Monica Roberts

When Will African Descended Trans People Get To Tell Our Stories On HBCU Campuses?

Filed By Monica Roberts | February 08, 2010 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: African-American, HBCU, Monica Roberts, SGL, trans 101, transgender

One hbcu schools.jpgof the things I and other transsisters enjoy doing is telling the story of African descended trans people to college students around the nation.

Since only one side of the story has been told for the last 50 plus years, it is a joy to pass along our knowledge to students, administrators, and instructors eager to learn more about transgender issues from our unique chocolate flavored vantage point.

But while we African descended trans people deeply appreciate the opportunities that we get to do so, one thing that bothers us is the fact that we are primarily holding these discussions at predominately white institutions.

I've been doing these trans oriented panel discussions for collegiate groups for more than a decade, and I have yet to do one on a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) campus.

The histories of HBCU institutions are deeply linked with the history of our people. Some of our best and brightest minds and historical figures have graduated from HBCU campuses. Ground-breaking research benefiting all Americans has happened on campuses such as Tuskegee University.

But one area HBCU's are sorely lacking in is understanding what's up with African descended GLBT people. The transphobic and homophobic incidents that have occurred on various HBCU campuses in the last two decades point out the pressing need to dispel some misconceptions about who and what we are. Some of my African descended peeps could definitely use the face time with transpeople to dispel the faith based lies they're being fed about us as well.

ts-jessica janiuk lecturing class.jpgNot being able to or being extended the invitation to do trans presentations on HBCU campuses is wounding on another level as well. We have seen our white brothers and sisters get routinely invited in the same time period to do these collegiate discussions, and it hurts when we see there aren't similar efforts taking place at HBCU's.

That bothers me and other proud African descended trans people. We get the perception that we are being unfairly rejected by our people. But we know having the gender issues dialogue is too important to let slide and we aren't giving up.

HBCU's are currently educating our next generation of business leaders, doctors, lawyers, teachers, social workers and, yes, politicians. Students at HBCU's need to be exposed to our lives as well, especially in light of the fact that many of my people are willfully ignorant about trans issues.

But the point we will continue to make is that we did not give up our Black Like Me cards when we transitioned. Some of us graduated from HBCU campuses and we have much to offer the African descended community in terms of our talents and expertise. If HBCU's such as Howard can bring people such as Black conservative and RNC chair Michael Steele to their campuses to speak, what's stopping them from doing the same with African descended transpeople?

For us to have forward momentum as African descended trans people, we must begin breaking down that wall of ignorance in our community. HBCU's will play a key role in making that happen. African descended trans people are more than willing to do our part by candidly speaking about our lives.

But you have to meet us halfway so we can start that dialogue.

Crossposted from TransGriot

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I think it would be great to hear about some of your experiences speaking to colleges, considering how important they are for social change.

Oh, Sis, you nailed it here.

And its not just our African descended trans women, either. Yesterday there was some planning to bring an awareness effort to the local native community orgs here, and one of the problems we've discovered is a shortage of Native speakers to do it. So we're breaking the mold and creating one from scratch ourselves.

As women of color, in the end, the only way we ever get heard, even by our own, is to be more creative and more sacrificing than others.

People might call us bigots, but they still hear us in the end.

Morgan State in Baltimore might present a good opportunity.

@Monica: I'm just curious, why you're posting this here and not with student papers at Howard, Morgan State, Grambling or Tennessee State or with their school GL organizations?

Anthony in Nashville | February 9, 2010 1:13 PM

Monica, you are 100% correct that black colleges (really, black institutions in general) are lagging behind white ones when it comes to LGBT issues.

Sometimes I feel a guerilla approach of just rolling up on campus may be the only way to make people acknowledge that We Are Everywhere.

Because there are Black folks who do read the Project, and not all of them are GLBT.

Some of these Black peeps are alums of HBCU campuses.

How on earth can a place like Spelman (which was given the bulk of Audre Lordes' papers) not be open to having African-American trans people as guest speakers? Even more bizarre, Leslie Feinberg has spoken at their Audre Lorde Project but someone like Miss Major has not. Hypocrisy to the max. :-(