An Unconscionable Situation

Posted: 08/09/2012 by erichblayde in Trans Rights, Transphobia
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

****!!!!TRIGGER WARNING!!!!****

The following post details offensive and transphobic remarks

**Authors Note** First and foremost I would like everyone to know I have removed the names of all individuals and organizations to allow the offending organization a chance to make contact and/or reparation without undue exposure. If the organization has not contacted me within 3 business days to acknowledge receipt of the letter or is refusing to enter discussions focused on repairing the damage done by its member I will issue a 72 hour warning. If no contact or a refusal to discuss has been received at the end of the warning period I will release the name of the organization and further action will be decided upon. Secondly, I would request that those of you who are aware of the identity of the persons or organization involved, please do not contact the organization or the members until such time as I have received a refusal or no contact as described above. Further to this however please share this widely so people understand that, even in Canada basic transgender rights are still needing defending even to members of the cisgender gay and lesbian community. I would also like to state that all opinions in the blog portion of this post are my own and in no way represent the viewpoints of the coalition members mentioned in the official letter displayed at the bottom of the page. If you are a member of this organization please understand that my ire is directed to those persons who have been so cavalier in their disrespect of trans rights, both in this incident and in the past, NOT at the organization as a whole. Lastly I will be moderating comments on this post rather severely. If you wish to have a respectful discussion about this topic in the comments section, please feel free, however any personal attacks, undue swearing, off topic comments or other misguided things will NOT be posted

UPDATE!

THE PRESIDENT HAS REPLIED AND WILL BE DISCUSSING THINGS WITH THE BOARD ON THE 11TH! STAY TUNED FOR FURTHER DETAILS

Hello again my lovely readers. I am so sorry for the massive delay in posting. As you loyal readers out there may well know I recently attended the gay Christmas celebrations in Vancouver. I left Thursday full of hope and excitement for an extra special weekend of fruitful (no pun intended) labors. And I must say I was absolutely NOT disappointed! Thursday through Monday was a plethora of queer that did my faggot heart proud (and left me with the usual post-pride sunburns and sore bottom)

Unfortunately however, this post is not about that.

As much as I would love to spill all my naughty Vancouver adventures to you dear readers I must instead tell you the rather tragic tale of how a [name redacted] board member slapped my happy gay ass back down to earth on Tuesday with an unprecedented display of transphobic bullshit of which I have never seen the like

You see I volunteer my time as a security guard for the [name redacted] Pride festivities that take place each June. Now [name redacted], which manages the [name redacted] Pride Week is one of the “good ol gay boy” type of networks with the majority of its board members being older gay males. For the most part they and I have got on well. True, there have been times I have had to get a bit nasty to stop them using the pronoun of their choice rather than the pronoun of my choice, but for the most part they have shut up about it.

At least in my case they have, but not in others apparently.

On Tuesday I was contacted by a [name redacted] board member who invited me to an appreciation barbecue with the board. Although work obligations did not allow me to attend it was a very pleasant conversation in which I was thanked for my efforts and left with no doubt as to how much I was appreciated.

The topic then turned to the subject of the low youth/trans involvement in [name redacted]. I told the board member that from what I was hearing from youth they had indeed tried to join and become active but did not feel respected or heard. Essentially the youth were left feeling like the board expected them to be free labor, learn their gay lessons from the old school and not be individuals at all. I also told the board member I had heard similar things from trans people, in that they were left not wanting to be active due to the established board’s practice of simply telling people what to do and not allowing new ideas without organization splitting fights (this is a well-documented fact. If the [name redacted] board doesn’t like it they make you go form a new organization and nearly always refuse to try anything new that they were not the initiating body of)

The board member informed me that they had indeed had a young trans man (whom I happen to know) on the board, but that “she” had decided to leave. The board member left me with the impression that he was rather wounded over this trans man’s decision and as I was trying to puzzle out the pronoun mess the following statements were made by the [name redacted] member

“She was active for a while and then just left”

“We tried to get her to stay”

“I am sure she is a really good person”

Now, knowing this person as I do, I know he is absolutely not shy about stating his preferred gender pronouns which happen to be he his him etc. Definitely not “she”. I gently interjected and pointed out the pronoun problem at which point this gentleman, a [name redacted] board member stated the following: “Oh yeah that. I know that stuff but I have known her since before she started trying to be whatever and she will always be a woman to me”

Ok hold up. This can’t be right can it? I mean I must have misheard somehow. But no.

