The Privilege of Ignorance, Part 1

Obviously, the issue of anti-LGBT harassment, bullying, and hate crimes has been receiving more coverage than usual lately. The string of suicides of young gay men has prompted wide media response and has mobilized gay rights organizations across the United States to take a more active role in anti-suicide and anti-bullying activity. The recent gang kidnapping  and torture of gay men in New York City will hopefully receive a great deal of attention from both the authorities and the media.

But something is being ignored in the rush to prevent more gay suicides: the protection of transgender individuals in the United States.

I don’t know if everyone got a chance to read a blog post that Aren handed around during class a few weeks ago (the day we were outside doing group work), but it did a lot to change my perspective on the recent surge in anti-bullying activity. I can’t find the blog post through google, as I don’t remember the title of the blog (if you could post it in a comment Aren, I would be very grateful). The post pointed out that the gay rights organizations that are receiving the most media attention and the gay suicides which have created such a media rush, are both composed of middle-class white Americans. The implication is that transgender people of color are being ignored by both these organizations and the media.

Neither the original blog post or myself dispute that the anti-bullying, suicide prevention movement is a good thing. No one should feel that hopeless or alone when there are communities waiting to accept and respect them. However, this new movement is not doing enough to address the issue of hate crimes directed at transgender peoples, especially poor, racial minorities.

Consider the case of Simmie Williams Jr. I assume that the majority of readers will not have heard of Simmie, nor of his murder. Simmie was a poor, black, gender-variant person living in Florida before he was gunned down one night while dressed in women’s clothing. His young life was snuffed out by violent action and yet you will not find any mass movements dedicated to preventing similar losses of life. A google search for “Simmie Williams Jr” produces no results from major news organizations and no results from anti-hate crime organizations. Simmie has been forgotten.

I do not believe that the leaders of the LGBT organizations are actively racist. However, I do believe that they suffer from a selfish form of privilege. They note only the suffering of those like themselves, who are white, gender-normative, and middle-class homosexuals. They fail to realize that there are masses of people who are continuing to suffer while the media focuses exclusively on the suffering of those who may not be privileged in the sense of sexual orientation but remain privileged due to their racial, economic, and gender composition.

Edit:

A rough description of Simmie’s life and murder can be found here: http://www.queerty.com/trans-teen-gunned-down-20080226/

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2 responses to “The Privilege of Ignorance, Part 1

  1. I’m glad Karolina posted the article. You might also be interested in reading this post on Questioning Transphobia about White’s murder.

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