Monica Roberts

The Trans-Free BET 'Who's Who In Black GLBT America' List

Filed By Monica Roberts | July 09, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: black LGBT, list, Monica Roberts, SGL community

I was shocked and surprised to discover BET.com puts out a list of what it considers as the 'Who's Who in Black GLBT America' and has done so for three years now.

BET.gifJasmyne Cannick, one of the people some Projectors love to hate, made the list for the third consecutive year. The other Black GL people that made this year's list were Wanda Sykes, Angela Davis, Kecia Cunningham, Palm Springs, CA mayor Ron Oden, poet Staceyann Chin and Anthony Woods (the Black GL community's version of Lt. Dan Choi) who is running to become the first openly gay African-American congressmember.

There are a total of 33 African-American GLBT people on this list. Care to guess how many African-American transpeople were on it?

The same number that were part of the transgender contingent at the White House GLBT event last week.

Zero.

Kevin Aviance.jpg BET.com put Kevin Aviance on the list, but note to BET.com and the rest of the world gay and straight: A Black New York based drag artist does not equal to transman or transwoman.

While I'm happy for the people that did make the list, I'm also disappointed and hurt that once again, not one person from the 'T' portion of my community was selected.

It also speaks once again to how invisible Black trans people are, even in our own damned community.

FYI, There's a transman who is the board chair of the National Black Justice Coalition named Kylar Broadus. I and others have talked about Dr. Marisa Richmond on more than a few occasions on this blog and my own. I've listed numerous leaders of African descent who are proud to be Black and transgender, and doing excellent noteworthy work on behalf of the GLBT community.

But once again, when it's time for the recognition, the Black trans community gets shut out.

I'm in agreement with my sis Dionne Stallworth. It's time that we Black trans people really start tooting our horns, seriously raise our profiles, compiling our history, interviewing and pumping up our people. We need to fight for and demand our place in the GLBT spotlight.

Angela Brightfeather eloquently pointed out why I'm concerned about the invisibility when she wrote a comment on the Melanin-free Transgender contingent thread,

The Transgender Community has many leaders who have spent the majority of their lives working for the gains and victories that we now have a chance to attain. Those people cover a wide spectrum of our community, from life experience to the color of their skin and that diversity needs to be recognized and honored as an example of determination and sacrifice for the sake of others and as role models for those yet to enter the fight for equal rights.

It's obvious that if we depend on the goodwill of others to do that, the invisibility of African descended transpeople will continue.

I don't know about you, but I'm getting more than a little sick of getting dissed, erased and ignored by the entire fracking GLBT community, Black and White.


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A lot of straight people don't seem to get that "LGBT" isn't a fancy way to say "gay." Especially maddening are those MSM journalists and straight bloggers who say John Aravosis speaks for "the LGBT community."

A. J. Lopp | July 9, 2009 3:49 PM

Monica, while I find your basic premise has considerable merit, you failed to nominate the transperson(s) that you think deserve to appear on the list. I would be interested to hear from you on this.

And, generally, the list is subjective in the extreme. I am totally stooped why purveyors of camp and kitsch, such as E. Lynn Harris and Miss Cleo, should make the list, while truly quality writers such as Alice Walker (The Color Purple), and even James McBride (The Color of Water and Song Yet Sung), did not? Why in the world did playwright Lorraine Hansberry (A Raisin In The Sun) not be included? Why did Wanda Sykes make the list, but Queen Latifah did not? Is Latifah not outspoken enough about her female spouse? Why was Keith Boykin included, and Jonathan Capehart omitted? Boykin is what is commonly called a "pundit", while Capehart is a true journalist. Is this list a true enumeration of "Who's Who" or is it a list of "Who Is Currently Trendy Among The Black Jet Set"?

[OTOH, I was pleased to see fellow Indiana University alumni Doug Spearman included. I, too, have my biases.]

My point is, transpeople are not the only deserving folks omitted from this list. The list is very flawed in a number of ways.

Obviously your feelings are hurt. It won't be the last time. Hold your head high.

Considering that this was a list made up entirely of African-Americans, isn't this particular omission really more of an omission of just transpeople in general rather than AA transfolks?

It's obvious they don't have a problem honoring AA gay and lesbian folks and of course they don't have an issue honoring straight AA's, so therefore it seems to me that the real issue here is a complete ignorance or unwillingness to acknowledge transpeople and transgender identities.

Maybe you should start a movement to only call them BE instead of BET. After all, they don't need that T, do they? Or is the T just silent? :)

Aj,
May I remind you that Queen Latifah has not declared herself to be part of this community, so people need to back off of that rumor until saying otherwise.

If you will reread the post, I mentioned Kylar Broadus and Dr. Marisa Richmond as two people who could have and should have been on that list.

But my point was, if you're going to claim this is a GLBT list, then I have the expectation of seeing the 'T' portion represented.

Maybe it's just time for me to do what I always do. When the rest of the GL community fails to include my people, start my own list.