In the ensuing 10 minutes of conversation, the board member rambled on and on in the wrong pronoun telling me how hard it was to understand, that it was an exception for him because he’d known “her” since before the transition. How “she” would be fine with it because “she” transitioned openly on the pride board. That when he first met “her” “it” (and yes he actually started using the word it while referring to my friend in conversation) was presenting as female so that was how it was always going to be and didn’t I understand and why couldn’t I see how very right he was.

All the while this was going on, I floundered about on the other end of the phone trying desperately to educate this man, defend my friend and understand what the fuck was going on, all at the same time. Unfortunately my efforts were to no avail as this gentleman continued to insist that it was perfectly understandable what he was doing and insinuating that I should be proud of him for acknowledging the subject! To be true he used the correct pronoun a whopping six times in a 15 minute conversation centered on pronouns, but I rather found his startling use of the word “it” to somewhat lessen the effectiveness of the effort (for the sake of posterity let me just say that I am in no way inferring that the usage of the word “it” as a preferred pronoun is wrong or should be judged in any way. I have several friends who use that choice as their preferred pronoun. But seeing as how the subject of the conversation is not one of those people and the person using the term “it” was obviously not a pronoun virtuoso who would understand the use of “it” as a pronoun I felt it was most likely being used in an objectifying manner and therefore found the usage of the term to be offensive in this context)

And after all, as this [name redacted]board member stated to me an astounding SEVEN times

“It’s fine because I don’t say it to her face”

After 15 minutes of this, I hung up on the man and found myself shaking with rage in my kitchen. A full 24 hours later and I am still in bewilderment as to how to handle the situation. Not only do I find the man’s insensitivity to be completely unfathomable, but I am thoroughly appalled that this man is a board member of a Pride society and can STILL be this ignorant! And that doesn’t even mention how offended and downright goddamned MAD I am at his total lack of understanding that saying this to myself, another trans man, is JUST as goddamn rude as if you said it to the person you were speaking about!

And it’s time we ruddy well did something about it. Because I KNOW that this board member is not the only one who thinks this way.

I have written a letter to [name redacted] president of [name redacted] explaining the situation and demanding that the board of [name redacted] take the following actions:

1) The offending board member must write a public letter of apology to the general transgender community to be posted on the front page of the [name redacted] website for 30 days

2) The offending board member must write personal letters of apology to myself and the gentleman whom he was speaking about and deliver the letter with a face to face personal apology.

3) ALL members of the [name redacted] board must take a sensitivity course on trans issues within 60 days. (I have a trans sensitivity trainer willing to donate his time)

But outside of the carefully worded letter I do have something to say to the lovely folks of this [name redacted] pride board.

I applaud the work you do every year in putting together the [name redacted] Pride Week, I really do. Several of you I consider to be friends of the sort I don’t want to lose over something as bloody stupid as this, but the actions of the board member described in this post are a mirror for the same attitudes I have seen from a number of you. I understand adjusting to the new ways the world is moving toward can be difficult but simply refusing to acknowledge and honor another human being’s inherent rights and freedoms, to openly disrespect members of your own family in this way is unconscionable. It is disgusting. And it’s time to have a good hard look at checking your cisgender privilege at the damn door. I love each of you as family and I implore you to look within yourselves and find it in your hearts to start acting like it.

Welcome to the 21st century. It’s time to catch up.

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