SUPERIORITY COMPLEXES AMONGST ADVOCATES AND THEIR MOVEMENTS: MY EXPERIENCE WITH V-DAY AND ONE BILLION RISING
“Thank you for realizing that violence is just as prevalent in the LGBTQ as it is in the heterosexual community and that it isn’t getting the attention it deserves. But you are not transgendered. Help like that we do not need.”
Before I jump into the main course of this blog post, let me provide you with some juicy, appetizing context. My name is Lorpu Kpadeh. I am the founder and executive director of The Survivant Organization (TSO), a non-profit dedicated to eradicating domestic and sexual violence in women aged 16-24 through research, interactive education, and advocacy. One in every four women will experience domestic and/or sexual violence, but girls in this age range are three times more likely to experience violence than any other age group. The success of this NPO is the most important thing to me because I am also a survivor. I was in a two-year abusive relationship from 2007-2009 from age 21-23. To be honest, ending the relationship didn’t end my hardships. When I returned to my hometown, I dealt with embarrassment, isolation, and judgment from family and friends which only made my journey to recovery harder. It took me four years, without much assistance from anyone, to work through it which is why I started my organization. For the first time in my life, I feel like I belong as I’m now a part of a group of amazing advocates who make it their job to assist women experiencing injustice around the world. But since 2009, I’ve learned that my story isn’t unique. Unfortunately, unlike me, many women never get the assistance they need. The majority of women suffer in silence, living shrouded with shame. Being that I started TSO in 2013, I was very excited to be a participant in V-Day’s 2014 campaign through a benefit production of playwright/founder Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues (TVM) and One Billion Rising Campaign (OBR). Most people have seen or heard of TVM but OBR, also organized by V-Day starting in 2013, is the largest call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world’s population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than ONE BILLION women and girls. Since February 14, 2013, activists, writers, thinkers, celebrities, and women and men across the world gather at schools, churches, courts, on the streets, and thousands of other locations to express their outrage, demand change, strike, dance, and RISE in defiance of the injustices women suffer. We rise each year to demand an end to violence against women. To learn more about this campaign, visit www.onebillionrising.org .
To be honest when I heard that we were supposed to work with other local organizations to for OBR, I was extremely reluctant. Why? Because of the negative experiences I had over the course of 2013, specifically how divisive the feminism/advocacy climate is in DC. I am a local so I am well aware of how competitive all arenas of employment are here from law, to government, to public and private enterprises. Being African-American, the exclusivity of white feminists became very apparent to me once various org heads realized that I was actually following through on my dream of “starting my own non-profit”. I was very saddened, frustrated, discouraged, and worn out because the “WO-man” was trying to keep me down. I voiced these concerns to other friends working in the non-profit sector longer than me and they shared my feelings. There was and still is definitely a “clique” of female org heads who monopolize federal funds to throw swanky parties *cough* fundraisers*cough* where people praise “their work with victims” when they really use federal funds and monies raised to go on two week long vacations to Greece, Bora Bora, and other tropical destinations. The other smaller organizations in DC are then left trying to make ends meet for advocates that actually utilize direct services, emergency shelters, and other necessities for those leaving an abusive relationship.
So even though I was hesitant, I was happy to take a break from planning TSO events to work with a group of women as part of the DC Rising’s OBR 2014 Campaign. We had several conference calls with 10 or so women, each from different relevant groups, and pooled together our resources to set up events for OBR 2014 in DC. First, we organized a poster party to make signs for our rally at SCOTUS the following week. Our next and flagship event was a kickoff reception at the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill. It was magical. I met my hero, Eve Ensler, along with other congresswomen and organizational heads. It was such a glorious night of camaraderie and sisterhood. I exhaled and thought to myself “Yes, events like these are how it should always be. People working together for the common good! Maybe I was wrong about the climate of feminism/activism in DC?”
