and I'll be honest - it just fired me up, so I started contacting people. I used to canvas for PIRG, & I've been an Obama supporter, along with Betty, since the 2004 DNC speech. Throw in a little Catholic guilt - & it seemed the perfect thing to throw myself into. I am also all in favor of being critical of LGB - afterthought T orgs - and Stonewall Democrats was providing us with an actual tool to be counted.

Monica is right, however, that the trans community does not encourage particpation and leadership by POC, and we need to do a lot more.

To make it up to her, I'll start by handing over my blog to a trans POC for a day next week.

helen


Renee Thomas | October 3, 2008 6:15 PM

Along with the more "visible" bloggers already mentioned, this call reached those of us who regularly post to Helen and Betty's site as well. She's spot on, we're giving generously (or as generously as we can in this time of economic upheaval) because for the first time in over eight long years we are imbued with a genuine sense of optimism that our voices can be heard.

There is a developing momentum, both political and more broadly societal, that mainstream America is going to find increasing difficult to ignore. If this is a community, than force is gathering behind it . . . one politically engaged transperson (or ally) at a time.