Monday, February 7, 2011

An Open Letter to Louisiana's LGBt Organization, Forum for Equality, by Wesley Ware

Reposted from the Bilerico Blog:

Dear Forum for Equality,

I was greatly saddened today to read an op-ed in the Baton Rouge paper, The Advocate, called "Not Enough, But a Start."

The article referenced a proposed resolution that would "promote tolerance in the social and economic life of Louisiana's capital city."

You say "not enough" because Baton Rouge "has much more to do to promote itself as a welcoming community than a nonbinding resolution of good intentions."

I say "not enough" because the resolution purposefully omits transgender people (and many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and even heterosexual gender non-conforming individuals) by not including gender identity or expression.

I say "not enough" because I know that advocates were fighting to include gender identity in the resolution and you turned your back.

I say "not enough" because I know that in New York City, it was 16 years before the LGB community came back for those they deliberately left behind and that many other states and cities never came back for their transgender brothers and sisters at all.

I say "not enough" because I know that city ordinances and resolutions pass all of the time that include gender identity and expression- and that in fact, there are now more city ordinances and resolutions that do include protections for transgender people than don't.

I say "not enough" because I know it was a transgender woman who threw the first brick that sparked the Stonewall Riots and kicked off the gay rights movement in 1969.

I say "not enough" because we know the names of over 160 transgender people who were murdered last year alone and that we've had over 15 murdered since.

And although a non-binding city resolution really won't affect change in the everyday lives of lesbian and gay individuals in Baton Rouge, I say "not enough" because I can't help but to think that while you say you are fighting for the end to employment and housing discrimination, I know that it's transgender people (and in particular, transgender people of color), who are standing in welfare lines and filling our prison cells because they can't get a job or find a place to sleep at night.

So Forum for Equality, please let the rest of Louisiana know when you have decided that it's worth it to fight for everyone.

Then, and only then, will your "statewide civil rights organization" speak for me.

Wesley Ware has been fighting for the rights of LGBT individuals from Atlanta, GA and New Orleans, LA for over ten years. He now works as an advocate for incarcerated youth in Louisiana, including LGBT youth, at the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana; his comments here are his personal beliefs and do not represent any organization.

Editor's: Note: Although this open letter originally appeared on the Bilerico blog last year, we are reposting now because of its continued relevance.

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