Here is some awesome footage from the reception: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBQtYnw0SuQ
Our final event, the rally at SCOTUS followed by a display of the Monument Quilt, was suppose to take place on February 14th but had to be rescheduled because of winter storm Pax. But by the end of the DC OBR 2014 campaign, my experiences revived and rejuvenated my love for advocacy. Refreshed and ready for the fight, I jumped right back into TVM planning. During my training as an advocate in early 2013, I learned that the rate of violence against heterosexual women is not the only problem. Many individuals in the LGBTQ community were experiencing the same atrocities at epidemic levels and were getting even less attention than the overlooked statistics in the heterosexual community. Being the proverbial last outsider who finally fit in, I wanted to make sure that I did my part to make sure that no one else felt the way I used to. The first time I saw TVM was in 2005 during my undergrad career. I had no idea that in 2004, an optional transgendered monologue was added to the play. Several times, I have been to events in the DC community and the general consensus is that no one has been or wants to advocate for the transgendered community. Basically, LGBTQ individuals are always “left out”. As I explained earlier, this wasn’t surprising to me as I experienced it firsthand myself as an African-American female. So I was not only sympathetic but incredibly empathetic. I made it my mission that, at least in my production, one of numerous performances taking place in DC, TSO would definitely perform the transgendered monologue. But instead of having heterosexual females perform, I wanted transgendered individuals to be a part of our production. I have many friends in the LGBQ community but I do not know anyone in the transgendered community. I want to show the community that TSO is an ally in their fight because gender based violence needs to end for everyone. Period.
So like many nights since starting TSO, I stayed up until 4 am with little sleep, emailing, posting, and calling numerous LGBTQ organizations in the area. Many places didn’t even bother to respond to my numerous emails/phone calls but three groups did. They all referred me to a list serv for transgendered individuals. So I took the recommended route as far trying to alert relevant parties to what I was doing this year with TVM. I emailed the list serv but it was restricted so I couldn’t post any announcements until I was added by a moderator. I reached out 3 times over the next 5 days before 2 moderators finally responded to me. What happened next was shocking. Below, in italicized font, you will be reading the correspondence between me and two transgendered moderators whose names I’ve changed to “Katie” and “Jennifer” because I respect their privacy. In plain font, I’ve explained my reasoning behind my responses:
First email to list serv:
My name is Lorpu Kpadeh. I am the founder and executive director of The Survivant Organization, a non-profit assisting female victims of domestic and sexual violence aged 16-24. This year, my non-profit is putting on a performance of the Vagina Monologues (TVM). As a survivor and advocate, I’ve learned that violence is just as prevalent in the LGBTQ community but it isn’t getting the attention it deserves. I would love to extend an invitation to all members of the community to be a part of our cast. Below are links to media for my organization. Please add me to your list serve and let me know if you need anything else from me. Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks again!
1st moderator “Katie” to me:
Thank you for realizing that but do you have a transgendered member there already to subscribe? As a support list, members want the ability to talk knowing there are not people from outside the community listening when they post.
Oh no, thank YOU for commending me on not being an ignorant jackass and being one of the “enlightened ones”. After 28 years and all I’ve been through and done, I’ve really been waiting for you to justify me as a human being.
Me to Katie:
Do I have a transgender member where? I was referred to your list serv by the transgender advocates from 3 different local organizations. I desperately want transgender members to be a part of our performance. The reason I am emailing is so that I can invite subscribers on your list to help us increase awareness of gender violence as representatives of the LGBTQ community, showing that we need to work together to end the violence. I understand members wanting to feel protected as I am an advocate and aware of the importance and practice of confidentiality. So I understand your reasons for keeping the list private/restricted. But could you just add my post to the list serv as an invitation to our tryout? When they read it, they can decide and email me if they want. There might be survivors who would like to raise their voices as representatives at our performance. I think that would be very powerful. Transmen and transwomen can be a part of our production. I’ve tried emailing, calling, reaching out to every LGBTQ organization in the area without much luck. Division between the heterosexual vs. the LGBTQ community is counterintuitive to ending violence as we ALL are victims. If you could just post my blurb on my behalf, I would really appreciate it. Let me know please. Thanks.
“Katie” to me:
In your group. I appreciate your wanting to be inclusive but this is a support group. It would be as if I barged into an AA meeting because I had some alcoholic friends…..
If you have a message to send I or another moderator can post it for you but we would be betraying the group’s trust in us to add someone from outside of the community. By being on the list you have access to anything anyone has ever said on the list and that is something we have received direct input not to allow to people not in the community.
The same as me barging into an AA meeting?!?
