More than 1,500 New Yorkers gathered today in Manhattan to mourn the death of a 32 year-old gay man, who was shot down on Friday just blocks away from the historic Stonewall Inn in an apparent act of anti-gay bias.
TPOCC: Advocating for Trans People of Color During Black History Month and All Year Long
The Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC) is a 3-year-old non-profit organization founded by attorney, professor and activist Kylar Broadus. TPOCC is the only national social justice organization that promotes the interest of trans people of color. GLAAD during the month of February sat down with Kylar to discuss the current and future projects of TPOCC and how the organization has made an impact in the fight against defamation and discrimination against trans people of color.
Mari Haywood : What prompted you to establish such an organization for transgender individuals?
Kylar Broadus: I've had the concept for years; working within the LGBTQI community, I began to notice our movement runs parallel to the inherent racism and classism that happens in greater society. There is systemic and institutionalized racism and classism, so we must be aware of it at all times and work hard to counteract it. Race is a subject people don’t like to discuss but it impacts us all, particularly people of color. Having worked in the private sector, I found the nonprofit world wasn’t any different. The issues of race and class permeate the greater LGBTQI movement that has just in the last decade, begun to talk about racial and economic justice. In my eyes, this created a need for Trans* and gender non-conforming people of color to be self-empowered by telling our own stories and advocating for our needs best because we have lived our story. So, who can tell it better?
The concept of centralizing the narratives and lived experiences of all people of color is imperative to building a collective identity that facilitates organizing around social and economic justice. However, it is equally as important to highlight the unique ways that Trans* and gender non-conforming people are targeted because of the assemblages of our racial and gender expressions and identities, as well as the unique skills, intelligences and strategies of living and survival that we possess. We must come together and employ these assets and capitalize on the many ways we sustain ourselves when larger system of oppression (or the larger LGBT movement) do not. We are not helpless victims that need to be saved.
MH: Acknowledging that all transgender individuals face discrimination and are often targets of hate crimes do you do work with the mainstream LGBT community?
KB: Yes, we do work with the mainstream LGBTQI community. We work with other mainstream people of color community groups as well. Our approach is intersectional and based on the simple premise that there is strength in numbers and that our struggle, as well as our liberation, is interconnected. People discriminate against everyone in the LGBTQI community because we do not conform to some stereotype based on gender. Nevertheless, some of the hate that transgender individuals face comes from within the LGBTQI community. So, working together can help to educate our fellow community members, allies and family members. It's important to also realize that many of us are lesbian, gay, bisexual, straight, asexual and the list goes on. We must work in concert so that we realize that our struggle is the same struggle. It's the human struggle.
MH: During black history month what type of events or projects will TPOCC host?
KB: We are an all-inclusive organization which means we encompass all people of color. We are inclusive of all gender non-conforming people as well. During the month of February we will be rolling out a national Trans POC initiative that is focused on Trans women of color. At Creating Change we unveiled a Trans Women: The Sisterhood workshop which Cecilia Chung, San Francisco Health Commissioner; Danielle King, The Aurora Project, Washington, D.C.; Ruby Corado, Casa Ruby, Washington, D.C.; and Michelle Enfield, The Red Circle Projects, AIDS Project, Los Angeles. We intend to use this panel at several other venues to help empower and tell the stories of trans women of color. The idea is to educate and start a national dialogue to humanize trans women of color. This panel series is part of a larger project to target the hate that impacts women of color. More information about this project will be released at the end of this month.
MH: Aside from the Steering Committee do you have a general membership, if so how does one join and what is required?
KB: Yes, we have a general membership which is a nominal fee of $35 dollars for a one year membership. This fee gets you on our action alert list and newsletter. We will soon have a structure for groups to join as well. Since we are a coalition our focus is to partner with and empower existing local groups. We do national work and help to build local communities in the process. People can join by going to our website at www.transpoc.org.
MH: Is there a personal situation that encouraged you to create such an organization?
KB: I am a Trans person of color which is what inspired me to become an activist and to start this organization. I have been an activist for a few decades now. I have personally received inspiration from the Civil Rights Movement of the1950s and 1960s having grown up as a black American during this time. I have always believed this was a Civil Rights moment for Trans people. It’s our time!
Not to mention, there were many Trans* and gender non-conforming people that were a part of the earlier Civil Rights Movement that we don’t know about. While fighting for racial equality many had to hide the rest of their identity. As people of color, we cannot divorce one part of ourselves from the other. We are Trans* and gender non-conforming and we are of color.
This organization works as a bridge for the overlapping communities that Trans people must navigate.
MH: What type of annual events does TPOCC hold to bring awareness about the transgender community and our struggles?
KB: Along with doing advocacy work and responding to hate violence, we have convened workshops for three years in a row at Creating Change. The first two years we held a workshop for Trans POC to get a sense of the needs and to build community. This year we held a trans women of color workshop which, was much needed and well received. We have been at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference which has the largest people of color presence of mainstream Trans conferences. We will be there again this year. Moreover, we will be hosting a special gathering for Trans people of color as we have the past two years. We have also been a part of Transfaith in Color conference in Charlotte as well. Our intent is to add our own national event to help build advocacy skills for Trans people of color.
MH: What types of services does TPOCC offer?
KB: TPOCC does not offer services per se; we do however act as a liaison to assist those in need by putting them in contact with the right people.
MH: Education is very important, Does TPOCC offer scholarship opportunities for trans students?
KB: Currently, TPOCC does not offer scholarships at this time. We do believe education is important and support the groups doing this work. We are focusing on the hate prevention, the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and other employment efforts. With this, we help to build a pipeline.
MH: Does TPOCC participate in the national pride events, if so, what types of events does TPOCC host?
KB: TPOCC does not participate in national pride events at this time.
MH: Does TPOCC have any plans to set up a permanent center or hub where trans people can receive services such as counseling, medical assistance and or shelter?
KB: TPOCC is not necessarily a direct services provider, but many of our coalition organizational–level members do. However, we will be opening an office within the next few months in Washington DC. We are honored to be housed by one of our local partners, Casa Ruby.
MH: What has been the overall perception by media outlets or mainstream organizations of TPOCC?
KB: It has been good. TPOCC has not had any negative feedback or resistance from mainstream media. We will continue forge relationships with mainstream and LGBTQI media.
MH: Where do you see the organization in the next 5 years?
KB: TPOCC will be a strong force in shaping and impacting law and policy over the next five years. As this work is being done, TPOCC will be able to help strengthen and empower trans people of color at the grassroots by providing more training, support and technical assistance. This national effort will help us shape local and state law and policy by getting people engaged in their communities. This includes the need to vote and run for office, to be visible and part of “the system” in which we live. On the national level, we will have more resources to do advocacy on key legislation and policies that impact Trans people of color. We must empower ourselves and shape our own destinies. TPOCC is a vehicle for us to do this work. For more information on TPOCC visit www.transpoc.org.