Being an ally vs. just telling others how to be an allyTrans Progressive Thursday, July 5th, 2012
Commentary: Trans Progressive
Most folk who aren’t part of the T of the LGBT community aren’t aware of the divides between some of those who identify as transsexual, but not as transgender, and those who identify as both transsexual and transgender. To me, the divide seems to be about whether or not one embraces diversity as a value or not.
And, this divide couldn’t be more visible than in model Isis King’s recent participation in American Apparel’s Legalize Gay advertising campaign – fifteen percent of all proceeds from the sale of the T-shirts benefit GLAAD’s work to share stories that build support for equality.
For those who don’t know, Isis King was a past participant in the reality show America’s Top Model. She didn’t win in the year she was on the show, but participation in that show arguably left her as America’s best-known transgender model.
And transgender she is: Isis identifies as both transsexual and transgender.
Isis was recently approached by GLAAD and American Apparel to be this year’s face for the Legalize Gay advertising campaign. Isis described how she became involved with American Apparel’s ad campaign in an interview with Fashionista.com.
“I got involved through GLAAD. We have worked together on quite a few things now – including the I AM: Trans People Speak video campaign, which aims to lift the voices of a diverse range of trans people – and they thought of me for this amazing opportunity. They told me what it was for and I knew this campaign would be a tremendous step forward for everyone, including fashion, American Apparel and trans women with a dream!”
Well, Media Advocates Giving National Equality to Transsexual & Transgender People (MAGNET) has attempted to organize a boycott of American Apparel and GLAAD over the advertising campaign. As MAGNET’s Ashley Love explains,
“GLAAD and American Apparel are partnering on a Pride month campaign with Isis King (Tyra Bank’s America’s Next Top Model’s first contestant born with transsexualism) modeling T-shirts that read “Legalize Gay;” however, Isis is a heterosexual woman, not a “gay” man. Gender identity or a transsexual medical condition is not the same thing as sexual orientation. The word “gay” is not interchangeable with the word transsexual. The advertisements, perhaps unintentionally, send misleading and nonaffirming messaging about transsexual and transgender realities.”
MAGNET’s Ashley Love has told people she’s labeled as “Gay Inc.” that they need to learn to be “true allies” of transsexual people and engage in coalition building. In contrast, Isis King is a trans woman who’s building coalitions at community intersections: Isis demonstrated her support of her gay peers in the LGBT community by wearing pro-gay T-shirts in a pro-LGBT advertising campaign. To me, it’s the difference between being an ally versus just telling others how to be an ally to you.
I’m going to stand with those who are taking action to build intra- and extra-LGBT community coalitions; count me as standing with Isis King in her efforts toward embracing diversity and community building.
Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=26201