As soon as TMZ released the alleged tape Donald Sterling’s racist remarks towards his girlfriend V. Stiviano for posting pictures of herself hanging out with Magic Johnson on Instagram, the African American community immediately issued statements requesting Sterling be removed as the Los Angeles Clippers owner. All of this coming at a very bad time during a playoff battle against the Golden State Warriors en route to a possible NBA championship run for the Larry O’Brien trophy that now, very few people want to see the players on the Clippers earn for Sterling to hoist.
First I must say the African American community has always responded quickly to ignorant, divisive, and racist remarks towards these types of social issues. They are incredibly cohesive, organized, and collaborate so well. When Trayvon Martin was shot to Rodney King, and even towards the reactions of OJ Simpson and the jury’s verdict, the African American community always reacts fast and shares their opinions on sensitive social issues regarding other high profile African Americans or affiliates.
But the teamwork and cultural awareness didn’t happen overnight. People paid in blood sweat and tears for centuries as dignity was hard won and fought for before others were able to arrive at equal treatment, to eat at the same table at restaurants and attend the same schools.
Even now there still remains ignorance and hidden discrimination amongst the American population. But at least backlash is immediately imminent when people voice their discriminatory views.
Yet, if this were a transgender situation with the same backstory except the one minor difference of substituting a famous transgender woman in place of Magic Johnson, I assure you the results would have been quite different: muted, ignored, and dismissed.
I could have guaranteed there would have been very little comparative public outcry.
Why is that?
Is it because people erroneously assume w are making a sinful choice when we present our true selves in a gender non-conforming way? Is it because we are fragmented as a community? Is my friend Callan correct in saying our disconnect as a community is because we lack allies? Because we are so busy pinpointing who we aren’t instead of focusing on who we are, finding out actual presentation and identities?
I think it’s a combination of all of these factors, and the fragmentation really hurts us as a community. In addition to having no default group of individual to represent us, we have so many in the community who play crabs in the barrel with one another. Forget the fact that drag queens, transvestites, crossdressers, and transsexuals pick on each other and segregate themselves. Transsexuals are very ticky tack amongst themselves. It’s very common to hear comments as “That’s not her real hair” or “She isn’t fulltime, what does she know” in sneering and condescending attitudes.
And finding a group or individual to represent transgender people is very difficult, if not impossible, due to how fluid the nature of gender really is and the many ways on the continuum in which we can authentically choose to express ourselves.
So what are some steps we can take to increase acceptance and inclusion within our own community? I think it is very important to stand up for other transgender people. But in order for us to do that successfully we must first learn to stand up for ourselves and embrace our own individual differences. If I can’t accept, love, and stand up for myself, then I certainly can’t do it effectively for others in my community.
We must also show inclusion for those who fall on different parts of the gender spectrum; empathy for those who face ostracism from family upon coming out; and patience for those who are at a different stage of transition than we are.
We must embrace our queerness, and reject the binaries and judgments associated with being different and, rather, see ourselves as who we truly are: unique.
We must start forming alliances of allies where, through our cohesion of loving self and other transgender people, we then start being heard.
And then, and only then, will we hold enough clout and attention for respect when discriminated against in a similar situation by the Donald Sterlings out there.