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Bil Browning

Uniting the T and the LBG

Filed By Bil Browning | April 27, 2010 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: birthday celebrations, LGBT community, National Equality March, trans community, transgender

Last year I celebrated my birthday in Washington DC with hundreds of friends and readers at the National Equality March. This year, I'll be celebrating in Phoenix, Arizona, and, of course, you're all invited.

transformAZ_logo_new.pngI'll be a plenary speaker at the Transform Arizona conference this year on October 16. Presented by TransMentors International, Phoenix Pride & H.E.R.O., this Arizona gathering has become on of the most respected transgender conferences in the nation. Transmentors sponsors these conferences around the nation; New Hampshire, Oregon and Florida will also host Transform conferences this year.

This year's theme is "Uniting the T and the LBG" I'll be speaking about the importance of trans allies.

Fellow speakers include Allyson Robinson of the Human Rights Campaign, performance artist Peterson Toscano, author/editor Matt Kailey, Ernesto Ortiz from 1VCC & Phoenix Pride, and Anthony Barreto-Nedo of T.O.P.S.

The conference runs from Oct 15-17. Registration is only $25 and the host committee will find you housing if you need it. See you there! Bring a party hat!

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Be sure and get a new flag made up to take with you.

You're going to spend money in Arizona? You plan on supporting a state economy that would harass and arrest people just because of their skin color? You are going when one of your favorite contributor told everyone to stay away?

My mother lives there. My grandson is in Phoenix. Most of my family lives there, so I would have more reason to go there than you do, and I will not set foot in that state until the law is gone, I don't care how long it takes.

Say "Ola" to the Latinos there, as they get hauled off to Sheriff Joe's Tent City.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | April 27, 2010 11:26 PM

That would be "hola".

Thank you. I was rushed when I typed this.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | April 27, 2010 11:25 PM

Sorry. Can't spend any money in Arizona. The only real power I have is where and how I spend my money and I won't spend it to support bigoted assholes, like the Arizona legislature.

Since this is taking place in October, the smartest thing for any out-of-state people to do would be say they would attend only if the law has been struck down by the Supreme Court, or the legislators see the financial error of their ways and repeal it.

Autumn Sandeen taught us a lesson last week. She stood with her gay, lesbian and bisexual brothers and sisters to show her support for an issue that doesn't "officially" affect transgender people. It's a lesson we all should learn.

Now, another part of our American culture has been unfairly targeted by racial bigots in the State of Arizona. This is the time for LGBT people of all colors to stand with them in solidarity, by boycotting Arizona. Republicans only understand the power of money, and so do the voters who own services that depend on the convention industry.

It worked before. In Jan, 1987, Gov. Evan Mecham canceled the Martin Luther Holiday for state employees. People all over the country boycotted Arizona. By the time the citizens of AZ voted to reinstate the holiday, Arizona lost 170 conventions and a Super Bowl. It cost the state 330 million 1987 dollars. Today, conventions are already pulling out as we speak. We need to boycott the state. Also, I feel the planners of this conference should rethink this.

If I'm not mistaken Arizona also lost the '88 Superbowl because of the MLK holiday.

That was the Super Bowl I was talking about. Which one will they lose this time?

Amy Hunter Amy Hunter | April 28, 2010 5:46 AM

Good for you Bil. TransMentors is an admirable organization and this years theme is a terrific one. I like the subject of your scheduled talk also. I do hope that the misguided law has been repealed by then. Otherwise, I too hope TransMentors will reconsider the location.

Eric Payne | April 28, 2010 9:39 AM

It looks like, as of this morning, Arizona will lose the following "high ticket" items if the new anti-immigration bill is allowed to stand:

The 2012 National Conventions of both political parties - the first time, ever, the conventions were going to be held in the same city (Phoenix), and just weeks apart.

The 2011 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

Hosting of the Fiesta Bowl.

ALL of the baseball team spring training camps, as well as hosting the "Cactus League" semi-professional baseball league.

Any professional golf tournaments.

Their state college sports teams would be excised from their conferences.

That any organization that considers itself an "equality" organization would not change the venue of one of their events from Arizona - especially since there's still time to make that change - I find reprehensible.

I think it's important to point out that this is mostly a local event (that's why they hold them in other states too). They keep the costs down specifically so the most people can attend.

$25 for a ticket and they'll find you a host home to stay in. That's the "income" flowing in because of the conference. Sure, there's food and drink, etc, but the conference even feeds you once a day!

