Thursday, July 29, 2010

Us versus Them.

Got a call from the LGBT political organization I have been working with, FFE. My boss told me she had plans to go out of town this weekend, but the organization wanted to send someone to Baton Rouge on Saturday to talk with people in the bars about the a recent resolution that was shot down. The resolution, a loosely worded statement on the importance of diversity and the city’s support for people of all races, religions, abilities, and sexual orientations, was on the table for the Baton Rouge City council to vote to pass this week. Currently, no state or city protections exist for Baton Rouge LGBT people in any capacity. FFE wanted to pass a local ENDA, but felt the first step would be to pass a non-binding resolution celebrating diversity as a way to test the waters. The resolution was already sponsored by a coalition of Baton Rouge groups, so FFE was simply invited to join. Though FFE’s board likes the idea of the organization as a “statewide” group, the truth is, it’s a NOLA-based group who has some very specific ideas of what they think the rest of the state should be doing. They’ve had turf wars with several Baton Rouge-based groups and political organizations, so their track record on collaboration is pretty low.

To put it nicely, this resolution resoundingly backfired. First, an advocate for imprisoned LGBT youth wrote an article on Bilerco skewering FFE for not including gender identity in the resolution. Granted, FFE didn’t write the resolution; they were only asked to join in support AFTER the resolution was on the table. But, still not an excuse – they should have said no on the grounds that gender identity wasn’t included. Well, FFE’s managing director and political director wrote a resounding letter on why they chose to support the resolution even though it wasn’t inclusive. Dumb move for an organization that has a) no trans board members (or board members of color), b) possibly no trans members, and c) a history of ignorance bordering on contention toward trans people. Way to further divide the community and claim you are an “LGB-T” organization when really, you’re a “LG” and sometimes, possibly “B” organization that thinks “T” is sort of unnecessary.

Next, the Family Forum, a right-wing org, decided to get a group of pastors together and take out a huge ad in the Baton Rouge newspaper including the usual language about protecting children and not endorsing alternate lifestyles. You know how it goes. Well, that, along with some robo-calls and a nice PR campaign, sparked the council to drop the resolution before voting and the mayor to issue a statement against the resolution.

So, here we are now. A lot of LGBT people are pissed in Baton Rouge, understandably, and probably feeling very unsafe and alone right now. FFE decides they want to use this opportunity to pick up members and talk to people and get a better accounting of what the calls and PR said, which is what they need to be doing. BUT no board members want to commit to driving a fucking hour and giving up their Saturday night on short notice to do this.

So they call me. And offer up some money.

A part of me wants to be there to listen. I remember feeling that way when Shreveport, my own hometown, had the same reaction to LGBT issues. It is horrifying to feel alienated and hated in your hometown. It sinks to the bone to realize your neighbors are the ones who don’t really care if you get fired from work for being gay or trans. It’s awful. I want to be there to comfort, to connect, to listen.

But I can’t justify why gender identity wasn’t included in this resolution, whether it passed or not. I can’t justify why gays and lesbians feel justified in their anger at being excluded when they have just excluded others. I can’t justify being a member and a spokesperson for an organization which thinks trans people should take a backseat to gays and lesbians.

Amid my thoughts about whether to go to Baton Rouge this weekend or not, I saw a Facebook post by our lovely Southern Political Director. He posted, out of the blue, “Oh, you are just so progressive with that "Q" on the end of your LGBT. You are just so damn special. Aren't you so goddamn fashion-forward?” Underneath, the comment trail was just as divisive and offensive. I wanted to scream back… I AM THE Q.

And that’s when I realized, I’m done. I can’t. I won’t. I won’t be a part of any group that feels division is more important than inclusion. I won’t stand next to people who see trans people and people of color as tokens, side items, back seat passengers, or break-out groups. I want nothing to do with a group that sees queer, trans, and genderqueer people as ridiculous and messy and unimportant. There is no “they” and there is no “us.” It’s all us.

I can go to Baton Rouge, and I can comfort, and I can listen. But I won’t represent FFE. I’m learning to carve my lines in rock and not draw them in sand.

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