| Jun 8, 2020
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Last weekend, I attended a peaceful protest here in State College. Arraigned by a local high school student, it was a Black Lives Matter protest and march. My guess was that maybe 1000 people were there, but I haven’t seen any crowd size estimates.

I spoke briefly about the history of the phrase “We Are Penn State” and how it was about anti-racism, and how we, as a University and as people, need to live up to that ideal. My off-the-cuff speech was maybe a minute long, and was well received. However, I regret saying a thing. I should’ve just listened. My time at the microphone took time away from a black voice that needed to be heard.

A few women in the crowd mentioned to me that they were scared of violence — PSU is an isolated island of reason in the middle of 45 country after all. I told them that as long as we all were here, no harm would come to them — that there were many who would shield them from attack. The fact that people, including me, are afraid of reprisals is one of the major symptoms of this problem.

black trans live matter

Sign at PSU BLM protest.

I’ve had nearly a week to think about that protest. While there, I saw someone holding up a sign saying “Black Trans Lives Matter.” I was comforted for a moment. I was comforted by the fact that someone in this throng thought about trans lives in this contest. After all, non-white transgender women are much more likely to experience violence than white transgender women. (the scholarly term is “intersectionality”– which means that they experience not just transphobia, but misogyny, and racism as well1. Throw in some classism, and they don’t stand a chance to have a peaceful life.

We assembled for the same reason so many others have — we’ve had enough of the racism, of the lies, the cover-ups. There’s a saying attributed to Muhammad Ali: “It is a privilege to learn about racism instead of experiencing it your whole life.” 

I’m white. I’m trans. And I’m female. I know that there is Male privilege — I had it and gave it up. I know there is cisgender privilege — gave that up as well. I grew up lower class — I’ve lived it all my life. And I know there is white privilege. Like being transgender, it is something I was born with — a natural part. If I could give it to someone else I would. By participating in these marches; by educating myself and others; and for God’s sake just LISTENING to the stories that black people tell of what their lives are like, I hope I’m doing my part in ending white privilege.

Maybe, someday, all lives will matter. But today, they don’t. Black lives, trans lives, women’s lives — none of those matter- only white cisgender males do . . . for now.

Be well. And do what you can.

1. Battle, J., & Ashley, C. (2008). Intersectionality, heteronormativity, and Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) families.?Black Women, Gender & Families, 2(1), 1-24.

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Category: All TGForum Posts, Transgender Opinion, Transgender Politics

Sophie Lynne

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  1. Kelly61 Kelly61 says:

    I appreciate your concerns and I share in the belief that there are many areas of imperfection and unfairness etc., in the world, however I disagree with this “new” movement that seems to be denouncing “white” people because they are white. This is a dangerous road and it does nothing to bring about the changes you are hoping for. I am white, my roots go back to Ireland. Irish folks did not enjoy this “white privilege” that you are focused on. There is an entire population of poor “white” people that are suffering from financial, educational, legal, and race related problems which go unnoticed. While I salute those who wish to protest, I would beg them to educate themselves and see the whole picture, not simply focus on their own personal experience, as their personal experience often does not reflect reality. It may be their own reality, but it may not be a realistic portrayal of society. Racism and social injustice is not limited to members of the black community nor to the gay or transgender word. What is being presented by the media is not accurate and it is not the whole story. So as you go forward, I would ask you or anyone that is authoring articles on this topic, to define racism, to define justice, to define social justice and to define “white” people. Racial injustice did not start in the 60’s nor with the arrival of the Pilgrims to the “New World”. This world is not perfect and because of human nature, I doubt it ever will be. It is a complicated world and the current problems have been around for as long as humans have been around. There is so much good out there, I would encourage people to start talking about it……