I feel okay working with TransMentors on this one. Usually I get paid to give speeches, etc, but this one is a freebie. I feel okay about going to Arizona for this speech, not because I think their government is on the right track, but to support the Arizona trans community - who are rising up to support the coalition of people fighting the law. After all, what could be a better vision of "The role of trans allies" than the coalition building they are doing right now?

Okay, Bil. Don't fly America West Airlines to get there. It's Phoenix based. Only eat what they give you at the conference and fast foods. Maybe go to a Mom and Pop Mexican restaurant to support them. Hopefully someone is paying for your room or has a place for you to stay. Don't rent a car or take a taxi. Someone needs to pick you up at the airport.

You can do this with little out-of-pocket cash to the state's economy. Oh, it's still hot in October, and can still reach 100. Be prepared.

In spite of where this is at and the current crisis, this is an honor you deserve.

Not flying America West (no planes to Indy!)
Since I'm not getting paid, fast food is about what we can afford
Someone is picking me up at the airport
I'm staying in a host home

See why I'm not too worried?

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | April 28, 2010 2:23 PM

Yep! That pretty much covers it. Good for you.

Renee Thomas | April 28, 2010 10:17 AM

Thanks Bil,

I would add that it is important to keep in mind that for the many transfolk who live in Arizona possessing the financial wherewithal to travel to another state for such a conference is often highly problematic. Of the LGBT community, transfolk are the most heavily impacted and disproportionately affected by issues of discrimination, unemployment and underemployment. TransMentors is keenly aware of the issues affecting transpeople and works to keep this event both affordable and accessible. Please carefully consider the work that they do and it’s positive impact on transgender Arizonans in the balance before you reflexively call for boycotts.

Renee Thomas
Phoenix Pride

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | April 28, 2010 2:27 PM

I resent the insinuation. As a transgendered person myself, I am fully aware of the problems facing the community. Having spent a great deal of time in Arizona, I have nothing but respect and empathy for it's citizens but to accuse me of boycotting on "reflex" is unfounded, unsubstantiated and unfair.

The point is being totally missed. I have known Michael Eric Brown (ED of TransMentors) for about six months now, mosting through email and otherwise (heaven forbid) Facebook messaging and commentary. But what he does for the Trans Community *across the nation* is phenomonal, I look to him to for advice whenever the occasion or need arises. And he gives me an answer.

Yes, the immigration law in Arizona is racist and unjust. But I bet I can mention any state in these United States, and find a law or ordinance that oppresses people. I know there are 39 states in which people can be fired for absolutely no reason at all. I don't know the number, but most states do not allow same-sex marriages. I know that California and Maine are the leaders in such hate. Does anybody want to begin a list for their state? My point is that we probably shouldn't buy anything in any state, if hate and racism is the key to such action.

So do we crucify TransMentors because they happen be in the wrong state? The answer is of course, no. Adamantly, No. I told Michael that I would be there in October and unless other reasons prevent me, I will be there.

And you're missing the point, too. To equate this Nazi Germany style law, where the police officers can stop you at will and ask for your papers, and put you in jail if THEY decide you don't measure up because of your accent or the color of your skin, is far above any other repressive law you can come up with. You don't see police officers gathering at Pride arresting you if you go there. But, you will see them at a Home Depot in Tucson rounding up day laborers like the Nazi SS rounded up Jews in the 1930s.

Michael is my friend, too and I've had the chance to talk with him face-to-face. My love for Michael and Arizona has no baring on this hateful law. My mother and most of my family lives in Arizona, including my grandchild. There is a time when integrity is more important then friends or family. This is where I draw the line in the sand. If you wish to minimize this hateful law to the level of a parking ticket, that's your business. Me? I've already made my decision.

Renee Thomas | April 28, 2010 11:51 AM

" . . . There is a time when integrity is more important then friends or family . . . "

No, no it's not.

Not when there are other ways, positive and productive ways, to voice your opposition to S.B. 1070 without simultaneously kicking your trans brothers and sisters to the curb.

In my observation, being creative and doing a lot with a little has not been a problem for this community - OTOH - picking unnecessary "intramural" fights often has been.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | April 28, 2010 2:37 PM

I admire your passion Renee if not your broad accusations that we who are in favor of boycotting Arizona businesses are doing so without thought or "reflexively", as you put it. Maybe rather than being angry with us, you should direct your ire at those responsible and vote them out of office. Bigotry is still bigotry no matter what mask it wears and it must be dealt with immediately and harshly wherever it arises. That's just the way it is.I feel bad for my LGBT brothers and sisters in Arizona but maybe now they'll be motivated to go vote. Or maybe they'll be like the majority of the LGBT community in Austin in which too many of them won't stop bitching about what society is like but refuse to go vote. Either way, no amount of scorn is going to change my mind because I did not reach this decision "reflexively" despite what you seem to think.


