We revisit our 2022 Transgender Justice Teach-In where panelists Merrique Jenson, Codi Charles, Romeo Jackson and Bishop Howard discuss building liberated futures with queer and trans youth. In a moment where we’ve experienced an endless barrage of anti-trans attacks that deeply affect young trans people, the key messages from this conversation are just as true today as they were a year ago. What do we mean by “youth” and who is afforded the space to be young? What rights do children have and how do we exist in right relationship with trans youth? All these questions are covered on this episode of Take the Last Bite.
Find more details about the Transgender Justice Teach-In and where to connect with our panelists at https://sgdinstitute.org/programs/transgender-justice/2021-next-genderation
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Host: R.B. Brooks, they/them, director of programs for the Midwest Institute for Sexuality and Gender Diversity
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What is Take the Last Bite?
Take the Last Bite is a direct counter to the Midwest Nice mentality— highlighting advocacy & activism by queer/trans communities in the Midwest region. Each episode unearths the often disregarded and unacknowledged contributions of queer & trans folks to social change through interviews, casual conversations and reflections on Midwest queer time, space, and place.
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Host: R.B. Brooks, they/them, director of programs for the Midwest Institute for Sexuality & Gender Diversity
Cover Art: Adrienne McCormick
Hey, hi, hello, y'all. This is RB, your bearer of all the best the Midwest has to offer, bringing you another episode of Take the Last Bite, a show where we take Midwest nice, douse it in oil, wrap it in foil, bake it in the oven, and top it off with butter and a dollop of sour cream.
On today's episode, we're revisiting an invigorating conversation from our 2021 transgender justice teach-in, where we heard from Merrique Jensen, Romeo Jackson, Codi Charles and Bishop Howard for a session called The Next Genderation: Building Liberated Futures with Queer and Trans Youth. In a moment where we have been barraged by continued attacks from legislators on queer and trans children, especially in the arenas of sports and facilities, it's important for us to revisit this one year old conversation because many of the takeaways from last year are just as vital, if not more important in this moment.
Our panelists grappled with a big question around who do we even consider youth and how we define that in our organizations, in our organizing, and in our social services. We also contended with how being young or being a youth, i.e., being innocent is not afforded equitably or proportionately across racialised lines. Overall, this conversation offers some significant guideposts for how we need to be in relationship with other young people and how we need to defer to them to be the ambassadors and the spokespeople for what they need, instead of playing savior or making decisions on their behalf without them as part of the decision making process.
The tactics of our opposition have made it very clear that they are coming after our youth because they want to ensure that trans youth do not become trans adults that don't become trans elders. And they are adamant about annihilating us, disappearing us, and ensuring that we cannot have thrush meaningful, abundant livelihoods.
I start off this conversation with our panelists asking them to answer if their life were to be turned into a movie, or a book, what is one scene in their youth that would be an absolute must in depicting their story? Their answers are filled with warmth, humor, complexity, reflection, uncertainty. But overall, they share very significant pieces of their selfs, anecdotes that are meaningful in how they have then become who they are now and how they have been shaped by family, by friends, by strangers, by boys doting on them in their childhood.
And for me, it's these moments, these warm, intimate, almost secret, special, sacred moments, that are going to be the life force of how we ensure that trans youth, however you define it, are being invited into abundance. When we share these special, sacred, simple little moments that shape who we are as people, we invite youth into conversation, into consideration to craft their own narratives, to be reflective about what has shaped them, and to be selective about not allowing the opposition to shape their understanding of who they are.
It is very simple for us to internalize the message that the opposition has spat again and again at us about how we're dysfunctional or an interruption. But when we allow queer and trans youth to be the orators and the curators and the dictators of their own story, such as what you'll hear from these four panelists, then we reclaim and maintain the power to reject the narrative that is being created for us by folks who do not want us to exist.
I'm reminded of a key question that Laverne Cox asks at the end of each of her podcast episodes, where she poses to her guest, what else is true? And for me, even in light and in the face of all of the diabolical things that our opposition has to say about us and how they have mobilized to create legislation and policy and practice against our existence, what we know is also true, what else is true, is that there are more, many more stories being crafted and curated by queer and trans youth to combat and negate and to outweigh all of the diabolical things that the opposition has to say. And we need to hold on to those and spread those and share those. In the moments where we feel discouraged by yet another legislative attack on our children, on our youths, on our young adults, on our adults, on our elders, it does not discriminate by gender. And the next genderation is going to be cast and curated by us.
