On November 20, 2009 my wife and I joined two of our closest friends on a cold evening and headed south. We traveled by bus and fought the crowds and time delays as we finally approached the closest station to our destination of the evening. Bundled up and holding each other tight, we walked several blocks to the church across from the Georgia State Capitol.
Traveling by bus had delayed us, so we entered the building as one speaker was talking to an engaged audience. I was surprised to see an abundance of food and drinks provided since the gathering was free. We sat at one of the long buffet tables alongside fellow transgender women, men and supporters. Atlanta mayor-elect Kasim Reed spoke as well as multiple other political community figures. Other speakers included a long list of activists for the trans community.
The evening was primarily arranged by Tracee McDaniel, founder of Juxtaposed Center For Transformation, with the help of many others.
As my eyes spanned the room, I couldn’t help but notice something. Though the crowd fit the definition of a “crowd”, there were not as many people there as I had presumed. The room was filled primarily with those who were trans and their partners, speakers/performers and political candidates running for office…with a handful of supporters. It hit me hard that the “GLB” part of the community were very few and far between.
This initiated my mind to re-wind back to an article I wrote a few years ago entitled: “The Minority Within the Minority”. Fast-forward to December 2009 and from what I see, it virtually remains the same. Sure, I have witnessed a steady growing support for the transgender community, yet when it came down to a day of remembering those who were murdered for being who they are, I dare to ask, “Where Were YOU?”
One Atlanta pastor said exactly what my wife, our two friends and I were thinking. He spoke first to the political candidates there and stated that he hoped they were not attending this evening just to gain our vote, but that they will hold true to the promises in their words and help protect us and provide change. Next, he spoke out to the GLB crowd that was virtually non-existent. He mentioned the Atlanta Eagle bar raid underwear protests (Sept. 2009) and how that event had gathered a much larger crowd of community supporters. How sad to think many members of our community would rather be on the street in their underwear to protest a bar raid than to make their way to a candlelit vigil to call out the names of almost 100 people (that we know of) across the world that were murdered in the past year.
Where Were YOU?
When we walked across the street and gazed at the candles lit in front of the glowing capitol?
Where Were YOU?
When the 96 names were read giving the name, location, age and description of how they were killed…and then the haunting bell would ring?
Where Were YOU?
When taps were played to remember everyone, not just from the past year, but from the decades of years proceeding?
Where Were YOU?
When those who tried to hold back tears…couldn’t.
This message isn’t just for you, it’s also for me.
There have been many other important gatherings that I missed in the past. I was one who would have full intention of being there, then at the last minute, something else took priority. Of course, there are some things that truly will prevent us from being at evenings such as this one. Yet, my voice sounds off to those who didn’t show up and could have made it. My voice especially grows louder to the ones who bear a title of “activist” within the GLBTQI community and didn’t feel the need to be there that night.
A night for the minority within the minority.
A night where we celebrated the lives, yet felt the pain (and some fear) of the reality of hatred that still floods the cities across the globe.
We are there for you. We support the GLB community and their efforts. We rally, we protest and we let our voices be heard and signs be seen.
I’m am asking this:
Be there for us in return.
Remember, we ARE a family. Just as you might not be understood within your biological family, we are still mis-understood some times (not just within our bio-family), but also our community-family – our chosen family. Some within our community still judge us. Some within our community label us “freaks”.
We saw this backwards-thinking most recently by an article written by Ronald Gold on a website called The Bilerico Project.
The post was so disturbing that founder and editor-in-chief, Bil Browning, had to remove the post and also remove Gold from the list of contributors (Thank you, Bil). This “anti-transgender” article was published on a website bearing the tag-line: “daily experiments in LGBTQ”. In short, the article claimed (in so many words) that being transgender doesn’t exist and it is something psychologists misdiagnose and label us with.
On the up-side, comments flooded the page of the article and the support was incredible within our community as a whole.
This past year at Atlanta Pride marked the first year ever for a Transgender march. Progress.
For those in the GLB community that support us, THANK YOU.
This message is extended to everyone, not to “bark” up the GLB tree inclusively. I’m even barking up my own tree and the trees of my trans brothers and sisters and queers…and, well, everyone. We are all held accountable and one thing I know to be true is that “Actions Speak LOUDER Than Words.”
The next time you hear of an upcoming event to support the transgender community and someone after the fact asks you, “Where Were YOU?” I hope you will be able to reply, “I Was THERE.”
Written by Tristan “no holds bar” Skye
President of TQnation.com