I applaud you for wanting to unite the 'T' of the LGTB community. That is a community in need.

But...when is someone of some notariety going to unite the 'B' of the LGTB community?

We need to embrace and welcome our bisexuals. Either the straight or gay community isn't so welcoming of the bi's...they say 'pick a team'.

We need a national dialog on this subject.

I feel like I am alone in this concern.

Good point, Davyd. Are there any bisexual conferences like this one? I'd be happy to speak there too on the same topic.

You're 100% correct that it needs more coverage.

Sorry, guys, but what about uniting immigrant rights supporters and anti-racists to the LGB and T?

To marshall forward with an announcement about an October conference in a state widely being boycotted because of the racist SB 1070 looks like the same kind of bone-headed move as our community made in the run up to the passage of Prop 8.

Don't repeat that fiasco! Don't diss our current (and potential) allies, and those LGBTs who are immigrant and/or Latino. Do some real solidarity, move the conference, and will make many more friends for Transgender people and our movement as a whole.

I think you're missing the point, Andy.

The conference is in Arizona because it's aimed at Arizona transpeople. Moving it out of Arizona would defeat the purpose. Most people attending will be locals.

The Arizona trans community is standing in solidarity with immigrant rights supporters and anti-racists. In fact, I'm going to hazard a guess that "immigrant rights supporters," "anti-racists," and "transgender people" can all fit under the same label and aren't mutually exclusive.

And since my speech is about building alliances among other non-trans groups, what better time to speak?

I have a suggestion that would keep this conference "in" Phoenix and, yet, separate it from Arizona.

Rent a conference hall in one of the many Native American reservations in Arizona.

Those areas are the individual countries for those indigenous peoples; as Sheriff Joe discovered a few years ago (when, in one of his "illegal alien sweeps" he netted a couple of indigenous people), the police force(s) of Arizona/Maricopa County have no reach there.

While it is easy to point to Arizona and say but this law stinks therefore all Arizonians must stink because 70% support it there are two sides to every story.Don't forget that Arizona is still the only state to have voted down a marriage amendment.Yes it was revisited and passed but so far as states go they are the ones who best offered us a chance at marriage through voting.As someone that has lived in Arizona I'll not boycott the state or support any lgbt organization that calls for it.The reason why is I support my country and the right to enforce immigration law and will not support cheaters that want to the front of the line and willfully disrespect american immigration law. Their personal choices as illegal immigrants represent breaking the law something that many of you would argue Arizona is doing by passing this law.Either both are wrong and should be boycotted or neither should be boycotted.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | April 28, 2010 2:49 PM

This has nothing to do with immigration and everything to do with white supremacy. Sorry if you can't see that so let me spell it out for you: White person, black person and an Hispanic person get off the bus. The white guy is from Croatia, say while the black woman is from South Africa but the Hispanic guy was born and raised in Arizona as were his parents and grandparents. Because of that, he doesn't carry around his birth certificate in his pocket anymore than you do. The cop approaches the Hispanic because he's in a foul mood and his wife just left him so he wants to jack somebody up. The poor citizen who has never been in trouble with the law before now finds himself handcuffed in a nasty holding cell with actual criminals while he desperately tries to get someone to find his birth certificate. Meanwhile, the actual immigrants, whether "legal" or otherwise walk away, thanking their gods that they aren't brown. Is it becoming clearer now? No? Then try this: According to this law, the Hispanic's neighbor can SUE the city he lives in for "failing to aggressively enforce the law" because maybe he is having a feud with his neighbor AND can recover court costs. Still think this has anything to do with immigration? Ignorance is the root cause of bigotry and I've just removed that excuse from you.

Have you read the bill? Looked at the arguements from those who oppose it? Let me give you an amusing run down of their comments:I think it's unconstitutional,"I am very concerned about the wedge that it could draw between communities that law enforcement is supposed to serve and those of us in law enforcement,"Eric Holder added. What community is law enforcement supposed to serve? Others have stated I don't think it will survive a legal challenge. Read the stories question the replies, read the law then realize all this stems not from racial profiling but from Washington purposefully avoiding dealing with the imigration problem for decades.

PS since I'm against illegal immigration does this mean I couldn't possibly support LGBT rights?

