In the interlocking communities of interest around transgender — the “Trans Community” for short — we have a problem.
That problem is common to many communities, and it is a lack of people willing and able to take leadership.
The trans path is inherently an indvidual path, working to manifest what is in your heart, to express what you know that you know. It’s not really a group path where you want to identify as one of the gang, because even if that is your fondest wish, your very transness will countermand that identity. In other words, we might dream of being one of them, but in the end, our only choice is being the one and only one of us.
The trans path is also a path that includes stigma, shaming and abuse. These are what drive transpeople into the closet, what keep us trying to satisfy others expectations, what teach us to be small. It’s an extremely good way to bring out whatever introvert and iconoclastic tendencies that we have, an extemely good way to keep us playing defense rather than working to win.
Add these bits together and you find that the “Trans Community” has a history of killing and eating leaders, acting out from pain to silence those who challenge us, even those who challenge us to move beyond our pain and care for one another. The challenge to heal and grow is the toughest challenge of all, and that makes it one of the most desirable to silence.
In communities of proximity, one of the solutions to these challenges are organizations intended to develop and support leaders, to give them insight, skills and affirmation. They are organizations like the Rotary, Kiwanis and Jaycees, who encourage leadership as service to the community as a whole.
Every group in the “Trans Community” needs leaders. We may want activist leaders who do political change, leaders who strive for social programs that care, leaders who create venues for new expression and art, leaders who do spiritual & religious work, leaders who create support networks, leaders who facilitate communications on-line and face to face, leaders who produce gatherings like conferences, leaders who educate the public and each other, leaders, leaders, leaders.
There is much work to be done, but the fundamental need underlying it is leadership, encouraging, developing and supporting leadership, especially in the face of those trying to silence leaders, to extend the closet or to keep their own story of sickness thriving.
We are thin on the ground, though, we transgender-identified people. It’s rare that we have easy proximity to a critical mass, which is why regional, national, and virtual events are so important to us. Each of us has our own calling, with little overlap, redundancy or network behind us.
I sat in the NY Pride Agenda’s statewide gathering for GENDA, and looked around the room at those who would stand up to offer political leadership in this vast state. There weren’t many people, and even those here didn’t all understand the skills of leadership as service, as the obligation to listen to, empower and shape new leaders, to pass the skills that let others become a leader in their own life.
Trans Leadership Council was what came out of that thinking — TLC. I’d prefer the Trans Leadership Conference to echo the organizations of the civil rights movement, but I don’t want people to think this is one gathering, one event.
I spoke to TBB about it.
“If someone gave you three million dollars to help transpeople, wouldn’t one of the first things you would do is to invite the people who you have seen offer leadership to come together and decide what we need to do?”
“Of course,” she said.
“Well, we don’t have the three million dollars, but isn’t it something we should think about doing anyway? I mean the newbies are great, but as long as we have to speak for the most tender person in the room, how do we get to the big and hard issues?”
The fundamental need in the “Trans Community” is leadership.
And I suspect that some TLC for the nascent leaders we have out there would help.
Now, all you have to do is to go make this happen, okay?