Monica Roberts

NAACP Hosting A Trans Free LGBT Town Hall Meeting

Filed By Monica Roberts | July 24, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Erasure, NAACP, TBLG, town hall, trans erasure

naacp logo.jpgThe 102nd NAACP convention starts officially in Los Angeles on July 23 and runs through July 28 at the LA Convention Center with the theme of 'Affirming America's Promise'.

One of the things I'm heartened to see the NAACP do is finally address the undeniable fact that there are African descended LGBT people who are proud members of the African American community.

Our issues and problems as African descended TBLG people are intertwined with those of our parent African American community due to our shared cultural and historical ties. As members of that community we have a vested interest in seeing it survive and thrive.

I was happy to hear as a former card carrying youth member of the organization that the NAACP for the first time in their 102 year history is hosting a town hall meeting to discuss the issues that face African descended TBLG people.

"Black members of the LGBT community share a common history and continued struggle to address issues of bigotry, yet their identities, talents, and leadership are oftentimes diminished because of homophobia and fear of physical violence," remarked Benjamin Todd Jealous, NAACP president and CEO. "It is important that we address these issues head on."

Yeah, I would definitely agree with the sentiment President Jealous expressed, except for one problem. The panel that was put together for this NAACP Town Hall meeting has no trans participants in it.

CNN Don Lemon.jpgThe July 25 panel will commence at 2 PM PDT and is moderated by CNN anchor Don Lemon. It has as participants Wanda Sykes, civil rights icon Julian Bond, Spelman College Professor Beverly Guy-Sheftall, actor Daryl Stephens, and writer, scholar, and activist Kenyon Farrow.

So what's the problem? The problem is that this panel is heavy on the GL part of the community and has that glaring omission. Not sure how the bi portion of our community feels about it, but I can say with certainty that the trans part of the rainbow community is not happy about the erasure of African descended trans people from this historic panel.

NAACP, If your goal is to have a serious discussion of the issues that face African American LGBT people, then you can't erase the people who are taking the brunt of the casualties and discrimination.

And it damned sure ain't the GL portion of the community.

My point is underscored by the killing on the eve of this NAACP convention of Lashai Mclean in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, an African American transwoman being beaten in broad daylight in Fredericksburg, VA back in May and Kiare Newson being sexually harassed and disrespected at a traffic stop by Memphis police.

And no, as I've said ad nauseum on this blog, my home blog and elsewhere, I don't want to hear the excuse that you 'couldn't find any African American transpeople' to be part of this historic panel. I submit the people putting this panel together didn't look hard enough or let's get real, didn't try or didn't want to find any African descended trans people for this discussion.

Let's see, just on the West Coast living in California alone are Miss Major, Sharyn Grayson, and Tracie Jada O'Brien. In the LA metro that is hosting the convention are Valerie Spencer and Sharon Franklin Brown.

ts-Kylar Broadus.jpgThat's before I even touch on the out of state African descended trans peeps such as Antonia D'orsay, National Black Justice Coalition board member Kylar Broadus, and Dr. Marisa Richmond who could and would have eloquently discussed the issues facing trans people of African descent.

And yeah, if the invitation had been extended, don't think the I wouldn't have been happy and proud to be part of that discussion as an award winning blogger of trans descent.

It is a family conversation the trans portion of the community desperately needs to and should have had a long time ago with our cis African American peeps, legislators, and legacy orgs, and the NAACP convention would have been the perfect venue to have that family conversation.

But what I'm willing to bet is that on July 25, when we see the live feed starting at 2 PM PDT courtesy of the NAACP website of this Town Hall meeting or cable coverage of it, it will be dominated by an 'all marriage all the time' discussion once again.

It's a conversation that while it is important and historic, pales in comparison to the fact that transpeople are dying and catching hell out there and a same gender marriage heavy discussion won't do jack to alleviate the problems that African American transpeople are facing.

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and the "LG(bt) Town Hall Meeting" is also bisexual free too

Speaking as a member of that bi portion, I'm pissed. They couldn't find a single bi person in the US to be on the panel? But there are so many of us! In fact, we're everywhere. What about Morgan Goode of GLAAD? What about Adrienne Williams of the Bi Social Network? What about Faith Cheltenham from BiNet USA? This is just to name three bi leaders of African descent who would have been excellent choices.

