CommunityPam's House Blend

A Melancholy Metaphor On Trans Participation In LGBT Direct Actions

On November 15th, I joined 12 activists — seven of us lesbian, gay, and transgender veterans in military uniform, one veteran not in uniform, and five other lesbian and gay activists — on the White House Fence. There were many support people behind us doing work out of sight, but their efforts were so vital and important. Before we went on the fence, many of us went to Senator Harry Reid’s office, putting forward the question of when he was going to return Lt. Dan Choi’s West Point Ring at the successful repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. And before that, we went and honored the work of past gay servicemember activist Leonard Matloveich.

On November 16th, nine of us went to the White House’s Common Purpose meeting — a secret meeting of between the White House and  progressive organizations — seven of us held signs and/or passed out copies of an AmericaBLOG entitled Jim Messina makes a firm commitment on DADT: ‘We’re going to get that done this year’ to confront those who were at the meeting regarding Deputy White House Chief of Staff Jim Messina promising the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) would be repealed before the end 2010 — before the end of this year.

I am somebody. I deserve equal rights. Right here, right now. You are somebody. You too deserve equal rights. Right here, right now. We all deserve freedom, equality, and justice, and I know I won’t back down until we have freedom, equality, and justice.

Let me speak to you about handcuffing myself to the White house fence from a personal perspective. There is a narrative her with a somewhat melancholy metphor to it.

Before walking from the street through Lafayette Park, I had called my friend — a woman I consider my sister — Allyson Robinson. She returned my call at 12:50 EST, ten minutes before my walk in the park to the White House fence, and we shared her quite moving prayer. The gist of her prayer was one of praying for my safety, and the safety of those I was with, and that God would be with me and sustain me. I shed tears each time I think of that prayer…it was a prayer that came from a heart full of faith, hope, and love.

Image: Chris Tina Bruce and Autumn Sandeen Working Their Computers At GetEqual Action, November 16, 2010Then, my cell phone was handed off to Chris Tina Bruce — my trans support sister for the direct action — and then I joined with my twelve lesbian and gay siblings in telling the President, in handcuffing ourselves to the White House fence and in many, many chants, that there is an urgency of now for him to prioritize the repeal of DADT, and then do the follow-up actions he, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman Of The Joint Chief of Staff need to do to let lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers serve openly and proudly.

When the thirteen of us were taken down from the fence, we didn’t resist arrest, but we didn’t assist police in our arrests. We required the police to drag us away while we continued yelling chants.

We were then segregated by gender. The eight men in our group were put in one police wagon, and we five women were put in another police wagon.

When we thirteen arrived at the Park Police’s processing center, we were again segregated. The eight men were each searched, then put together in a holding cell, the other four women were each searched, then put together in a holding cell, and then…

Well, before I was searched, I told the female officer I was transgender. I said, as practiced, “I am transgender. I have a female gender identity, breasts, and male genitalia.” The female officer searched me from the waist up; a male officer searched me from the waist down. Then I was separated from the twelve others, and put in a holding cell by myself. I stood with my brothers and sisters on the fence, but in the end I was to face my time in custody alone. There would be no comrade in arms to talk to; no one beside me to draw support from.

Well, almost alone. I knew that even though my comrades in arms were not in sight, and I couldn’t hear their words of support, they were near. I also remember Tina, and the support she offered me, and…

I felt the warmth and strength of the prayer of my sister Allyson. The thought of my sister’s faith, hope, and love sustained me — even when I could not see her; even when I could not hear her voice. I was — I am — so very, very grateful my very wonderful friend and I shared a prayer together before that direct action.

I was alone, but I wasn’t lonely in thought, or in heart. I had the support of my dearly appreciated trans sisters, as well as the support of many of my lesbian, gay, and bisexual siblings in the LGBT community.

Image: Autumn Sandeen with Cheetos, a cup of coffee - while wearing her big girl panties - and her laptop being an 'Armchair Activist.' Autumn apologizes for not blogging from her Mother's basement (Photo: November 16, 2010)The sad metaphor here is that in life, trans people are often separated from others, being culled from the herds of humanity. Our voices are often silent because there is no one to hear us — no one to listen to us. If I had yelled loudly in my holding cell, my sisters and brothers nearby would most likely not  have heard me — Often, my trans siblings must trust that others have heard us, and have faith that others are there for us. Many times they are, even when we cannot see that they are; even when we cannot see that they are. We have to trust that others are there for we trans people — even though sometimes that faith turns out to be misplaced.

If called again to serve my broader community, I will answer the call. I am not an armchair activist. I have to act on faith that if my peers are called on to support me as I’ve answered the call to support them, they will be there. This isn’t about you or me — about  your LGBT subcommunity or mine — it really is all about us.

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Autumn Sandeen

Autumn Sandeen