Me to Katie:
The first thing I said was that I didn’t have any members in my group so that is why I am reaching out. I already said that you didn’t have to add me. I just wanted someone to post my blurb and let each reader/subscriber decide for themselves instead of someone doing it for them. Also, No it actually wouldn’t be the same as me barging in an AA meeting on behalf of a friend. I am a survivor of violence too and I do not see any difference between myself and anyone in the LGBTQ group recovering, healing from, or fighting it. Divisive attitudes are why nothing ever gets done as far as activism goes in DC. Painting me as an outsider who might hurt someone on your list serv just because I am not transgendered is just wrong. Refusing assistance or help bringing awareness from anyone just because they are not transgendered is baffling to me. I do not believe that ALL of your subscribers would think that falls under you “protecting them”. Everyone heals differently. When I first left my abusive relationship in 2009, I couldn’t speak about it. A few days ago, I told my story out loud for the first time because doing so was a part of MY HEALING PROCESS, as is putting our performance of TVM. Maybe someone on your list serv has always wanted to be a part of TVM but didn’t know if or how they would be represented. Eve Ensler, who I had the pleasure of meeting a few weeks ago, unveiled a monologue in 2004 specifically for the trans community, sharing my sentiment that justice is just as important for trans individuals as heterosexual women. You could potentially be stopping one of your subscribers from hitting a milestone in recovery by not just posting. You don’t know and shouldn’t decide for them. I am sure some of your subscribers have friends outside of the transcommunity that support them as I have friends in the LGBTQ community that come to my events and support me. Whenever I go to Pride events or protest with my LGBQ friends, even though I am heterosexual, no one ever turns me away because they know that I think justice is for everyone. Everyone from every community, heterosexual or LGBT, need each other to help end injustice. But first they must know about it. This is especially important because the people in power are most heterosexual. How do you expect anything to get done, especially the passage of laws, when you turn away people outside of the community who want to help? Thanks for replying to me as this correspondence was very illuminating. Anyways, here is the blurb:
Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues: A Celebration of V-Day 2014 in Washington, DC
Come be a part of our 2014’s The Vagina Monologues Cast and Committee!
The Survivant Organization, a local non-profit fighting domestic and sexual violence in girls aged 16-24 through research, interactive education and advocacy, is directing a performance of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. We are looking for dedicated individuals that want to be cast in and assist us in our first production on April 12th to celebrate V-Day 2014 here in DC. Help us raise awareness to end domestic and sexual violence against women. Our performance will be a POSITIVE, UPLIFTING, and UNIFYING experience for all involved and in attendance. No acting experience is necessary. As survivors and advocates, we have learned that violence is experienced by transgendered individuals at the same or sometimes an even higher rate than their heterosexual sisters. We must work together to end this silent epidemic of violence. People who lead their lives as women are eligible to try out for our production. This includes individuals who were born with a vagina and transgendered individuals. Transmen and Transwomen are welcome. Being a part of our production would be a dream come true for us. For individuals who are trying out, we have picked 2 poems for you to recite. Read and study both because we will pick which one you read for us at random. You do not have to memorize either poem. We really want to see the versatility of your personality from dramatic to comedic so just have fun!!….
First of all, did you even read my first email? If I already had transgender individuals in my group, why would I be reaching out to you? Secondly, have you ever heard of Friends of AA support groups? Yes, that is an ACTUAL thing and it is amazing because it teach people like you who are ignorant believing it is a choice can learn how to help their loved ones overcome alcoholism as the disease it is.
Here is a link to a website for Al-Anon Family support groups: http://www.al-anon.alateen.org/
Katie to me:
As to “hets” being the ones in power so they get to help us little other communities at their whims and complain when we say who we want to associate with?
Come on! Violence to heterosexual people is nowhere close to those of trans people but we are not discussing relative problems. Help like that we do not need.
So let me get this straight…you don’t want my help because I am a HETEROSEXUAL woman?!?
