By Ryan “Karimu” Oliver
I might be a little late on this one, but it’s nothing like the present, right? So I ran across this brilliant, youthful, energetic, vibrant video, Motor City Pride, by Team Detroit, featuring some of Detroit’s own LGB entrepreneurs, young professionals, and dope MC’s all representing Detroit under the umbrella of social activism and collective upward mobility for a “GAY” Detroit. My first impression: beautifully done! My second impression: where was the “T”? Not only was there no “T”, but transgender was said once in the entire 7 minute and 16 second video.
Being an out black, trans man, this made me think. First, I needed transgender people to be visible. Second, I at least needed someone in the video to acknowledge that this community exists. “Gay” has become the default term in our GLBT movement and it’s killing me! No really, it’s literally killing me. Every time a transgender person has to empower themselves to speak up for their visibility in our collective GLBT movement, it is safe to say that most lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have left us out to be killed, to be targeted, to be identified as the group messing everything up for the socially acceptable, normalized gays.
Well, this self-proclaimed “weirdo,” abnormal, socially-unacceptable tranny boi is completely fed up! It is irresponsible of our community to continue to ignore the movement of transgender identity, and gender fluid expressive individuals. The lack of unintended disrespect goes deep for me and dehumanizes my gender freedom and expressive self. It is this blatant disregard for those outside of the cisgender vision of society that are left to pick up the crumbs left by our assumed well-intended, good natured, or “I just forgot to mention you” lesbian and gay family members.
I rather you outwardly hate me and tell me that I am a distraction from your seemingly flawless movement toward your gay rights and selective equality, instead of making me feel like a loved family member during election time or as a topic that you want to “learn more about.” I don’t know how many panels and groups I have been a part of since coming out as transgender or how many people I have talked to about transgender issues in our beloved Detroit, yet still trans people can’t catch a break, and it’s not just me. Many of my brothers, sisters and gender queers have been doing this for years. In fact, we were the first!
Need I remind you that it was the transgender and gender non-conforming folks that threw the shoe to ignite the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot in 1966, three years before the Stonewall Riots.
My point is that transgender people are also a part of the fabric of our society and need to present and be accounted for by our LGB family members. We are a part of the march to move this country forward into a progressive movement that is inclusive and representative of everyone. Our transgender and gender non- conforming youth are our visionaries, trailblazers, and NOW leaders of a city that is always evolving and changing to bring to life GLBT existence. Our youth represent a new age of gender freedom, sexual fluidity, and non-conforming gender expressive love. They must be represented. We are trans people that are same sex/gender attracted, queer, equal gender-loving people as well. We are doctors, lawyers, carpenters, hunters, students, teachers, coaches, musicians, singers, poets, therapists, mechanics, professors, and the list goes on. Why are we not visible among your movement? Why are we not represented? Why didn’t an ally write this letter before I did?
It is not by coincidence that my transgender sisters of color are four times more likely to be victims of a hate crime or viciously raped or attacked in our GLB normalized communities. It is this lack of education, awareness and visibility that kills our trans women of color. In spite of all this I can envision a GLB community that stands with its transgender family and marches to bring awareness and visibility to the “T” that has been ignored, pushed to the side, and told to wait your turn. I need my lesbian, gay, and bisexual cisgender family to stand up and stand out and to represent for the “T” where the “T” isn’t represented.
Detroit, I got yo’ T!