And although there is a lot of overlap between bi communities and lesbian-and-gay communities, and a lot of similarities between the two groups, we have enough unique things about us that one can't represent the other. I hope the NAACP will be more inclusive next time...

Well said Amy! And yes, the bisexual community is indeed also very concerned and saddened to once again find itself merely a formality in a title rather than a valued and included part of the community.

Quoting longtime Bi-identified LGBT Activist Dr. Loraine Hutchins, "This is the right moment for the national civil rights coalitions to honor the bi and trans leaders of color who have been in their midst, unrecognized, for ever."

As a bisexual, and former chairperson of the National Lavender Greens Caucus, I'm disappointed, but not surprised. This is symptomatic of the larger movement's systemic indifference to the inclusion of, and concerns of, trans and bi folk. Lip service deserves loud protest. Even isolated on a small town on the West Coast, and as a white male, a half-dozen people come immediately to mind as potential participants (some already named by Amy) or people who could refer participants. Question: did they notify other panelists of who else would be on the panel? Did they ASK these folks if they felt the panel was adequately representative? Strategy: contact the participants directly and express our concerns. Ask if they are concerned by these omissions, ask if they would please contact the NAACP and convey their own concerns, ask that they make a statement (at least) if these concerns are not addressed, and consider the ethics of participating on a non-inclusive panel. Kenyon Farrow is on Facebook. I am sending him a link to this thread, and will very politely express my own concerns. I will also look for ways to contact other participants. This is a fixable situation, we just need to motivate the NAACP to act. Even if it can't be fixed, this situation can be used to raise awareness of these issues and educate not just the NAACP, but a broader spectrum of organizations.

And the sad part is that it didn't have to happen. All the NAACP had to do was make sure the panel had representation from a bi and a trans person.

Now all they've done is once again slapped two communities in the face that have gotten more than their share of disrespect from non-Black people inside and outside the BTLG community. To have it come from our own, especially in light of this historic town hall is even more hurtful.

Ms. Roberts, A well written essay and a reminder of a stark reality, the 'B' and 'T' are often forgotten, or included as an after-thought. I'm not sure who at the NAACP decided the composition of the panel, but did they even LOOK for a Bi and Trans representative? They like so many others in the larger community may have assumed (incorrectly) that Lesbians and Gays could speak for Trans and Bi individuals. Anybody with any sensitivity, or knowledge would know that L/G life and Trans life and Bi life are NOT shared experience. The issues we deal with are all quite different. Unfortunately, Trans people cannot sit quietly and demurely in the second row any longer. Time and again it has been shown that we have to step up, and speakup. No one is going to do it for us!

Hey so I am one of the panelists appearing at the NAACP panel tomorrow. I want to say I understand, and agree with Monica's frustrations that there aren't transgender people on this panel. I have been at two other meetings in the last 2 years the NAACP has done with Black LGBTQ leadership, and there have been trans people who have presented and been involved--including some of the people she suggests would have been good panelists here. But I don't know what happened for the lack of trans inclusion here.

Where I will have to respectfully disagree is that because the panel may mostly share a "lesbian" and "gay" way to identify themselves--and I use queer as much as I do gay for very specific political reasons-- that this panel is going to be an "all marriage" panel, or which I guess is to say single issue, or coming from one perspective.

I am not sure if you're familiar with my work (or Guy-Sheftall's work for that matter), but my work as a writer and organizer has been on homophobic and transphobic violence, HIV/AIDS, homelessness, and policing/prison issues as they pertain to (primarily) Black queer people. While I am a Black gay man who does racial and economic justice work, I don't work from a narrow "gay" or "equality" framework, nor have I ever centered same-sex marriage as the issue we should be primarily concerned about. That is the very last thing on the planet I could be accused of. LOL!!!!

So I want to support the main critique about the lack of trans inclusion in the panel, but want to further complicate the read of the panel as a "Black Gays and Lesbians for Marriage Equality" panel, because if not diverse in terms of gender identity, it is certainly not politically monolithic.

If a GLB panel unaccountably was composed entirely of white lesbians, but promised that they'd be considering the issues of black gay men too... even if the omission was entirely innocent... do you think that, even with the best will in the world, they'd be able to deal with those issues effectively? Or even be aware of many of them?

