DETROIT – About 50 people came out Friday for Hotter Than July’s annual Gathering on LGBT Issues. The conference, which took place at Michigan State University’s Detroit Center, has been a part of Detroit Black Gay Pride since its inception in 1996.
Rev. Roland Stringfellow, of Metropolitan Community Church-Detroit, delivered the keynote address and took on the topics of transgender equality and the LGBT community’s political future. “As many of us know, the LG community and B community still have issues that we need to work out with accepting our trans brothers and sisters,” Stringfellow said. “So when you now take it outside the LGB community and take it to the wider community as a whole, how then do I wrap my head around understanding what it means to be transgender? And for many people, they weren’t even aware that people were transitioning because that is how silent or how covert trans lives are in our community.”
Stringfellow said although transgender issues have gotten a great deal of mainstream attention as of late, there’s still so much we don’t understand about the community.
“We now say we know transgender because we know Caitlyn Jenner, but I argue we still don’t know gender at all, gender in the way that I thought it was,” said Stringfellow. “Like race, gender is a biosocial historical category that we all move through in different ways and in different times. Race and gender are not the same, but they are both biosocial historical categories that help facilitate and enforce the unequal distribution of power and wealth under capitalism.”
Referencing the recent victory for marriage equality handed down by the Supreme Court last month, Stringfellow said the LGBT community must look toward the future.
“I believe the next political agenda the LGBT community needs to focus on (is) voting,” he said. “Here’s why I say this. Any type of advancement we have gotten as a people or a community can be easily stripped or taken away when the decks are stacked against us and gerrymandering happens, and we have Republican super majorities in legislature.”
Past Presidents Of HTJ Recognized
Following Stringfellow’s remarks, Curtis Lipscomb, executive director of LGBT Detroit, the agency that now produces HTJ, presented awards to the three living past presidents of the event. They are Johnny Jenkins, Hank Millbourne and Kimberly Jones. The fourth past president, Robert Clark, was recognized posthumously.
“Organizing Hotter Than July is tough,” said Lipscomb. “We are an interesting people in this room with a lot of different desires, wants and personalities. Imagine being a leader having to manage not only a project that is significant, important, authentic and mandatory, but to do it with different types of people who all identify as LGBT … A leader of that has to have a certain kind of strength, a certain kind of tenacity, to say, ‘You know what, I’ll take that charge.'”