I was there last year, and as Bil mentioned, I'll be back in October.

The goal of TransForm Arizona (and of TransForm New Hampshire and TransForm Oregon, which are also taking place this year) is to build real community among grassroots LGBT people in the state so they can be more empowered to fight together against issues just like the one prompting this boycott. I'm proud to do anything and everything I can to support that goal.

I'll add that the model Michael and his team have built for these conferences addresses several significant needs for the trans community that are going largely unmet elsewhere. By working to keep costs to a minimum, many more people can attend. (I think the closest "regional" trans conference to Arizona would be Colorado Gold Rush, which cost $370 to attend for the full weekend this year, not including travel or lodging.) The conferences focus heavily on training attendees for advocacy and organizing. And as I mentioned above, they allow people across the LGBT spectrum to network with one another, providing a safe, affirming space for all that frequently doesn't exist elsewhere.

The TransForm conferences Michael and his team are organizing are about consolidating our power to make change. For that reason, I can't imagine a better place to hold one than Arizona.

Bil, let's make sure to have some time so I can buy you a drink or a cupcake to celebrate your birthday. =)

The conference is being held at the UCC Church of the Beatitudes, one of the most GBLTQ-friendly places I have ever seen. (And I am NOT religious or a member of any church.) The gay men's chorus in which I sing rehearses there. They have gone to the plate for us many times and I am very happy they are hosting this thing. I for sure will be there, even if it cost more than a $25 dollar ticket.

There are other ways to protest this ridiculous law, and I will be doing that too.

SarasNavel | April 28, 2010 9:27 PM

An odd, unintended division exists in the world of trans allies; that between allies of adult trans people and allies of trans kids. At times I'm not sure that either is aware of the other's issues or how they may affect the other. The potential for each to help the other is amazing, if unrealized.

Bil, do you know if anyone from the conference contacted TYFA? It would be nice to reiterate to the attendees (and anyone reporting) that there are a growing percentage of parents that are allies & it would mesh well with your topic. I'm pretty sure they have someone local.

Lynn, I can't speak for TYFA, but Kim and some of the families she's helped were there last year. Kim presented and I think Josie (one of the trans kids who came with her family) was almost universally acknowledged as the "Belle of the Ball."

The TransForm conferences are without a doubt the most fully inclusive of any I've attended.

SarasNavel | April 30, 2010 4:25 AM

Yes, but Kim hasn't mentioned it yet and I was on this forum, not TYFA. ;)

Bil, thanks for being a trans ally. I can't say it any better than Lynn's 10/29 2:39 comment.

Lynn Miller | April 29, 2010 2:39 AM

Bil deserves praise for being willing to travel, at his own expense, halfway across the country to speak at a transgender-focused conference, when he isn't himself transgender. I think it shows again his decency and compassion.

I think his example deserves imitation within the LGBT community, not criticism from us.

Yes, the Arizona law is horrible. Court challenges are being looked at, including by US Attorney General Eric Holder. Boycotts are being considered as well, and this is good. But as with the boycott of Jamaica, I think its advisable to ask the opinions of those affected by the boycott rather than simply imposing it. Perhaps we should be asking Arizona's LGBT community, and specifically its transgender population, what they want us to do.

The lgbt is allready negatively being drug into the immigration debate.Look at all the different news sources that allow posting of comments.I support immigration reform that includes lgbt interests but I do not support amnesty for illegals.As for the Arizona law being horrible compare it to mexico's. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columns/How-Mexico-treats-its-illegal-aliens-92316654.html. If we're going to boycott anyone for being rascist and anti immigrant shouldn't Mexico be first?

No on your point Bil if their are any national, regional or local US groups of this kind. Their is in the UK.

Thanks tho for your supportive comment.

Sharon Van Nest | April 29, 2010 11:56 AM

As long as the HRC is involved it is likely not a good idea. They are desparate to get our money just to lie to us again. Never ever again will the HRC and anyone connected to it have my suppoet. Joe has gotta go!

Renee Thomas | April 29, 2010 2:42 PM


Thanks for that bit of "daylight" and while I cannot in any way presume to speak for the Arizona trans-community, keeping the intent of the conference in mind (as both Bil and Allyson have previously suggested) is important to those of us who make up that community. To all who may be tempted to criticize without knowledge of the "facts on the ground" please be assured that we are doing all we can as local activists to see that this racist law is effectively challenged and ultimately overturned.

I wish I did diplomacy better but alas that’s my failing - a shortcoming for which I beg your pardon.