When it comes to violence against GLBTs, it's ignored by most that a vastly disproportionate amount is directed against T's, not GLB's.

It's ignored that a vastly disproportionate amount is directed against Trans women, rather than Trans men.

And it's ignored that a vastly disproportionate amount is directed against Trans women of colour, not against white Trans women.

They make up what, 1/3 of the 1/10 of GLBTs as a whole? But over 1 in 3 GLBT victims of violence are TWOC. Think about that. And they're being ignored. Made invisible, not out of malice, but because nobody gives a thought to them.

I'm not Black, I'm not even American, but even I can see from all the way across the Pacific just what a glaring anomaly this is. It's not something you can ignore, and it's not something you can put off till later. It's not the Elephant in the Room, it's a darn great big herd of Apatosaurus.

Please fix it, now. As a member of the panel, you carry some weight with the organisers. Just say that if there's no B or T, there's no U. And encourage other panellists to say likewise.

well said (and quite amusingly put too)

Kenyon, It doesn't matter if you and your fellow panelists spend all the time alloted talking about trans issues, the bottom line is that their was NO African American trans person on that stage to represent us.

Visibility matters

When Black transpeople are either seen, even in elements of the African American SGL/LG community as tragic victims, sex workers or RuPaul clones and Tyler Perry dressed as Madea gets more love from cis African-Americans than their trans kids they toss out on the street, you can understand why I and other African descended trans people are bitterly disappointed about the erasure from this panel discussion.

Erasure happens to us far too often in the white dominated TBLG community. Having it happen to us and it coming from one of our iconic African American civil rights organizations is another bitter slap in the face for the African American trans community.

This would have been a golden opportunity to give visibility to some of our transfolks who are like myself and countless others doing the work to help uplift our community. But if we aren't there to talk about it, what's the point?

And we have been fighting a pitched battle for decades about inclusion in white dominated LGBT circles. Do you realize how this NAACP diss sets us back in those efforts, much less trying to educate the African American community that intelligent, proud African descended trans people exist?

Visibility matters.

Kenyon, unlike the organizers who put this panel discussion together, I mean no disrespect. I know you do some great work, and I'm sure you'll represent African American gay males very well, indeed on this panel, but the bottom line is this. You're not trans. PERIOD.

If you don't boycott this panel discussion, it's possible the disrespect might commence to flowing in your direction. The ball's in your court. Do the right thing.

If the event had been described as a "Gay and Lesbian" panel the disappointment would have been there BUT of a different type.

A big problem is that in their own description the NAACP has consistently referred to it as if it was inclusive of everyone by describing the contents (4 times) as being about the "LGBT" community. But then when assembling the panelists they went and left half of the community out.

And it is not as if this is the first time this has happened and in a high-profile event too. See for example Bisexual Activist & Producer/Director Kyle Schickner's critique of the 2010 LA GLAAD Awards "at the LA GLAAD Awards the 'B' was missing". Or the outrage that ensued (and is still bubbling angrily below the surface of the Bisexual Community) when Michelangelo Signorile called his (in)famous "B-Free" event "The Path Forward: An Emergency Summit on LGBT Rights". Something which Signorile has never yet to this day bothered to return a single inquiry, address in any way or even acknowledge that there is a Bisexual Community.

If this type of thing had happened only once it could be said to be painful but a fluke. A mistake by one group to be quickly explained and rectified. But it isn't. The list of all the events this now happens in is endless.

It simply cannot be allowed to continue.

There is absolutely NO reason to include a transgender person in any discussion related to sexual orientation and race. If, at some future time, the NAACP wants to have a forum on gender identity and race, then I would not expect there to be gay experts included. Sexual orientation is a completely different characteristic than gender identity or race.

So then you'd explain the fact that there are no representatives of the Bisexual Community there how?

I agree that it would improve the panel to have broader representation includes experts on bi issues. I'm just not sure it makes sense to try to pick panelists to represent every possible demographic characteristic (there are no blind Asian left-handed Jews on the panel either). If the panel was entirely comprised of white heterosexuals, then it would certainly be a problem. So, my opinion is that the lack of bi representation is not ideal but hardly negates the progress represented by having this panel.

