“If the LG community stood up as hard and strong as they did for marriage equality, there might not be as much violence against our most vulnerable members of the community.”
—Jeffery Richardson, Director of the Office of GLBT Affairs
“Here in the District of Columbia, transgender individuals are free to be lynched.”
— Danielle King, Board Member, DC Black Pride; Chair, Capital TransPride
These are two profound statements made at a recent two-part town hall hosted by the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs and the National Black Justice Coalition. After the town hall these statements continue to resonate with me and eat away at me. How can the Black LG community continue to largely ignore the needs and issues of our bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters?
Some would argue that we do not fight as fiercely for our bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters as we should. And I would tend to agree. I cannot even keep count of the numerous events I have gone to where the “L” and “G” are prominent and the “B” and “T” are virtually invisible. I personally take some responsibility for that. While going through my coming out process and becoming more involved in the community, I was for the most part ignorant to the issues affecting the bisexual and transgender communities. Outside of the brief moment where I thought I may have been bisexual, I know nothing about the experiences of a bisexual individual. Additionally, I barely knew anything about transgender individuals, or the issues that they faced. Thankfully, that has changed.
My experience, however, may be similar to a lot of people in the community. We tend to be in our own little bubble and do not realize there is life outside of our gay and lesbian circles. Frankly, we should be ashamed of that. The recent National Transgender Discrimination Survey revealed some eye-opening numbers about our transgender brothers and sisters and showed why we should be working hard to ensure they are included in the community. Some of the key findings include:
- Black transgender people live in extreme poverty and an astounding 34 percent have a household income of less than $10,000 a year.
- Fifty percent of Black transgender or gender nonconforming individuals have experienced harassment in school.
- Forty-six percent have experienced harassment at work.
- Fifteen percent have been physically assaulted at work.
- Thirteen percent have been sexually assaulted.
These numbers are just a small sample of the discrimination that the transgender community faces. Sadly, discrimination is not the only area in which the transgender community is affected. Black transgender individuals also face high rates of violence. Look no further than the recent rash of violence against the transgender community in the District of Columbia. Since July there have been five reported or attempted shootings of transgender women. Sadly, one of those shootings took the life of 23-year-old transgender woman Lashai McClean.
On the other hand, not much is known about the issues affecting those in the bisexual community outside of HIV/AIDS. This dearth of research and data collection has led bisexual individuals to be a silent part of the community that we need to know more about. And who can blame them for remaining silent when the larger community does not accept them and their struggles as part of the movement?
Clearly, the “L” and “G” community can do more to be more inclusive to the bisexual and transgender members of the community. We should band together to end discrimination for all members of the LGBT community. More importantly, we should all rally around each other to curb the violence against a vulnerable segment of the population. We should advocate and call for change no matter how long it takes to end senseless violence against the transgender community. In addition, we should welcome the bisexual and transgender community to the table to better understand how to advocate for and alongside them.
In essence, not being inclusive of the “B” and “T” community is the oppressed being the oppressor. It will only lead to more violence and discrimination, which will continue to rip the community further apart.
Jerome Hunt is a Ph.D. candidate at Howard University and a research associate with the Center for American Progress Action Fund. The views expressed in this article are his own. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.