Starting off, I am not going to let you turn me saying hets are in power into a negative dig at the trans community. I said that “hets” are in power because it is TRUE! Obviously I mean HETEROSEXUAL, CAUCASIAN MALES. I am an African-American woman. So this excludes both ME and YOU…DUH! LGBTQ people are understandably protective of their relationships because of the ubiquitous nature of negative stereotypes and discrimination. Many LGBTQ people are reluctant to reveal an abusive relationship on top of one which is already seen as “sick” among the wider population. Even though members of the LGBTQ community often have more education than their cis counterparts, 64% earn less than $25,000 a year. But this should come as no surprise as termination of an employee based on their gender identity is still legal in 39 states in the U.S. Over 90% of LGBTQ persons report experiencing some type of harassment or discrimination in the workplace. That is why even though a few officials like D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray have recently moved for Medicaid to cover trans-inclusive healthcare, still very few companies offer health care benefits to same- sex or unmarried heterosexual couples. About 13% of the 5.5 million of unmarried couples are people in same-sex relationships. All of these factors contribute to the increase in socioeconomic status disparities for LGBTQ persons and families. Just last month, the Kansas House of Representatives approved a measure that would legalize segregation of gay and straight people in every stage of life including private businesses, hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, hospitals, public parks/pools, and even assistance from law enforcement at the whim of those in officials in power.
Even though VAWA, or the Violence Against Women Act, became trans-inclusive, the passage of ENDA, or the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and similar legislation is of urgent importance. This leads to isolation for LGBTQ individuals because a homophobic society gives more power to the batterer. Abusers takes advantage of the homophobic nature of heterosexist control to further dominate and control their partner, such as threats to “out” the victim or lost custody of children.
Me to Katie:
You made this personal when you, without ever having met me, compared me reaching out to barging into an AA meeting on behalf of a friend for which there is NO comparison. That was ignorant and rude especially when this started as me positively wanting to bring awareness about the trans community. The nature of violence and the disease that is alcoholism are completely different which anyone over the age of 21 should know. Again, I said nothing about hets helping you when they “decided to” because that is not what I am doing. I could have just not reached out to you and stayed just as apathetic as a lot of ADVOCATES are. Even more than that, adding the trans monologue to the show is OPTIONAL. So if I had bad intentions, do you really think I would’ve persisted to reach out to LGBTQ organizations for a few weeks? I don’t think so. Don’t you even try to twist my words.
I am a trained and certified advocate for survivors of violence and guess what? The stats between hets and the LGBTQ community are about the same. So you preaching to me about that is incorrect. So please do your research and check your privilege. This is the same attitude that I encounter with the “het” feminist community so it is no wonder nothing ever gets done. I didn’t think it would be the same in the trans community. But thanks for telling me that you personally speak for DC’s trans community and that I am just as weak as a supportive friend of a recovering alcoholic. Also, deciding who you want to associate with is fine. Everyone should do so. Personally, I don’t associate with ignorant, a**holes whether they are hets or not. You are the one that started discussing relative problems when you negatively compared what I was doing to another great cause. I brought up hets because it is no secret they are in power so me reaching out to you at all. I know for a fact that many hets do not reach out because, like you, they believe their STRUGGLE IS MORE PREVALENT AND THEREFORE IMPORTANT to everyone else’s when STATISTICS DO NOT SUPPORT THAT. What I am doing is a good thing no matter how you try to twist it. Maybe you need to ask yourself if you’re the one with the problem seeing all HETS as ADVERSARIES when some, like myself, are ALLIES. As an advocate claiming to help survivor, you should practice some self awareness.
Honestly, what happened to a good old fashioned “No, thank you”? The conversation would’ve ended there for me. Instead, “Katie” and “Jennifer” used it as an opportunity to discuss alcoholism, stats among gender identities, etc. We all need to agree that GENDER BASED VIOLENCE cannot end until we see it as a F*CKING TRAGEDY for WHOMEVER WHENEVER and WHEREVER IT HAPPENS!!! Moving on though….In 2010, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects reported that trans women made up 44% of LGBTQ murder victims. The LAMBDA non-profit dedicated to reducing violence in the LGBTQ community, located in El Paso, Texas, reports that “the rates of domestic violence in same-gender relationships is roughly the same as domestic violence against heterosexual women (25%).” Haven’s Women’s Center of Stainuslaus in Modesto, CA cites that “according to research and statistics gathered from the Lesbian & Gay Community is that domestic violence in Gay & Lesbian relationships is approximately 25 – 32% (basically the same percentage as in the heterosexual community).” The Minnesota Center against Violence and Abuse found that “numerous studies have shown that violence in heterosexual and same-sex relationships occurs at approximately the same rate (one in four).” So who is wrong? Who is right? Everybody and nobody. Why? Because incidence rates shouldn’t matter. It is a tragedy no matter whom it happens to. So Katie, me stating the obvious is not the same as me condoning something. Not identifying or confronting the problem doesn’t help to solve it either.
