"People with virtue must speak out; People who speak are not all virtuous.” — Confucius
This blog I'm going to begin with what I finished with in the previous blog: how would the Gay & Lesbian community would react if Matthew Shepard's murder drew a manslaughter conviction instead of the murder conviction it ended up with?
Would Judy Shepard feel this was justice if Matthew's murderers received a manslaughter conviction?
Let's say theoretically that the jury found that the men that beat Shepard and left him bound to that cross-tie fence on a cold Wyoming plateau never had the desire to kill him, but just to "beat him and teach him a lesson," and they then came out with "Manslaughter One" conviction: how would the gay and lesbian community react to press reports of this being a "victory"?
Moreover, how would they react if it were Trans community, or African-American community members from NAACP that were coordinating this press and speaking the message in the mass media: this manslaughter conviction was justice served? Hey, what if they found Matthew partly culpable, drawing the unwanted reactions essentially by being gay and out in public in a place where gays should remain in the closet? Everybody knows Wyoming's no gay mecca!
How would they feel if we or the NAACP came out with those statements without bothering to ask their sentiments on the ruling?
These are questions I'd like answered honestly from the gay and lesbian leaders of our so-called movement (hereafter referred to as "the Biz".)
Will they answer? No! They know where this subject is going and damn sure don't want to face the dual standard.
Instead, they'll point to "facts in the trial" and offer a tempered response to the outcome. Yet, these same leaders, when given opportunity of speaking out on gay issues, have no problem opening up and letting the discord show.
Take a look at the responses of "injustice" plastered on media about California's vote to ban same-sex marriage, and later the state's courts upholding the vote response. Note their response to President Barack Obama in not being more outspoken on supporting them afterward (even though his campaign promises were always supportive of recognition of domestic partnerships, not marriage). Even the hue and cry over the lack of "out" gay or lesbian Cabinet members that the community could "respect," and the anguish over only 31 mid-level openly gay or lesbian staffers in the Obama Administration.
If you'll notice, the released press and statements were less concerned with the actual facts on the ground, and more about the big picture: furtherance of gay and lesbian values and desires through aggressive media advancement.
Media goes out to the entire public (not just the politicos). Aggressively asking for more than you expect means that when inevitable compromise comes, it settles on a much more desired result much closer to the actual goal. If you don't aggressively set the bar high (pushing the envelope, so to speak), when the eventual result settles in you end up with less.
That's smart press.
To wit: note how much the discussion has advanced (and the acceptance levels risen) in the subject of same-sex marriage. Note also how even while most of them supported his opponent, Hillary Clinton, in the primaries, the pressure the gay and lesbian press has put on the Obama Administration has shaken out some beneficial responses (more hirings, the recent reception for the community leaders and their partners in the White House, more attention paid to their leaders and issues).
Smart, aggressive press produces results.
So compare these to the press just release by these same folks on the manslaughter conviction for Lateisha Green. What is the message communicated from this? Weak.
"All my life I wanted to fly
But I don’t have the wings, and I wonder why
I can't break away!" — Breakaway, Big Pig
Of course there's been defense by those involved, and of course brushback from a few of our own. My Husband Betty's En-Gender blog by Helen Boyd wrote a piece entitled "Trans-Centric" :
I don’t agree with is the vitriol directed at the LGB leadership of the organizations that called the ruling on Teisha Green’s murder a victory.Point taken. And indeed many of these hate crimes Helen notes have made nary a blip on the national screen. In fact, in one case on the hate crime for Sakia Gunn in Newark, I was rather astonished with the dearth of public press. It was interesting to note the press never materialized for them, and when the march and rally from West Orange NJ to Newark took place, there were only two groups who sent national level people: an African-American group and a transgender group (myself from NTAC). PFLAG had two local parents join the march. That was it: no GLAAD, no NGLTF, no HRC. Nada in their budgets for that show of support, I imagine.
What bothers me about the politics between the LGB & T is that there are plenty of other gay bashings and hate crimes experienced by the LGB that the trans community pays little attention to, such as Sean Kennedy’s. If you want an example of an absolute failure when it came to our legal system, that’s it. It’s horrific. Every time I see that young man’s beautiful face, and think about his parents’ loss, I wonder where exactly the trans community has been in raising awareness of that horrible injustice. No, he wasn’t gender variant. He was a young adult who was out and proud about being gay. But he’s dead just the same as Teisha Green is, & for the same reason: someone hated him for what he was.
Do we know Michael Scott Goucher? Richard Hernandez? Satendar Singh? Ryan Keith Skipper? Jeremy Waggoner? Daniel Yakovleff? These are the names of gay men who have been murdered for being gay in the last couple of years. I didn’t know most of their names.
Odd, that they will devote the money and work so hard to craft the trans message when similar cases of their own beg for attention.
However the most notable distinction in Helen's question on where the Trans community is on these cases: when is it that Trans people or Trans organizations are the spokespeople in gay or lesbian hate crimes – or any directly gay and lesbian issues? They certainly wouldn't trust us with that. It's pretty clear they'd worry about us bungling up their message by not fully speaking from the gay and lesbian community perspective.
So how is it we're expected to be the ones to forgive bungling this press from their leaders and the isolated house trannies they employ?
As Helen added in her blog post on En-Gender:
I agree with her that our standards are low when it comes to justice for the trans people, and their families and friends, who are murdered.Far too many in the Trans community, regardless of whether they're speaking up or not, were upset with the manslaughter charge and it's portrayal as a "victory." Of course, who was going to bother asking us! Additionally, the hate crimes charge – while a first – may well be a complicating factor in a couple senses.
Our standards are low because we are too used to seeing no justice at all when it comes to people who intentionally hurt and kill trans people for being trans.
One has to be concerned with how legislators are going to view a pending bill like New York's GENDA with its hate crime coverage and what the response from the less supportive senators will be: "see, you're already covered, no need for more legislation."
As such it's galling that a group like Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA), the very group that could not be troubled with including trans coverage in their bills when they were coming up – wouldn't discuss it – are now prominently celebrating press over the "justice" of a hate crime conviction knowing full and well what happened years ago. This happens while the state senate is considering the pending bill in the legislature that still has yet to come for vote! Are they really that politically naive? Or are they quite aware of their actions and how this may well dissuade some of the more conservative potential supporters?
If what I fear ends up happening on this conviction and the subsequent legislation, there will be no excuses.
This was not optimal press, certainly not a "victory" the gay and lesbian community would've been suffice with and not how we'd have done it on our own. But as always, we don't have that choice for our input.
As Helen noted in her blog, "Community goes both ways." Indeed it should. Unfortunately, it rarely ever pans out that way.
Well mama told me when I was young,
"Stand tall girl, you're number one."
You can't be what you wanna be;
But you can shake the course of your destiny." — Breakaway, Big Pig