And with that, grab your snacks and gather round for this magnanimous episode of Take the Last Bite.
[INTRO MUSIC PLAYING]
Why can't we be in space with hundreds of other queer and trans folks and having these necessary conversations?
When it comes to dynamics around privilege and oppression, and around identity. Well intentioned isn’t actually good enough.
How far is too far to drive for a drag show? I don’t know, we’re in Duluth right now, I would straight up go to Nebraska, probably,
If you are not vibing, or something’s not right, or also like there’s an irreparable rupture, you have absolutely every right to walk away.
Definitely going to talk about Midwest Nice and if that's as real as it wants to think it is.
Midwest nice is white aggression. That's what it is.
Here to share their insight about how to be aligned with the needs of TGQ communities are four incredible folks who have all some tie to the Midwest region as well as affiliations with projects or spaces that center youth in some way. So, really excited to invite these folks into a conversation today and want to start off right at the gate with some introductions, specifically your name, pronouns that you would like to use in this space, any orgs or project affiliations you want to bring up. And then, I want to know if someone was going to write a book or make a movie, and perhaps that person is you, right? Write a book or make a movie about your life. What is one moment from your youth that would be essential to include?
I’ll start. My name is Bishop. My pronouns are they/them. I am the program director at an organization called LYRIC, which stands for the Lavender Youth Recreation Information Center here in the Bay area. We're located in the Castro. I'm also a therapist, and if someone wrote a book or a movie about my life, one moment, I guess one appropriate moment would be coming out. I think maybe it sounds cheesy, but I think there was such a pivotal moment. Someone once told me that. So I came out right after I ended high school and someone once told me that they were like going through my Facebook pictures and any picture of me before college. They never saw me smile. And so for me, that coming out is kind of the division between those two parts of my life. So I think that would probably be the moment. And I will pass it off to Codi.
Thank you, Bishop. My name is Codi Charles. I use all pronouns. I'm here in Lawrence, Kansas working with a project called House of McCoy. The project is for queer and trans youth in the Lawrence community, and specifically serving the most marginalized within queer and trans youth, which is interesting for a nonprofit. Haus of McCoy is actually named after and dedicated to one of my main femme-tors in life, taught me a lot about living, actually. Dr. Sheltreese McCoy. And so with Haus of McCoy, we hope to honor them and live the ways that they lived and beyond policies and procedures.
Um, a movie or a book. I think at some point it would have to show up when I would pretend to be Michelle Kwan or Dominic Daw, specifically thinking about the ‘96 Olympics and you should have seen me. You couldn’t tell me nothing. I couldn’t afford no ice skating, whatever it is, I can't afford to go to the skating rink. So you kind of do what you got to do. But yeah, I was part of the magnificent ‘96 Olympics in Atlanta. They called me awesome Dawson.
Hi everyone. It's Romeo Jackson, my pronouns are they and them, affiliations that matter in this context, which are the absolute ghetto of all the affiliations, um, BYP 100, which has Black Youth Project 100. It's interesting because youth in our name means 18 to 35, which we can talk about the history of how that came to be. But we're a Black member based organization kind of hoping to impact the material conditions of Black people through policy, direct action, and leadership development stuff. Um, one moment. Because I'm sentimental this way and love my grandmother, it of course has to be about Gracie Lee Fowler because who else could it be about? At this memory, she's teaching me how to cut, pick, clean, and cook greens, and it takes, like, fucking forever. But I'm like nine or something. I'm, like, super young, and she's teaching me, like she teaches me just how to make collard greens. And it's an impactful moment for me looking back a lot because my grandmother is my definition of, like, femme, kind of unbounded by her, like, this womanhood and all that stuff. And it just feels really feminine and powerful to me to pick and cook greens. And my grandmother told me that. So that would be a moment I want included.
