Be Authentic and True to Yourselves

Recently a New York man named Dwight DeLee was convicted of the murder
of Lateisha Green, a young transgendered woman. For only the second
time in the Nation since such laws have been enacted, someone was
found guilty of a hate crime against a transgendered person. LGBT
activists are heralding the conviction as a victory in the fight for
justice for the transgendered community, even as it laments the
inattention of the mainstream media and the poor quality of reporting
when they do. As one example, a Syracuse newspaper incorrectly
identified Ms. Green as a man. The conviction of Green's murderer
represents an important moment for progressives. Ms. Green deserves
more than just justice, and progressives can give her death meaning by
using this time to honestly reflect on our attitudes about the

Sadly, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF)
reports that members of Green's family were harassed at gunpoint
during the trial. Where many gays, lesbians and bisexuals today enjoy
full or nearly equal rights and freedoms compared to straight people,
the transgendered are still too often left behind. Violence against
the transgendered is still far too common -- even within the queer
community -- and at the same time fails to make the cut of "exciting"
topics found in many public discussions about gay rights.

Progressives should be proud that Ms. Green's murder was not allowed
to go unnoticed and unchallenged; the community came together
forcefully and vocally, to make sure her case was properly
investigated and prosecuted. But as TLDEF Executive Director Michael
Silverman notes, the transgendered are not specifically included in
New York's hate crime laws, and this should be addressed by
legislators. With Mr. DeLee's conviction, progressives have an
important opportunity to remind them of the need for full inclusion
under hate crime laws.

Progressives should also take this time to reflect on the intersection
of class and race with gender identity and sexual orientation. There
is not enough discussion of the economic consequences that often
accompany gender transition. Even in forward looking regions of the
country, the LGBT community struggles for protections relating to
employment and economic opportunity. That fight is harder still for
the transgendered, who unlike lesbians and gays, often have no choice
but to out themselves in their workplaces and communities as they
transition. Quoting a report from the San Francisco Human Rights
Commission, "Transgender people have a difficult time securing and
retaining employment. The national unemployment rate is at a current
low of 4%, but the unemployment rate of transsexuals is an
astronomically high 70%." Those figures are from 2000, and economic
conditions around the country have deteriorated significantly since
that time.

It is noteworthy and positive that several gay rights groups rallied
around Ms. Green's family during the trial, and at the same time
raises questions about what might have happened if they had not. Too
often, the organizations putting in the hard work of fighting for LGBT
rights find themselves lacking in financial support even as they have
no shortage of voices joining them in the struggle. Especially in
these times, progressives must not forget that sometimes, words are
not enough.

Ms. Green's murder also raises questions about how the LGBT community
still struggles with the concept of integration. Depressingly, it is
not at all difficult to perceive that the gay community often
self-segregates, with little communication or culture in common
between the nonwhite and white LGBT populations. A recent thesis by
Clarence Ezra Brown III is one in an emerging body of work that
discusses the difficulty in constructing the Black gay identity, and
some of the challenges Black gays face interacting with the majority
white queer community. Segregation can and does contribute to violence
against the LGBT community, as discussed in the Resource Guide for
African-American members of the LGBT communit published by the Human
Rights Campaign. It is heartening to know that in the case of Ms.
Green, activists of every shade came together to make sure she
received justice. But this does not happen enough, and it is
dispiriting to believe that it takes a person's death to accomplish
that unity.

Ms. Green's family released a statement after the verdict, which
inspired the title of this article and is a call to all progressives:
"We want to close by saying life is precious. Teish knew that and
that's why she would tell everyone here to be brave. To be authentic
and true to yourself."

Bravery takes many forms. At this time, Congress and several state
houses are considering a wide array of legislation relating to LGBT
rights, from marriage equality to inclusion in hate crimes laws and
more. Progressives who would be true to themselves and their values
will fight to bring real equality to the LGBT community, because that
is an authentic progressive value.

Ms. Green got justice; but there are still millions more who have not,
and will not, until they are granted the same rights and protections
as the majority. Together, we can change that.

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