Last year, The Pride Network hosted a day-long event, Students Promoting Equality Action and Knowledge, SPEAK Summit, where a few hundred students gathered to sharpen their leadership skills as LGBTQ young people.
Throughout the day, these young people had the opportunity to select from a variety of workshops ranging from "Starting an LGBT Student Group at Your School" to "Being Out in the Workplace". As expected, most of the workshops were attended by a fair mix of races, genders, and orientations with the exception of the offerings specific to unique experiences. "Being Queer and a Person of Color" and "Navigating College as Trans" attracted those who share similar identities. These audience specific workshops offered spaces that were not only safe but, for many, unique opportunities to experience a real sense of belonging that validated how they move through the world.
What I didn't expect, however, was how the mix of participants broke down within certain workshops. For example, "Identifying an LGBT-Friendly College" was full of LGB students, while "Know Your Rights" was full of Trans students. "LGBT in Politics" and "Sharing Experiences through Writing" were full of LGB students, while "Homelessness in the LGBT Community" was mostly attended by Trans students.
What was it about these workshops that divided LGB and T? The day went on, and the self-selecting process became more and more obvious. It dawned on me. Privilege. This unconscious division revealed the far too often overlooked factor of LGB privilege within the LGBT community.
LGB folk often experience more privilege in their lifetime than Trans people. Trans people face higher rates of unemployment, violence, police brutality, workplace discrimination, and health care discrimination than LGB people. What is clear, however, is not always obvious.
I would like to think most LGB people understand this. The real issue, then, comes down to prioritizing values. Most LGB people have yet to establish a sense of solidarity for people other than those who look and identify similarly to themselves. Trans people have always embraced and celebrated intersectionality, supported LGB people's causes and political battles, and participated conscientiously in our community. But where is our conscience? At the same time, we barely even acknowledge our Trans brothers' and sisters' existence and shamefully ignore important roles they have played in our history and recent milestones.
We, as LGB people, are so undeserving of the strengths Trans people have shared with us. It's time we have some serious conversations as a community about how we support Trans people. And those conversations need to happen with Trans people at the table.
As a community, let's make 2016 the year we proudly make the T in LGBT a priority. We must.
Here are 9 ways, we as LGB people, can be a better Ally to Trans people:
- Help your organization become more Trans-inclusive
- Get to know a Trans person and connect them with your professional network
- Read more Trans-specific articles online and share it with your friends to lift up their voices
- Support Statewide Equality organizations that are focusing on Trans issues
- Vote for political candidates that express support for Trans issues
- Volunteer for a Trans specific organization
- Support Youth Trans Programs
- Ask about Gender Neutral bathrooms for your workplace
- Reach out to your local food pantries and homeless shelters and make sure they're Trans inclusive
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