DISCLAIMER: I am a board member of the Audre Lorde Project, a New York based organization committed to the liberation of queer, trans, and two spirit people of color. The following blog is in no way reflective of the thoughts, positions, or opinions of the Audre Lorde Project, its staff, or its board. This is my personal rant on my personal blog, and as such I will say exactly what I damn please.
This letter is in response to a series of transphobic blog postings at the blog The Dirt from Dirt, including one which targets the Audre Lorde Project.
Let me begin by saying that I fully respect your right to belief what you would believe, to live your life as you would live it, and to identify how you would identify. As long as your beliefs and actions do not infringe on the right of others to believe and act in a way that is consistent with their best selves, then I will defend your right to do and say as you will.
However, when your beliefs and actions actively impede the right of others to express themselves in a way that is uplifting and powerful, is centered on their own personal truth, and reflects their own best selves, I have a problem.
Namely, I have a problem with your consistent and ugly bashing of trans folks and their right to be and live openly as transgendered individuals. From your vitriolic rants on your blog, which remind me of something I would find on the 700 Club or perhaps hear coming from the pulpit of the Westboro Baptist Church, it seems as if you have had severely negative personal experiences around your own struggle with identity.
From your blog, it would appear that at one point in time you may even have identified as transgendered, perhaps had elective surgery, and then later came to a different understanding of your identity. It seems, perhaps, at that time, instead of looking closely at your self and taking a moment to really conceptualize and look at the different ways that sexism, homophobia, transphobia, gender identity and the complex interactions between those issues created a circumstance where you were unable to see yourself clearly--- thus leading you to make choices for yourself that you later regretted--you instead lashed out at segments of the queer/trans community in a manner that is more reflective of self-hatred than any reasoned critique of your own experience.
I empathize with you. As a person of color that grew up in the upper Midwest, I had a hell of a time finding accepting spaces as a mixed race individual. I wasn't black or Latino enough for the blacks and Latinos. I wasn't Native enough for some Native people, while other Native folks wanted me to identify as Native to the exclusion of all else, and though I am half white, claiming whiteness would be an idiocy. I had to find my own way, and it involved some transformative and empowering experiences as well as some shitty and painful experiences (some of which were flat out created by me in my stumbling attempts to navigate a multiplicity of identities within complex communities that exist within specific socio-historical and political realities).
I could have handily blamed all black, Puerto Rican, Native American, and white folks for my own mistakes and missteps. But, frankly, since the only common factor in all of the equations surrounding my struggle with identity happen to be me, then it made sense for me to start at home. I looked closely at what I wanted from community, what I wanted from myself, and what I expected from community. I learned about how internalized racism and homophobia, classism, and other oppressions worked to have me see my own as enemies. Once my eyes had been opened to that insidious reality, I refused. I refused to see anyone with whom I shared a common or related struggle as an enemy.
This did not and does not mean that I fail to hold my allies and compadres accountable for the ways they participate or have participated in oppression or policing of identity or gate keeping or any number of other ways that we hurt and harm one another in an effort to feel safe in our identities. But this does mean that I will not lift myself up or find comfort in denying the existence, or the right to justice of anyone else that is fighting for their right to live free and liberated lives. It seems this is a lesson that you have failed to learn. I am sorry for you for that.
Having said that, here is the part where you as a white person need to shut up, sit down, and never ever speak again. You as a white woman do not now have and never will have the right to EVER SPEAK or COMMENT or in any way have an OPINION on the right of queer and trans people of color to self organize around our commonalities. You do not now nor EVER have the right to lay claim to one of our family, and here I am speaking clearly of Audre Lorde. While I did not know Audre, I do know Barbara Smith, Carmen Vazquez, Katherine Acey, Mandy Carter, and about a dozen of Audre's friends, and they all agree that she would have happily seen herself in communion with other queer folks of color, period. So, your righteous indignation on behalf of Audre is just another example of white folks trying to lay claim to people and figures that are not their own. From Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas down to Audre Lorde, I would invite you to keep your hands, feet, and words off of them and out of their mouths. Audre Lorde was a lesbian, and she was proud of being a lesbian. But she was a powerful black woman, and you do not get to speak for her. How dare you. Such blatant racism and life and legacy claiming by a white person is disgusting.
In the end, I would gladly and with all of my heart still sit on the board of directors of the Audre Lorde Project even if the only community it EVER served were trans and genderqueer people of color. As a biological male with all the privilege and power that entails, it is my responsibility to use my privilege to support the right to self-determination of my allies, and I do that with pride. I support the Sylvia River Law Project, I support the trans leadership of the Audre Lorde Project, which, Dirtywhiteboi67, is an organization committed to the liberation of all queer (gay, lesbian, bisexual), and trans, two spirit, same gender loving, pato, joto, punk people of color. Your personal hang ups do not now and never will define us, our work, or our liberation.
I sincerely hope you find the healing you need. In the meantime, I'd hope that you would sit down and learn a little bit of history. Because, sweetness, it was genderqueer and trans people of color that led those riots at Stonewall. It was the very people that you hate and vilify that made it possible for you to live your life in the way that you are living it---no matter how flawed and destructive that life may be. I sincerely wish you the best.
W. Brandon Lacy Campos