Hey, I am Merrique Jensen. She/her pronouns. I currently live in Seattle, but I run a Midwest trans nonbinary youth organization, focused on Missouri campus in northwest Arkansas, so the Ozarks. And we recently made a shift to specifically center and affirm trans young girls of color as well as trans non binary kids in survival mode. And we can talk more about sort of where that shift came for us as an organization, a bit. The organization is based in Kansas City, Missouri, but I've been doing LGBT work for probably about 20 years now. I started in St. Louis when I was a shelter kid myself and homeless, and I went to Chicago. So I love Chicago folks, love BYP, I love you all so much. Do such fierce work. I actually started at BYC. I helped build some of the initial programs and drop in programs there. So I did a program called Real Talk, which was a harm reduction program for trans, but not trans, just like kids, LGBT kids in survival mode. And as a lot of folks know, when we work with kids who are living on the street, are experiencing houselessness or homelessness, you get all types of kids. You get folks that aren't even LGBT identified there. And so it's really interesting to see, like, trans young girls whose boyfriends were, like, gang members in trade. And then it was like, learning facilitation skills to, like, how you intercept and work on that in ways that you don't typically see that in a white trans youth program. Right?
I'm light skinned, multiracial trans woman of color. So my dad is white, he's from the Ozarks, and my mom is Mexican. And so I have really had the opportunity too, to navigate spaces in ways that I feel like some of my sisters of color haven't, but also, are we allowed to cuss on this? No. Okay. See all the shit that white people do, right? Like, see all the ways that they play the games. And so I'm really excited to have this conversation. I've been really looking forward to this.
Oh, in film,video. I can't believe I forgot that, I'm a filmmaker, too. So it's funny. I got that there's so many, but I think that just, like, it would be really good footage to, like, have me and Boy Scouts my middle school years and, like, rural Missouri with a bunch of, like, country white boys that, like, three at least, were secretly my boyfriends. And I feel like they knew it, they just wouldn't say it. So I want to explore that more in film.
What an introduction? Hello.
I want to read and or view all of these scenes and movies and documentary, whatever manifestation they would come in. They all sound impeccable and I don't know, things that you're not seeing as much of and you definitely should. So, like, I wanted to open with just, like, what does it look like when you hone in on what is powerful and meaningful to, like, TGQ young people when they're thinking about their life stories? Because even in my framing and introduction, there's a lot of shit. Like, there's a lot of heavy stuff. There's a lot of hard stuff. And we can oftentimes get into the rut of, here's the deficit, here's the doom and gloom. And that's a big piece of it. I don't think we should set it aside necessarily. Right? But how do you hone in on the generative power of what is joyful, what is heartwarming, what feels good, and like, pursue that? Because the stuff that feels good is ideally going to upend the stuff that feels bad, I think. Right? So I appreciate y'all kind of humoring me and offering that little snippet. I love all of that so, so much, and I'm so glad to hear those anecdotes from you all.
I want to get into a bit more depth about and you all kind of cover this a little bit when talking about the organizations or projects that you're working with, is that each of you work with projects or organizations that has the word youth either in the title or somewhere kind of in the mission, vision. Right? And so I remember talking to Romeo when I was like, do you want to do this? And they were like, what do you mean by youth? And I was like, you know, that's a great question. So it felt kind of apt to maybe bring it up here a little bit is just to see, like, for y'all, what does that mean either to you or how does that flavor you or your team's approach and how you're doing the work? Right. I know, Merrique, you had recently talked about even in your intro just now, but you talked to me about how even modifying the approach of your organization caused some contention, right. So I was curious if you wanted to kick us off with just like, what does it mean to you?
Yes. Okay, so here's what happened. We're in Kansas City, Missouri, one of the epicenters of violence towards Black and brown trans women of color. I personally worked on four of those murder cases with the police, with the community as a homicide advocate. We just had a serial killer in Missouri just get caught like literally a week and a half ago. He was going through killing women engaged in sex work and trans women, mostly trans women of color. We still don't know who he's actually killed because the police don't release information. And of course, they're probably going to dead name them and label them as men.
And what I see in my scope, in my lens in the Midwest, I'm the founder of this organization, Transformations. It got founded in 2016 as a response to all of this violence and murder happening in Kansas City, Missouri. At the time, all of the organizations that were paid, staffed, were run by white cis folks. I was kind of part of a group of people that kind of helped start some new programming bringing staff of color on, specifically Black staff and at different organizations. And we created a three day leadership summit for youth and for trans women of color to talk about resiliency and healing to so much of the conversation around CDRs, like, you all should be dead or like, you go through a lot of shit talk about that. And so we were like, let's talk about how we're here. Let's talk about the ways that we're doing stuff that's actually keeping us safe and how we can foster that more.
