Monica Roberts

The Grio's Trans Free LGBT Leaders List

Filed By Monica Roberts | June 11, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: African-American, African-American trans leaders, black LGBT, black trans leaders, trans erasure

I'm usually paying attention when black LGBT leaders lists are put together by media outlets geared toward people of color.The Grio.com logo.jpg

I've found these lists are heavy on the gay and lesbian side of the community, forget the bi part or add them as an afterthought, and either forget the trans part altogether or mistakenly believe that drag queens are acceptable substitutes for actual trans people.

Not surprisingly, I get to tell y'all about another African descended media outlet that fails in that regard.

The Grio.com recently put together a list of 15 LGBT leaders of the future.

While there are some wonderful and well deserving people on the list Talia Whyte compiled such as Keith Boykin, Pam Spaulding, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Anthony Woods, Staceyann Chin, Lee Daniels and Wanda Sykes, I'll give you one guess who she chose as what she thought was a representative of the trans community.

tg-BeBe Zahara Benet.jpgNope, wasn't the TransGriot. Wasn't Miss Major, Kylar Broadus, Earline Budd or even Isis King. The person she chose was RuPaul's Drag Race Season One winner Bebe Zahara Benet.

Excuse me?

Okay, how many times do I have to say this, black GL community and our African descended cis allies? This next paragraph also applies to the vanilla flavored GL community and our cis allies too, so pay attention.

Drag queen, unless said drag queen is living 24/7/365 (366 in a leap year) as a woman, DOES NOT equal trans.

Yes, there are and have been drag artists that not only have done high quality work in terms of entertaining the community, but stepped up offstage to fulfill leadership roles for the TBLG community.

But I'm beyond sick and tired of being sick and tired of black peeps putting lists together advertised as LGBT community ones and being too fracking lazy to do the work to find actual trans leaders to profile on these lists.

And don't give me or the African descended trans community the weak azz excuse about you don't know, can't find any trans leaders or accuse me of sour grapes for calling y'all out on the oversight.

This isn't even about me, so don't go there. It's about the erasure of African descended transpeople.

My point is that if our own people don't or won't show us some love when you compile these leadership lists, and you write for one of our leading blogosphere sites directed at the African-American community gay and straight, how in the hell can we black trans leaders who are doing the work expect the predominately white TBLG community to respect us as well?

(Crossposted from TransGriot)


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I don't think it's a coincidence that The Grio is owned by NBC/Universal. Sadly, NBC has repeatedly proven that they really don't understand the LGBT community, our issues, or our culture at all, so I'm personally not surprised to see that ignorance reflected here as well.

The purveyors of "LGBT" are so deceitful that they can't even keep their lies straight. We are lectured repeatedly - on this very site - that "trans" includes all people who transgress gender norms and are in opposition to heteronormativity. Indeed, that is one of the main arguments in favor of "LGBT" - i.e., that gay people transgress gender norms and thus are in a common family with trans people.

Yet now we are informed that we should not "mistakenly believe that drag queens are acceptable substitutes for actual trans people." We heard similar arguments during the lynching of Diego Luna. GLAAD denounced him for portraying drag queens as "real" trans people.

So which is it? Are trans people all those who trangress customary gender norms or are they only those who identify with the opposite sex? Or does this change from week to week depending upon whatever political point the trans activists want to score?

Frankly, I think the entire debate should be held in a rubber room. But assuming that gay people are saddled with an association with "trans" for the time being, could someone please let us know exactly what it is we are being forced to associate with?

There's a difference between fitting the description of the loosest definition of transgender versus people who have a deep-seated interest in trans rights. A drag queen (or king for that matter) can take off the costume whenever they want, trans women and men aren't so lucky. Oftentimes with drag, it's less about the T and more about the G and the L.

Chitown Kev | June 11, 2010 3:47 PM

Yeah, in many ways what happens in the black LGBT community is exactly what happens in the larger LGBT community (and that's generally true of a lot of things that happen in the black community at large...I think that's true for the LGBT community as well).

This is a perfect example of it, Monica. I don't think this is simply a NBC thing.

I loooooooooove Bebe Zahara Benet!

But she isn't trans.

You're right, Monica. This seems to be a pattern.

Does Bebe describe (her?)self as transgendered? I honestly don't know (a quick websearch isn't answering that question for me), but I'd take her word for it on whether she is (one kind of) transgendered person. Some drag queens are.

There are lots of kinds of transgendered, and they don't all involve 24/7 living. Expecting any one sort to represent all TG people is a stretch, of course, and it would be the most awesome to include various types of TG people - including classic transsexuals, and part-time crossdressers, and drag kings and queens who consider themselves transgendered. With a list of just 15, though, not all these types may show up in any given year. Does this list have a history? Is there an ongoing pattern of leaving transsexual people out?