As much as I support the trans movement, I have sympathy with this comment. Maybe there should be a separate LGB panel, plus a separate trans panel in a nearby timeslot. I know it's a lot to ask the NAACP to do all in one giant step -- but I see a lot of heavy lifting needed regarding both issues, and it's not like either panel will run out of things to talk about.

Finally, can we all, just for a second, commend the NAACP for making some type of attempt to move their constituency forward from the historical Black Church position of hellfire-and-brimstone? Which is worse, a panel badly put together, or no panel at all?

Disclaimer: I suppose most Bilerico regulars know this, but I'm white gay cis-male who is very concerned about gay racism and Black homo/transphobia. Is my input helpful, or shd I keep my nose out of this?

Why are transgender people trying to hijack (or 'trans-jack') a forum on gay civil rights within the black civil rights community? The forum does not have a representative of the Armenian community or the left-handed community either. This panel is about discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and race and has nothing to do with gender identity.

Umm . . . because the actual NAACP panel we've all been talking about is described in the literature as follows:

"Building upon the ground breaking work of the NAACP LGBT Taskforce, this workshop will provide an in-depth analysis on social issues and policies that disproportionately affect the LGBT Black community, this public forum will examine the complex layers of homophobia within the Black community and new ideas on the important role of Black straight allies, civil rights organizations, families, churches and colleges to eradicate stigma, violence and discrimination of Black gay people. Like most Black people, Black LGBT people share a common history and continued struggle to eradicate racism, yet their identities, talents and leadership are diminished because of homophobia. Through film, engaged dialogue and featured presentations from academics, activists, clergy and policy makers this informative and provocative forum will examine the significant contributions of Black gay leaders within the Civil Rights movement, the role of Black straight allies in addressing homophobia and how we can collectively overcome LGBT discrimination."

This is what the NAACP says, NOT simply bisexual and trans activists. Again, really reading, listening to what others actually say and starting from a position of truth not made up fancies always helps.

Right, the statement mentions 'homophobia', not 'biphobia' or 'transphobia'.

So you didn't notice that it says "LGBT" four times just in the part Bialogue quoted, including "LGBT discrimination"? Or do transphobia and biphobia not count as LGBT discrimination?

ONLINE ACCESS: The main NAACP convention proceedings with be streamed, and videos will be archived after the fact for on-demand viewing. Go to [= =] for both.

Windows users will need to have SilverLight installed.

DB, since you went there, we transpeople are tired of having our movement, our fallen people's blood, and our discrimination stories repeatedly 'gayjacked' just so you GL peeps can run to legislators, pass gay only anti-discrimination legislation and same gender marriage laws you repeatedly cut us out of and keep your 'special right' to discriminate and look down at transpeople.

This is about the people who take the brunt of the anti-GLBT violence and discrimination getting to tell their stories at an alleged LG(bt) forum for one of our iconic civil rights organizations.

In case it escaped some of you who as still drinking the 'trans people aren't part of the LGBT movement' Kool-Aid, there are transpeople who are also part of the L, G and B ends of it before we even begin talking about their ethnicity.

Paige Listerud | July 25, 2011 7:32 PM

I wish I could think that LA bisexual community would respond in force to this event. However, more and more I consider that it makes no difference. Lesbians and gay men do not want to include us because they do not consider us a part of their narrative of liberation. Instead, they view bisexuals as failed gays, inferiors, cowardly closet cases or, for some, people who will undermine gay/lesbian identity or chances for advancement.

I know that I wouldn't get my needs met showing up at a panel that had only a token representation of bisexuals, with a speaker that doesn't go deeply into why our invisibility is necessary to gay liberation. Lesbians and gay men need bisexuals to be unseen and unheard. Their politics doesn't protect us, doesn't educate the mainstream about us and doesn't create safer environments for us in the mainstream. If lesbians and gay men don't engage our experience to create a politics that will do this, then bisexuals have to step out themselves and create it. If we don't, nothing changes about the status quo. Expect the same complaint about invisibility and biphobia to be heard twenty years from now.

I do not argue with your premise and conclusions reached, as we have been left out of these forums many times, BUT, Mx. Justin Vivian Bond is definitely a trans person. And zie carries many of the beliefs and hopes of many young trans folk with Zer.