And so we started an organization at the time that was very, like, I think, like, a lot of, like, well intentioned trans youth organization, especially in the west. It's like kind of a kumbaya of like, let's bring all the colors and people involved in all identities and like, hopefully everyone's going to get on the same page. And what we saw was that we actually, as an organization right now, we have, I think, the largest board in leadership of trans people of color in Missouri or Kansas. It's pretty fierce. We have a lot of trans people of color, trans women of color that have been part of our leadership. What we saw was that for our white folks that were leading or helping or supporting, they really were not cool with the conversation shifting to a racial justice lens. Even though that was always part of it. It was always part of the work we were doing. But when we got more and more explicit and also asking them to be like, hey, we need you to step up, hey, as like, white lead facilitators, as white trans leaders in the community, we need you to be talking about these things and not because you're like pushed and prompted to. It got a lot of pushback and retaliation.
We also saw is that when we had a general drop in group for trans and nonbinary young people, that was just kind of like a catch 22 for everyone. What we were having was we're having a lot of young white trans and nonbinary kids coming. So we're having a lot of really affirming moms from like the burbs bring their kids and be like, my eleven year old is nonbinary and is assigned female at birth and needs a safe space and does that child deserve safety? Absolutely, totally. But what we were then seeing is that trans femmes, certainly like trans girls. There were no dolls. They were not coming to the groups. And if they came, they might show up. And then the group was dominated by sort of like white trans facilitation leadership at the time. And then white trans, like Masculinity or white trans boys, and they would show up and be like, okay, with peace, this isn't for me. Deuces, like I’m out.
We were like, we need to create something separate. So we created a trans young women's group that, speaking of youth, we were like, so many of the girls can't even start to walk down the street and live their truth until they're a little older. Right? You don't see like, I don't see in Missouri or Kansas, like twelve year old Latina or Black trans girls being affirmed in their schools. Right. We start to see them when they're 16, 17 and they have a sense of autonomy and in some sense because when they start to present and identify, there's usually a threat of like being kicked out. The school is like, we're going to kick you out.
And so we were like, let's expand this idea of youth to 16 to 24 for young trans girls of color. And we were having that group going, it was thriving. And then COVID happened and shut us down. And what we learned is that from trans young girls of color, they actually love Zoom. They love being able to keep and be in their house and not have to walk down the street and worry about their makeup or worry about if they shave or not, what's going on their body hair, or worry about their hair. And there was a sense of safety that Zoom brought this group of young women that maybe for white trans kids who are used to a traditional school system and systems that say, we're going to support you, they're like wanting to be in person.
So we made a shift. And when we made that shift publicly, we really lost a lot of our white support period, like trans and cis folks supporting it. And then there was like internal conversations about me and the women of color and how we're divisive and we should just really just focus on trans issues, not race or like, yo it's always been about both. And if you didn't see that right, like, sorry to be explicit now.
So it's been really interesting, and I'm so excited to hear from Codi, because it's been really interesting to organize in the Midwest, in Missouri, right? Like, it's been interesting to organize and do this work. And I feel like right now, and I'm in Seattle, y'all, sorry, I'm in Seattle, which is, like, I feel like the epicenter of white trans eff-ery. So I'm seeing all sorts of, like, performative wokeness happen now, where, like, all the white trans, everybody's nonbinary. I'm like, everybody's nonbinary. I don't even know. I haven't even found the dolls. I'm like, Where are the girls? I asked my sisters, Where are the girls? And it's like, gender is a construct. We don't even have to be a girl. And I'm like, well, that's cute, but I went through $100,000 of stuff to get here, so where are the girls? Right? Where are we at?
And so the concept, I think, has become dominated. I feel like our community and our movement has been shifted and being led by white folks who are really policing language that's very elitist and academic. We're saying, this is how you should be. You can't say this and you can say that. I feel like the way organizing looks right now is really, like, the whiniest, fragile, white trans person possible. And I would really love to– see, I had thoughts– I would really love to just bring it back to, like, who is being killed, who is being murdered, who is being raped? Are white trans nonbinary folks having this happen to them? Absolutely. But is it happening in, like, waves? Like it is to Black trans women and other trans women of color? No. Having that real intentional focus, I think is so important, and it has gotten lost, I think, right now in this conversation. So that is what I have to say, and would love to hear from everyone else.
