The Importance of Becoming Allies to Black Trans/GNC People
USGA’s most recent activity was an educational night: a presentation about Black transgender and gender non-conforming (GNC) stories in celebration of Black History Month. The History chair, Toni, gave a presentation on historical Black transgender and gender non-conforming figures, featuring an inspiring TED Talk given by Dr. D-L Stewart titled “Scenes from a Black Trans Life.” As we were setting up for the activity, Toni expressed the importance of not speaking over the actual words of Black transgender and gender non-conforming people; instead, they used their presentation to showcase these vital perspectives by providing quotes from the subjects themselves–aiming to amplify and elevate their voices. The QR code on this page links to that slideshow presentation, where you can read quotes from many Black transgender and gender non-conforming figures (including Marsha P. Johnson and Billy Porter), watch Dr. D-L Stewart’s TED Talk, and listen to a performance by Gladys Bentley–a lesbian drag king and singer who performed during the Harlem Renaissance.
We had less than our usual crowd at this activity, a poignant example of why it’s so important to talk about intersectionality within the queer community–especially in terms of race. According to USGA President Carolyn,
“the queer community has a long way to go in terms of [anti] racism. . . It's always interesting to see who comes out for these activities, as opposed to activities that are labeled as more ‘fun’ or less work . . . it’s an important work to make yourself an ally to trans people, and also to people of color, especially Black people. . . They suffer because of our uneducation” (emphasis added).
It is our obligation and responsibility to educate ourselves and be allies to other oppressed people. One especially important quote that reemphasizes our need to learn from other communities comes from Laverne Cox’s speech “Ain’t I a Woman: My Journey to Womanhood.” She says, “if we have misconceptions about people who are different from us, if we just get to know these people as people, I believe all these misconceptions will melt away.” Our presentation Thursday was just one step toward getting to know Black trans people as people, and part of our continued goal to highlight intersectionality and become actively anti-racist.