Each year, many Americans make New Year’s resolutions and often abandon them by February. Despite my generally poor record of sticking to New Year’s resolutions, I have nonetheless decided to highlight some LGBT and D.C. political resolutions for 2014.
Normally, I don’t make any more than three resolutions, as I don’t want to give myself a ready-made excuse not to follow through with them. However, for purposes of this column, I will add a few more than usual. Besides, there is no way I am sharing my personal resolutions (some things must remain private), so I will give myself more leeway for these public community-related resolutions. My resolutions are:
• We must do more to help homeless LGBT youth. Our city has vast wealth, but unfortunately, it also has some of the highest income disparities in the nation. As a member of the Wanda Alston Foundation, which runs the Wanda Alston House for LGBTQ youth in need of transitional housing, I have a clear picture of the magnitude of the need. We simply must commit to advocate for the necessary resources to help these youth thrive.
• We must work tirelessly to stop discrimination against transgender people. While lesbian, gay, and bisexual residents of the District have made enormous progress, much of this progress has not extended to the transgender community. Transgender residents still face major hurdles to obtaining gainful employment and safe, affordable housing. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that our transgender brothers and sisters enjoy the same opportunities as everyone else.
• We must continue to work to increase the visibility of LGBT people of color. While the visibility of LGBT people of color is much greater in D.C. than in most of the country, it still does not fully reflect the community. Low-income native Washingtonians and natives of Prince George’s County are particularly invisible, as the general lack of visibility forces marginalized groups to carefully choose those who will be given any type of platform. Thus, those who lack access to resources are usually left out of policy discussions within our community and even when they manage to insert their views, those views are often not seriously considered.
• We must ensure that LGBT people are represented at all levels of city government, in a variety of capacities, and that those individuals reflect the full diversity of the District. Many LGBT residents have prominent jobs in the District, but this has not extended to visible positions in city government. LGBT people of color, in particular, have had a hard time gaining prominent public sector positions. There has never been an openly LGBT person of color on the D.C. Council. Generally, in any given mayor’s cabinet, the only LGBT person of color is the director of GLBT Affairs (during the years when that position is held by a person of color). I can currently think of one exception, but throughout the District’s history, very few LGBT people of color have held prominent, visible public sector positions.
• We must actively participate in the mayoral and D.C. Council elections this year. The mayoral race and several council races are shaping up to be very competitive this year. It is imperative for the LGBT community to pay attention to the races and participate in the process. Some may choose to volunteer for a campaign. Others may opt to make a donation. Others may choose to attend forums to make an informed decision. More than anything, we must make sure that our voices are heard.
While I can always come up with more resolutions, I think the five I outlined gives the community some good goals to strive for in 2014. The D.C. LGBT community is strong and we have enjoyed the benefits of LGBT-friendly legislation over the past few years. It is important that while we continue to appreciate those successes, we do not become complacent.
Lateefah Williams’ biweekly column, ‘Life in the Intersection,’ focuses on the intersection of race, gender and sexual orientation. She is a D.C.-based political and LGBT activist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @lateefahwms.