by Cheryl Courtney-Evans
posted Sept. 23, 2012
For those of you who don't know, the Southern Comfort Conference (SCC) is a large group of transgender individuals who hold an annual conference, that for the last five years has happened in Atlanta, GA. at one of its premier hotel venues. To my knowledge, they've been in existence twenty years, and until recent years has been without racial diversity, composed as they were of "upwardly mobile" Caucasians. To the great credit of its leadership, SCC has attempted in the last five years or so to become more inclusive. They have offered 'scholarships' in a program to cover registration for "first timers" in an effort to make it possible for lower income transgender individuals to participate in the events, seminars and workshops offered at its three-day festivities.
I have become involved with SCC, greatly enjoyed it, and my organization TILTT, Inc. (Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth, Inc.) has for the second year hosted the event, "Trans Persons Of Color Reception", as an African American-focused event (though open to the entire SCC populace that may want to attend and fellowship with us). I have greatly enjoyed the SCC, and have viewed it as one of the highlights of my year, but this year the highly controversial and intense election between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney served to highlight for me the "T" divide that even the SCC's concerted attempt at diversity could not hide, leaving me with mixed feelings this year...
In line with my adamant support of our President (yes, I readily admit that I am an "Obamatron"), I have become a part of Trans United for Obama (TU4O). As one of its members 'on the ground' here in Atlanta, I was sent fliers to pass out to our community, and I decided to take them with me to the SCC; my thought was that such an event, consisting as it is, of so many transgender individuals would be the perfect place to distribute information on an organization (TU4O) showing support for a president whose administration has shown so much support for transgender individuals.
At the age of sixty, I've seen presidents come and go, and NEVER has there been one who publicly showed so much support for transgenders; even appointing a couple of us to his administration, as well as having some from the community to the White House. It seemed a no-brainer that I would take these fliers and the attendees would be glad to see them, take them and govern themselves accordingly. There was even a trans speaker at Saturday's luncheon who spoke about "the advances made by the transgender community in the last four years", and to my mind at least, I knew she had to be talking about what this administration had accomplished for us.
So needless to say I was surprised, even shocked to find the reactions I got to my flier distribution...virtually every African American transgender person I offered one to, took it (some with the smile & "Obama in '12" comment). But I found that many of the Caucasians in attendance would refuse with a shake of the head (one telling me, "I'm not a fan of Obama's"), or just lay them down and leave them somewhere. It was during one of my 'smoke breaks' that I witnessed and heard comments from some Caucasian trans who were discussing a flier that was lying on a table between us from one of these "lay it down & leave it" occasions. "I really don't see what difference it's gonna make," she said, "they're both the same; they're gonna say one thing and do another after they're elected..." WHAT??! Where have they been the last four years?? Hadn't they heard what one of their own had just said at lunch? (Also, I could see they were old enough to have seen at least three different presidents and their actions with regards to transgenders.) Then I had to stop and think about who was talking...
They were a couple of crossdressers. It is well known that a goodly portion of SCC is attended by crossdressers, as opposed to transsexuals who identify as female (or male, in the case of transmen); many are married business people who come to the conference with their understanding spouses. Often the conference is the one time in a year that they submit to their fantasies and fetishes, while the rest of the year they live 'undercover', and usually with a "white male privilege" that wouldn't be conducive to supporting Obama or any African American.
First of all, even though I personally embrace ALL branches of the transgender "umbrella", I understood that these were male identified individuals, so that when they finished their annual "SCC weekend", they would not need or really be affected by the "transgender progress" achieved in the last four years of this administration. They would be living as men; Caucasian men at that, which brings me to another "T" divide...(particularly with older Caucasian transgenders) there is still a racial divide in our community. I dislike it, and struggle against it everywhere I come up against it, but it still exists; they seem to have brought their attitude of 'privilege' right with them into their transition, so that it affects how they interact with transgenders of color. And I suppose it is just this attitude that would make them, not unlike Log Cabin Republicans, vote against their own best interests for a man like President Obama who has shown the transgender community his support.
So I left the Southern Comfort Conference this year with mixed feelings; I'd enjoyed it a lot (the leadership had even awarded me with a small 'token' in appreciation of my working with them the last two years, and TILTT's receptions), but my attempt at distributing the TU4O fliers left a somewhat sour taste in my mouth.
Welcome to the blog that is intended for education, information, entertainment, news and advancement...and it's all about the Transgender community! If you're a transgender individual, I hope it provides you with all of the above as well as empowerment; if you're not a transgender, hopefully this blog will help in giving you a better understanding of the transgender community and that community's issues, achievements/abilities, "temperaments" and diversity. Overall, I hope your visit proves to be an interesting one.
Remember: "Communication is the Doorway through which Understanding may Walk."