A. J. Lopp | July 9, 2009 11:40 PM

I stand corrected, Monica. I guess the only time it is safe to resort to skimming is during orgasms.

Considering that this was a list made up entirely of African-Americans, isn't this particular omission really more of an omission of just transpeople in general rather than AA transfolks?,

Rebecca,
The list was specifically a Black GLBT community list.

I think my comment is still valid, Monica. Since all the honorees were African-American, race is essentially a non-issue in this, so the main distinction here is that all of the honorees (assuming no known bi folks in the group) were only of the G&L varieties.

My conclusion based on what I've read: Either the folks making the choices at BET are shockingly ignorant or willfully and intentionally discriminatory.

As I've said before elsewhere on other issues, you'd think that folks who are members of a minority group that has historically faced massive discrimination in this country would know better than this.

"As I've said before elsewhere on other issues, you'd think that folks who are members of a minority group that has historically faced massive discrimination in this country would know better than this."

I really wish lgbt white folks would take this sentiment out of their minds and mouths.

I wouldnt take this as personally as you are now.

Gay people are a small minority compared to straight people, of the gay community even less are black and of them much fewer are Transgendered.

I wouldnt consider this an attack, instead that most people dont know someone who gay, let alone transgendered and black. Obviously if these leaders exist, they need to show themselves and put themselves out there more. I asked several of my very politically aware and motivated black friends to name one transgendered person they know and they could not think of anyone, let alone a leader.

Maybe that is ignorance on their part, but if these people are not put out there for everyone to see, its also a failure of their own.

I disagreed strongly with your post about the number of black transgendered people at the White House function and this is obviously a very personal issue to you. I would stress that one does not want to become over specialized in any one field or topic, because it breeds defeat.

However, that being said, how can we help you help black transgendered people show up on the radar? I would love to help, if it helps you out.

When the T's are left out, usually the B's are too, and vice versa. There is only one bisexual on that list, Me'shell Ndegéocello, who, at least in the past has self-identified as bi, and likely (but not certainly) still does. It may not be surprising that Alice Walker was left off, as she is bisexual, as is Rebecca Walker, also an otherwise surprising omission. As I always say, it really should be written LG(b)(t), as we really are just an afterthought.

Easy for you to say that, you're not part of the community who is being erased.

Peep the comments from a 365Gay comment thread that linked to this article

Chris Sullivan Said: July 9th, 2009 at 5:26 pm

Are there any famous black transgendered people? I can’t think of any. This list is for BET after all. I doubt there was any intentional slight here.

Kari Said: July 9th, 2009 at 5:37 pm
To be honest, I can’t think of all that many majorly famous transgender activists, regardless of race. :\

#
interested Said: July 10th, 2009 at 7:07 am

*

There are many good places to hear the voices of transgender and LGBT PoC activists including the Bilerico site mentioned in the article (and Bil the founder is a really nice guy). Don’t blame others for your lack of knowledge if you never get out of your comfort zone. Perhaps the lack of easy visibility for transgender (and bisexual) people refelcts our (including the LGBT community’s)discomfort with them.

@menstruator: I think its always inappropriate to play the who suffers more game, but I also think it would be easy to at least make an arguement that Bs and Ts struggle more than Gs and Ls. At least Gs and Ls aren’t having to constantly justify their existence to the rest of the LGBT community. And are you really using the “choice” argument against bisexual people.

****

Far too often, no matter what decade we transition in, we haven't had people of our own ethnic background who are trans to look up to and who are proud being Black and trans.

When you are a minority, role models are important. I can't stress that enough and I'm not the only AA transperson who feels that way.

genderqueer riff raff | July 10, 2009 2:09 PM

I get it , why even say the lgbT if there is NO trans people represented. And they are not hard to find..we established that , And yes apparently you and a few others who ceaselessly work on this intransigent ignorance and blindness may indeed have to make and submit your lists for future reference for those lazy Transphobic people.

while i watched the academy awards i was unbelievably distressed that Penn only referred to the "gay" community. If we are the lgbT and i want us to be , as together we are stronger. Then people in all corners need to recognize , as you have said time and again and no doubt will have to again AND PLEASE KEEP ON TELLING IT LIKE IT IS !

The T in the lgbT has a face The demographic is filled with trans peeps of color. And here you are educating us - its not just a "white thang" as the conservatives in black community would like to believe and unfortunately sometimes preach. How are WE going to get this across. Upping the profile. Stepping up the game. Calling Orgs , networks out - saying what needs to be said and demanding for lack of a better term AFFIRMATIVE ACTION.

So its clear for all to see , your heart - and its not about pounding on white people its about TRANS POC invisability..that is something We who care can help with and many of us most certainly will and will continue to do. And there is no time like the present..if not now when ? Thank you for another excellent eye opening post.

Rebecca,
I was making a broader point that African-American transpeople are being ignored not only by the White GLBT community, but our own African descended brothers and sisters as well.

It's not just my personal issue. It's a issue of importance for the ENTIRE GLBT community.

If this community is as diverse as it claims to be, then it must not only show off that diversity in all its forms but practice it as well.