2nd moderator “Jennifer” to me:
I think you may have misinterpreted “Katie’s” point. [This] as an organization is a support group, and not a social group, or mixed-purpose group. Anyone *is* welcome to come to meetings. However, we simply ask that people respect the focus of the group and keep things within that focus. I do not believe that Kara was in any way attacking you or being intentionally divisive. She was simply responding back to you based purely on the information that you had provided in your initial e-mail. I would like to add, though, that I find that your own response back to her was unnecessarily overdramatic. One thing that the group does not need is any additional drama.
First, I want to thank you Jennifer for hammering your exclusivity home by letting me know that ANYONE *IS* welcomed to meetings, minus friends of recovering alcoholics that is. Secondly, I’m being overly dramatic….
Me to 2nd moderator Jennifer:
Please read her last response to me. I became “dramatic” when she compared what I was doing to trying to support a friend in AA by going to a meeting. In my mind, that would be a good thing too because they can educate themselves on the DISEASE and find out how best they can assist their loved one. But, according to her, doing something like that is not important as well. You will see in her last email to me that trans violence is more PREVALENT therefore MORE IMPORTANT than HETEROSEXUAL female violence which is WRONG on all levels. They are both equally important. The fact as a HET that I thought to reach out when I could’ve ignored it (like most heterosexual female advocates do when organizing events to end violence which is a MAJOR complaint from the trans community), then was insulted along with anyone who is or friends with anyone in AA before being told I’m dramatic for reacting like a HUMAN BEING to your ignorance will not be ignored. Just because you see yourself as a minority, doesn’t give you the right to treat or speak to someone this way. Furthermore, since the both of you don’t know me but I am being “dramatic” for responding to someone insulting me AND recovering alcoholics, if I ever saw anyone on the street being harassed for who they are, trans, het, or LGBQ, I would be the first person to jump in that person’s face with my “dramatics” because ignorance like what Katie expressed today must be confronted. But I am happy to know that you choose who you want to associate with and personally only stand up for those in the trans community. But know that you will not stop or discourage me from reaching out to anyone in the trans community to bring awareness and help fight violence against all women.
During my exchange with the two moderators, I was angry. Looking back on the incident now, I feel bad for Katie because she is unfortunately exhibiting behavior harmful but common to many victims of violence do: when the bullied becomes a bully. Many survivors understandably develop a chip on their shoulders which manifests as a defense mechanism. Personally, I’ve been told by 7 DIFFERENT Caucasian guys since age 21 that I am not good enough to date (and in some cases only “good enough” for sex) because of my skin color on top of it being a major issue in my abusive relationship. So I used to do the same thing pushing anyone who wasn’t a “survivor” like me because they “would never understand what I went through”. Yes, for awhile, it hurt because I believed them. I realized that not only was I harming myself, but my behavior made me a hypocrite, preventing me from following my dream of helping other victims. It’s like drinking poison and hoping your enemy dies. So I changed my behavior. I took time to heal and educated myself on prejudices surrounding race, gender based violence, and sexual assault. So do I think all Caucasian guys or people are ignorant, racist, bigots? NOOOOOO! Now I KNOW that those 7 boys are ignorant, racist, COWARDLY, bigots. More so, I am still open to dating MEN who do not share their sentiments, anyone from Ryan Gosling to Denzel Washington. Katie needs to realize that she can’t be good to others if she doesn’t take care of or is good to herself. There are endless possibilities for the delays number of casualties you can experience on the road to recovery if you choose to white knuckle your way through it. In my opinion, she needs to practice some self-care and non-malfeasance with survivors.
Jennifer to both Katie and I:
Okay, BOTH of you… please take a night to sleep on this. This discussion has gotten completely out of control and is completely unnecessary and inappropriate behavior from both of you.
Lorpu, if you would like us to pass along an invitation or information to the group, we can do that for you. However, please respect that you approached us, and that you found our information on the website, which is abundantly clear about what the group is for.
End of thread… seriously, not one more word on this topic.
