Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Don Lemon Keynotes at NLGJA: Both of Them Need To Get Up To Speed

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | August 29, 2011 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Don Lemon, National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, NLGJA, transgender exclusion

don_lemon_date_auction2.jpgThe picture on the right is CNN's Don Lemon being auctioned off this weekend for $1,050 at the NLGJA (National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association) conference for charity. He delivered the keynote speech at the Journalists' convention, along with Ann Curry.

It's not a coincidence that Don Lemon has recently been discussed in the LGBT blogosphere for his kerfuffle with a transsexual activist at the NAACP LGBT forum, and his clueless interview with trans entertainment figures on The Joy Behar Show, and then appears at a conference for gay and lesbian journalists. Both Lemon and the NLGJA can't seem to figure out all those letters. Don't get me wrong, I have high regard for Lemon's courageous coming out, and for NLGJA's role in fostering LGB(t) journalism. But I'm not out of line for pointing up that trans people could use a little acknowledgement and encouragement, as the most marginalized minority within the LGBT community.

I noted with interest Monica Roberts' recent TransGriot post on Mr. Lemon, Yo Don, We Need To Talk - Again. Ms. Roberts, a long-time writer, award winning trans activist, lecturer, speaker, native Houstonian and Texan, is one of the trans community's longest-running and outspoken voices, and she has never been shy when it comes to pointing out injustice.

She explicitly rebutted Mr. Lemon's contention that people aren't ready for interviews of trans people beyond "how does it feel to shave?" and "did you have your surgery yet?"

"And the fact that you're one of the few high profile out African American gay males makes this slowly ossifying impression one that concerns me as a fellow African American.

You may think America is at a Trans 101 level of discussion but I submit we're actually at Trans 201 or 202 level. Elements of the African American community are playing catch up to get to that 201 level.

I and other transpeople of all ethnicities believe it's past time for Americans to get past their fixation on our genitalia, skip the trans makeup and trans shaving photo ops and get busy discussing our lives and how the anti-trans attitudes, transphobia, and people actively working to oppress us negatively impact them."

I'm glad that Mr. Lemon is getting well-deserved recognition in the LGBT community. He is in a position to do a lot of good on many of our community's issues. His recent coming out was an act of courage. I know he's new to all this. But it's time for him to get with some trans community advocates and study up on his community. It's also time for the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists' Association to move into the 21st century and find an inclusive name.

imgsrc: Chris Geidner

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Funny you should mention it.

Minutes after the auction pictured above, I saw Lemon engaged in a lengthy conversation with transsexual activist Ashley Love (I believe that's her preferred shorthand label).

When an organizer who feared he'd been 'kidnapped' (which happens to celebs all the time) gave Lemon an 'out' (i.e. an excuse to break away), he rebuffed it and kept on talking with Ashley.

My eyewitness observation, for what it's worth.

Thanks for your "scoop", Tim. :) I'm glad you mentioned it; it gives me hope for Don. Of course, now I have a loop playing in my head with your voice on it, which comes from hearing you all day long on OutQ News.

Mr Lemon represents only one individual of too many in the Community that continues to refer to the broad Community as 'Gay,' the difference with Mr Lemon being a public figure with a widespread audience.

References to 'Gay Pride,' 'Gay Marriage,' 'Gay bar,' ad nauseum continue to be the monikers of choice. In St Louis, a thought of redevelopment in an area was said to be 'we will think of it as a 'Gayborhood.' That in itself was irresponsible (and yes using my favorite word of choice - and marginalizing) considering the Bisexual and Trans Community.

Until Advocates and Community Leaders who are gay and lesbian avoid using such terms, each new generation of gays and lesbians will continue to refer all to as 'Gay.' These Advocates and Leaders have the ability to stop this marginalization, if they themselves step up to the plate and change their choice of words.

Hey, here is an idea. How about we call the LGBTTQI communities simply "Trans" to make it easier. Mr. Lemon okay with that?

Angela Brightfeather | August 29, 2011 1:35 PM


Your using the term LGBTTQI us exactky the excuse that Don Lemon needs to keep on pounding us with just being "Gay", so back the heck of a bit on the letters and stop providing people like him ammunition.
I do agree with your suggestion however, as a very good compromise point and in fact use "Trans" to describe our community often and have done so for many years now. I like the way you think, more than I like the way you push.

As to Mr. Lemon....isn't it about time for him to be asked to be an announcer/host for something like Southern Comfort? He would most likely get to talk to more than one activist at that event, serve a useful purpose and could actually benefit from attendance at the conference along with learning something about "Trans" people in general from just sitting in on a few needed and eductional seminars.

I was being sarcastic. Don doesn't need any "ammunition" as he isn't on a crusade to erase all of the end letters I posted but he is simply ignorant about it. I think he needs to simply stay out of any kind of activism until he has learned a bit more about things.

I've always wondered if it's time to separate the "letters" b/c it becomes more and more clear they do not belong together anymore. Trans people do not want to be mistaken as "gay." Gay people don't want to be mistaken as "Trans." Lesbians don't want to be called "gay." And well, this is a symptom of lumping us all together as though we have the same agenda, issues and needs. It's become impossible to be all at once and address all at once without someone feeling/being left out.

I know Gay men who don't give a flip about Lesbians and vice-versa. Both who don't give a flip about Trans folks and vice-versa. If anything, many of my trans friends feel they do not identify with the gay community at all anymore and consider themselves part of the "straight community" and wish to live that way apart from the LGBT community. It is a Catch-22.

I agree -- if being LGB and being Trans are all the same, then why do we need to update umpteen HRO anti-discrimination laws and ordinances to include the phrase "gender identity"? The law views being homosexual and being transsexual as two different things, and I think it's time that L, G, B, and T activists figure that out as well.

Black civil rights and Latino civil rights both deserve support -- but the racial minorities are not going around insisting that Cinco de Mayo is an endorsement of Black exclusion, or that Indiana Black Expo is a subversive plot to throw Latinos under the bus.

(BTW, we have a term that umbrellas all sexual unusualness -- "queer" -- but so many object to it because it has historically negative connotations.

(OK, so pick a different term and say it means "queer".)

It's funny you should ask that question, AJ, about why we need to update anti-discrimination laws to include the phrase "gender identity". I will tell you that back in the 80s and 90s, the terms "sexual preference" and "sexual orientation" in law did cover trans people. There was a concerted effort starting in the late 90s to begin including gender identity as a separate term, and I have serious reservations about whether that was a good idea. I don't see it as a respectful effort to make sure trans people were included, I see it as an effort to separate trans people from the gays and make it clear in law. Without that, we would never have had the ENDA debacle of 2007. But some of the people who started separating out "gender identity" in the 90s are now friends of mine, who were in their own minds trying to do the right thing. Anyway it's too late now, and no use crying over spilled milk. Someday it'll be worth writing a law review article about, but not today.