Ellynwithay | July 25, 2011 8:12 PM

Thank you, Monica, for bringing this to everyone's attention. As a bi activist (president of the Bisexual Resource Center) I am not surprised by the erasure of the bi and trans community from this panel, but it does hurt once again. As Amy Andre noted, there are many bi and trans African-Americans who could have been invited to this panel. Since they were not, I do wonder if the NAACP really has gone as far as hoped in their civil right analysis of this issue. Are bi and trans people still considered too far on "the fringe" to be offered a voice in this?

And sadder still are the reactions that people have posted on this page, continuing the hate. Undoubtedly they believe that homophobes are on the wrong side of history. And some day they will see that their lack of understanding of our shared struggle also puts them on the wrong side of history.

To DB and others who would argue for bi and trans exclusion: how are the issues covered exclusive to the gay and lesbian communities? Are bi and trans people not seen in the same light by those who abuse and discrimiate? In the eyes of those who challenge us, we are all the same. So how can you people defend your discimination? You may not feel that your experience is not that of bi and trans people, but that illuminates the differences of your personality. Instead of looking for commonality and build community, your focus is on difference and individuality, the basis of bigotry. But then, that is the kind of thinking this divicive society was made of. Sure, there are differences, and unique challenges, but underneath it all, there are common needs and goals, and because that is what I understand the panel was to address, why show your own prejudice unless you intend to understand and work through it.

BTW, I am a (mostly) white, bi, transgender, intersex, single, unemployed mom who apparently has lost the ability to put her thoughts into a coherent and legible format, for whatever that's worth. I see this us-and-them crap in my daughter's Kindergarten classroom, when are we going to grow out of this self-defeating infantile BS?

@Monica: You take it to them! Visibility is great, but sometimes they have to hear it, too.

... how are the issues covered exclusive to the gay and lesbian communities? Are bi and trans people not seen in the same light by those who abuse and discrimiate? In the eyes of those who challenge us, we are all the same. So how can you people defend your discrimination? You may not feel that your experience is not that of bi and trans people, but that illuminates the differences of your personality. Instead of looking for commonality and build community, your focus is on difference and individuality, the basis of bigotry.

Come on, Melanie! Just because the hayseeds in Martinsville, Indiana call us all "queers" doesn't mean that being a gay male is the same thing as being a lesbian, and that lesbianism is the same as being bisexual, and that being bi is the same as being trans! All those letters do legitimately mean different things. Moreover, racism is not homophobia, and homophobia is not transphobia, yet a tire iron hitting each of us on the head is likely to do roughly the same damage.

I have nothing against bi-people and trans-people. But the only reason I continue to point out that separatism is an option is because what we are doing now, universal inclusiveness, is not working. If we spend all our time in-fighting, then we are better off working separately, because then at least outwardly-directed "real work" is getting done (hopefully).

I also challenge the idea that "difference and individuality [is] the basis of bigotry" -- I have not much idea where such a statement comes from, because so often, the basis of bigotry is mandatory sameness and conformity!

L, G, B, and T are all different things, and in the process of educating the straight world, require different course modules. Just as we do not expect students to learn algebra and marine biology in an interleaved fashion, I am not at all sure that every L/G workshop has to, or even can, deal with B and T issues comprehensively and effectively. Just as on class, sometimes it is a good idea to break up into small groups when the whole auditorium working together becomes too cumbersome.

I still don't understand when to use the word "transgender" or the word "transexual" without someone jumping on me. And since many of the other students are just as confused as I am, I tend to wonder whether there is something wrong with the way this course is being taught.

Or maybe I should just say, "To Hell with it" and drop out.

AJ, coalitions are never easy to maintain. Even our right wing opponents struggle with that and they have the advantages of being predominately monoracial and members of the same political party.

I guess that universal inclusiveness of having gays, Jews, whites and other people of good will involved in the African American civil rights struggle was a bad idea, too?

What part of there are trans people who are also bi, lesbian or gay do GL peeps not get, which is one of the reasons there is a LGBT community? Too many GL people also fail to understand that the reason you are facing discrimination is in large part because just like trans people, you GL peeps are seen as violators of the societal gender binary.