Me to Jennifer:
You don’t know me and you are not my mother. I am a grown woman and will decide what is appropriate behavior for me because according to you, you are allowed to tell 2 other grown women when they are being inappropriate and also when to shut up. I can’t speak for Katie because I don’t know her (even though I have a much better idea after today). I don’t know how you run things in your group, but even if I disagree with someone I certainly do not tell them how and when to shut up. Get over yourself and sit down Jennifer. The superiority complex that I’ve experienced from the two of you has only been rivaled by my experiences in the het feminist community. Again, I was referred to you by several other organizations in trans community so it doesn’t matter what I read because they probably did it in good faith. I sent it not expecting anything and just wanted someone to simply post a blurb for me. I was not expecting what I got out of the both of you. You can end your part of this conversation/thread for yourself but you do not EVER tell me when I am done speaking. Let’s get that clear. Since I started my work in the community, I’ve heard so many people talk about how they want to end the division amongst advocacy groups. So I will definitely be continuing this conversation with other parties that I know would love to hear about it. Thanks Jennifer.
That ends our exciting correspondence. Once my feelings subsided, I came to some conclusions about the divisive climate of advocacy in DC. As a people we have created a social moat, artificial barrier constructed between the varying groups of people as a way to ignore gender based violence. But as a people, we don’t benefit from it. In fact, it re-victimizes and renders active groups in this fight inert when all of these worlds are really one in the same. I can tell you that I have yet to meet a mousey-type victim yet. Not a single person has fit the “victim stereotype” which the majority of misinformed society might believe. Victims may be smart, beautiful talented, doctors, lawyers, and business professionals.
We are in the middle of a war on women with casualties of epidemic proportions. We live in a society that refuses to address violence against women. It happens in our homes, work places, churches. But the front lines are our universities, our high schools, our middle schools and elementary schools. That is where the mis-education begins that our power lies between our legs. This is where we are assimilated into “rape culture”. “Rape culture” is a culture in which sexual violence is considered the norm — in which people aren’t taught not to rape, but are taught not to be raped. They teach that our empowerment lies solely in our sexuality. So when perpetrators hit us they mark our bodies with bruises, making us feel less beautiful that we were before. When they rape us, they make us feel worthless. These acts rob you of choice, dignity, identity because afterwards you can never be the person you were before. It is an invasion that leaves you incapable of trust and intimacy almost impossible. We must reclaimed our vaginas as a tool of female empowerment on our terms and the celebratory embodiment of the infinite ways as s individuals and when standing together that women rock. We must teach little girls that power is not measured by the size of your “fatty” behind, your chest or what’s between your legs. We must teach them that real power sits above your shoulders. Girls should be educated that a girl, a woman with a voice is, by definition, a strong woman.
It isn’t a rich vs. poor thing. We are constantly appalled when reading about the violence women in India suffer on a daily basis. But violence against women isn’t just a third world problem. India. In 2010, a man in Texas decapitated his wife and another man did the same in New York. It is prevalent here in first. They figure if they walk down this street, live in this neighborhood, hung out at certain places with certain kinds of people, that they would be okay. That domestic violence and sexual assault is a crime removed from them. This violence is suburban, urban and rural. When we do acknowledge the prevalence of gender violence around the world, again, we shouldn’t remain apathetic to its occurrence in other communities just because we have victims in ours. A woman being beaten into a coma, a woman being gang raped, a woman having acid thrown in her face for attempting to walk to the store alone without a male escort, a woman being murdered for ending an abusive relationship is horrific in any language, any culture, any community, and any country. We must reject the indifference that cripples the fight to end gender violence everywhere. It is a tragedy wherever and whenever it happens.
It isn’t about men vs. women. It is about equality across the board for pay, for freedom of speech, for education, and many more. Wanting the same rights that men already have does not mean we are trying to take rights away from them. We want men. Joe Biden has long championed the fight to end violence against women, first as a senator in 1990 introducing VAWA or the Violence Against Women Act to congress and as Vice President in 2013, reauthorizing the act and calling a new generation to act. This year, President Obama has joined him. In January, he announced the formation of a special White House Task force to protect students from sexual assault, modeling male leadership in the fight to halt sexual assault. We need to set great examples so that our boys can grow up to be responsible men that respect woman. We cannot walk alone. We need men to make a pledge to combat this epidemic alongside women and the trans community.
