Sunday, May 18, 2008

Easy Pickin’s Protesting In The Big Easy

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“When an individual is protesting society's refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.” — Bayard Rustin, Civil Rights Movement & Gay Activist

“Well, I saw the HRC sign and I thought “what’s this about?” and had to come over here and see. I don’t like HRC either, which is why I never donate to them! I just want to say I support you – you go, girl!” That was a quote from a gay man from Lapanto, Arkansas who had just returned from a cruise with two lesbian friends from there and happened to be staying in the hotel directly across the street from the Intercontinental Hotel in New Orleans as the Human Rights Campaign banquet began Sunday afternoon.

He watched us for a while, went back to the hotel, then came down a half hour later and helped us protest HRC. He also liked some of the raunchy, loud rock – like Linkin Park – which I was blaring from my boombox.

As it turns out, the boombox music worked well. It was very ugly, angry and possibly abrasive to the ear. But it accomplished what I had wanted: drawing the attention, expressing the mood and doing it all without us saying one word. No cheers, no chants, no shouting matches with attendees – and most pointedly, no words that the HRC people will then use to blast us and justify their marginalization of us later.

It’s also distinctly trans music – not of the typical gay disco, dance, diva or even show tune fare that typically is the choice of gay and lesbian America. It’s the stuff that typically is heard blaring from the jukeboxes of what’s affectionately known as “tranny hooker” bars.

An additional bonus to the music was a surprise: we got a number of thumbs-ups and supporters who either liked the music (some of the Buffalo Soldiers contingent in town for a get together, as well as Gen X & Y types who were also enjoying!) even support from the riders on the passing trolleys. It was quite the spectacle!

“I don’t get it. Why would they do that? They’re wacked! That’s not being equal.” Such was the quote from a very polite young junior high-aged teen, replete with longish blonde hair, braces and a Bob Marley T-shirt upon hearing why we were protesting HRC. Truth told, he appeared drawn as much for the Korn song playing as our signs and protest march.

As I explained to him who we transgenders were, who HRC was, what they’ve done historically and how “equality” isn’t equal to all people, I watched his young face watching me and noted a seeming androgyny. I’ll never know if his curiosity was more than just cursory. One thing I did note was he was very diligent in his learning, was patient to listen to the entire story and even thanked me for the information.

Indeed we reached at least one youth (as well as loose gaggles of other teens and/or young adults who passed by).

And those were just two of the folks among the numerous curious who asked. Two of the MCC ministers who volunteered for the HRC banquet came out, got a full education from protesters Phyllis Austin and Kelli Busey (who rode down from Dallas). There were hugs all around and animated chat as well as some new local connections made or renewed by both local girls, Phyllis and Courtney Sharp. One of the ministers who wore his “equal sign” pin removed it!

Another older woman engaged Courtney in explaining her reasons for protesting the banquet. When Courtney explained, the woman asked “are you against transgenders?” Obviously Courtney replied to the contrary, and the woman answered “good! Because I was about to protest YOU if you were!”

Of course we had security running around monitoring us nervously, but there was one big distinction this protest: there was NO police presence! We somehow managed to get the drop on them before they had chance to react (either that or they couldn’t convince the NOPD that the handful of tranny protesters was worth expending resources and manpower on.) Oh, the menace of transgenders ….

“[T]he Gay Elite condemns them and others to death because of our obsessive need to be seen as the Morally Superior Victimized Minority.” — Tammy Bruce, columnist for FrontPageMag

Some of the most memorable items: one black, obviously gay male in a red and white striped shirt talking frantically on a cell phone walking out and giving a head count of the protesters and asking what could be done about us. It was satisfying to see the unnerving.

One of the hotel’s patrons walking by and yelling at me to “turn that shit off!” while the Geto Boys blasted “F*ck ‘Em All!” from the boombox. He clearly wasn’t into our musical choice!

One apparently conservative guy who asked me about the protest and offered support for our protest – but then asked why I was supporting transgenders: “you’re not one of them, are you?” When I assured him I was (including the part about my football days), he stood agape giving the once over a few times. He then gave me a little compliment, wished me “good luck” and walked back across the street rubbing his chin and looking like I hurt his feelings. Poor guy – at least he supported us!

And of course the banquet-goers themselves: nervous people with fast walks averting eye contact with a fixed-straight myopic stare, the cold-hearted elite glares and smug eye-rolling glances and those few who gave physical flinches at both the sign messages and the raunch music with looks of shock and, yes, a few pained expressions. It is painful, and it’s admittedly not a great thing to sate oneself with others pain.

In the case of the Human Rights Campaign, though, it’s collateral damage that has to be factored and accepted into the equation. Sadly, that’s the only option other than our giving up completely and being obliterated. Not only does HRC not care to know about trans people nor the irreparable pain they’ve inflicted, they actively engage in continuing the damage and increasing the intensity.

As with Rep. Barney Frank, HRC takes continuing pleasure in watching the havoc from the chaos they create for us with their strategies, manipulation and implementation. They delight in watching us learn to mistrust our own community by their own selective wedging operations and externally assisted classism. They practically pee their pants laughing at the disenfranchisement, unemployment, economic tragedy and vulnerability they create for us with their own empty promises.

And they will continue this pattern.

They have the money, most all the media and certainly the power: there’s nothing to stop them, and everything to gain by continuing the damage to the trans community. The only way they will learn what we’re feeling is when they have to live with the same pain, the same fear, the same desperation and to feel the effects of the same type of damage.

Money, power and attention (and increasing all three for themselves) is their only desire. Only once those have been impacted will they make “attempts” to come around – even if true reconciliation never comes.

Meanwhile, we make impact … as we did with the last inquiry: a modelesque twenty-something with her equally attractive boyfriend. She was going into the posh restaurant across the street with her beau and (after seeing our signs) felt compelled to ask us why we were protesting HRC as she had attended their banquet at the Ritz-Carlton the year before. “I’m confused. Why would you protest [HRC]?”

We enlightened her completely on “equality” as opposed to everyone being equal, to which she replied: “Well that sucks! Thank you for letting me know that!” Control that damage, HRC.

The lies, the hurt, the pain, the hate
Really keep fucking with me –
There's no where else to go.” — Korn, Embrace

1 comment:

Kelli Busey said...

"The only way they will learn what we’re feeling is when they have to live with the same pain, the same fear, the same desperation and to feel the effects of the same type of damage."
Vanessa Edwards Foster

Thank you Vanessa.
No truer words could be written. We seek to sooth our wounds by discomforting HRC with our presence during their most bourgeois extravaganzas. A small but poignant remainder like Tim sitting by the fire. But unlike Tim our bodies are whole. We are able and willing and not content simply to "discomfort HRC".
Kelli Busey