It isn’t a heterosexual vs. the LGBTQ community fight. Our heterosexual sisters should join hands to support our lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, and questioning sisters who suffer violence at the same and sometimes higher alarming rate that we do. And vice versa.
We must do more than pay lip service. Gender based violence and discrimination must be against the law. We must implore and demand that our elected representatives to do what we put them in office for. We must hold those in power accountable for the promises they make to us about joining, fighting, advocating, and creating laws to end the violence. And consequences to breaking these laws must be carried out to their fullest extent. Written in 1776, The Declaration of Independence is a statement asserting certain natural and legal rights, including a right to revolution. Since then, it has served as an inspiration and guide for Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address in 1863, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, and many other national declarations of Independence throughout the world. It is often recognized as one of the best known sentences in the English language as it came to represent a moral standard to which the United States should always strive and abide. To quote it reads : We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are the Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. But after almost 250 years, as women and trans individuals we are not free. Instead, we’ve been exiled to dark corners where we live shamed, disregarded, and outside of important human consciousness. But in order for us to be better, this must be a revolution of love to combat all the hate, weakness, cowardice, bureaucratic red tape that prevents governments for making the atrocities committed against us around the world against and punishable by the law, misogynistic, misrepresentation in media and pop culture that tries to silence, bury, and destroy us. The Declaration of Independence is proof that we have the right to this revolution. We have the right to demand what we are owed. But more importantly, as a species, we need to arrive at the conclusion that living free from violence isn’t a black vs. white thing, it isn’t a rich vs. poor thing, it isn’t a heterosexual vs. lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning thing, it isn’t an us them thing. Freedom from violence isn’t even just a woman’s right. It is our human right.
Sometimes I asked myself the question of where I would be if I weren’t a victim. Would I ignore domestic violence? Would I ignore sexual assault? Would I care? Prior to undergrad, prior to being a victim, I would watch battered women, girls on TV shows like Jerry Springer who stayed with their partners. To me, at my ripe old age of 16, these were women that I was smarter than, stronger than, and would never be friends with. I was above them. I was all 2 snaps, neck turning, eye rolling, yelling at the TV saying “I would never let a man put his hands on me.” Then it happened and I was just like them: a victim. As a victim, I was forced to be a part of a secret society of women and trans individuals, shrouded in shame. Now as I identify as a survivor and advocate, I realize that I have nothing to be ashamed of as I’ve joined and am a part of a sorority of 1 billion sisters who support, stand, speak, shout, and sound off on an epidemic which has been silent for too long. Finally, for the first time in my life I feel like I belong. There is no way I am giving that up, no matter what het or trans groups do to me. Like most individuals, I didn’t ask or want to be a victim. But I am in this fight for life. Now, NOBODY puts baby or ME in a corner!
To quote, Former first lady turned secretary of the state (and probable future Madame President) Hilary Clinton: “The rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century”. So we must finish it. We will honor the victims who have lost their lives due to the senseless violence committed against them. We will support those victims who are still living letting them know they are not alone. It’s not the world that needs to change. We cannot change how we treat each other until we change how we think. We must engage the mind to change the heart. It is the people that need to change, especially how we treat each other. One person can’t do everything. But everyone can do one thing. We will prevail in ending gender based violence if raise our voices together to educate through the narrative. Establishing lasting peace for future generations is the work of education. As women and trans individuals, supporters of women and trans individuals, lovers of women and trans individuals, for women, for trans individuals, for the world, let’s stay determined to being the heroines our story. So violence doesn’t discriminate across race, age, socioeconomic status, gender identity, or sexual orientation so as we fight to end this epidemic, why should we? This shouldn’t be an “us vs. them” endeavor. We must arrive at the conclusion that this fight is we, the people vs. the criminal.
On February 14th, V-Day and Eve asked us to gather in places where we seek justice and didn’t find it, she challenged us to rise. In record numbers around the world, we answered. But we need to dedicate ourselves to do more together. We’ve got to step up so we don’t fall back. We must continue to rise tomorrow until gender based violence becomes something of the distant past. We have to do more than rise. We used to be victims but we are taking our power back. We are survivors. But we will do more than survive. We will thrive. And we will be heroes. No, we will be SHE-ROES!!!