Yeah, I mean, period. BYP 100 started as a convening of young activists out of the University of Chicago, set off to Kathy Cohen, and then a whole series of things happened at this convening, one of which was the Trayvon murder trial veredict, where Zimmerman was acquitted for executing Trayvon, a Black baby, a youth, a child, a little one, a little human, a little person, a little cute little baby. Okay, great.
And this was also, of course, during the Obama administration. So that's kind of, like, unique about its origin as well. But youth in that context, I think, was coming from, I would describe as, like, OG Black feminists. I mean, right? Like Barbara Ramsay's there, like, these academic Black feminist heavyweights, and we are used to them, right? We're like their kids. That's where kind of 18 to 35 comes from. And that was central to Kathy Cohen's research.
But I also think for me, when I hear you, too, when I was a master student at the University of Utah. Yikes. Talk about performative white progressive careers. And I used to refer to the Black undergraduate students as like the babies or the BSU babies. And non-Black people were always like, particularly non-Black academic people because we're really concerned, we're not being paternalistic, right. With our students. And all that other good stuff was like, isn't that patronizing? And it was funny to me because I was like, no, my grandmother called me her baby until she died. I was like, 26. For me, that's a commitment to a group of people, I think. Not to get like all roped up in that, but I think when I think about youth, I think of that because 18 and 35 is a large age range.
And for me, what youth really means in the context of my work is really like anyone who is in need of someone just to hold them or a place to hold them. And that so much use that so much of us, particularly in our context with Black queer and trans, like overwhelmingly Black queer and trans people and women. We don't get to have youth. We have to grow up quickly, quote, unquote, whatever the hell that means, right? We have to take care of families. We have to navigate extreme violence, violence against us. We form communities with each other at twelve that become our families and we parent and mother each other. And so I think youth been in that context and around my own healing journey has taken on a different context as well that just feels important to point out. And so yeah, which also just reminds me that youth is relative. Like, I'm old in BYP because I'm 28, like, that's old on the older end. I'm old nowhere else, right? Like that's nowhere else. And so, yeah, that's what I'm thinking about a lot, too. It's like just how that fluctuates, okay, that's what I'm done.
I can go. Sure. In the kind of context of my organization, we serve people who are as young as twelve and as old as 24. And because in the state of California, you can consent for services at the age of twelve, especially here in California, they want to be super liberal and really everyone has autonomy and giving folks that are telling me that he was really great. Right. We also know that when you hit 24, you're not an adult. I am 30 and still feel like a youth, depending on who I'm with in the context that I am in. And it's just always really interesting, especially when we think about young people and how often young people are just kind of, our youth are seen as these folks who need the guidance or need older folks to kind of step in and support them. And it's like, just kind of like what you were saying RB the kids are all right. I said that so much. The kids are all right. They are doing great. Like these little kids out here, they got better terms than I do. They teach a niche that I don't know. I've been doing this for so long it feels like and it's like embracing kind of like the voices of those young people, which is really kind of like what is at the center of the work that I do with my organization or even in my therapy practice is really kind of what stands out. When I think about young people, I think about the voices and really the important shit that they often have to say that older folks don't want to hear.
A lot of my experiences with Haus of McCoy, which is still very new project, but a lot of what Merrique said was on point, right? Being in Kansas. Being in Kansas, but also think that this is everywhere, right? We were very strategic when we started Haus of McCoy to include the thoughts of Black, queer and trans folks, right. And in our town over here, I think a lot of the white queer and trans folks are upset that they weren't consulted and they're upset that it doesn't naturally feel like it's theirs and it's for them or they're in some kind of ownership of it. And so I find that white, queer and trans support is fleeing mostly because they have no race lens, and so it's fleeing.
And then I would say because Haus of McCoy is moving with also a race politic, it has made a lot of the white people around here quiet and defensive and fragile. And so I would say that we've done some really good work in terms of fundraising, which is a scam. This is me just really learning about fundraising and all the stuff that goes into it. Because basically all that we do is put on the event or something. And people will definitely get someone that will say, you know what, I'm getting $50 to the Haus of McCoy. And that's certainly a person that has $500,000 or 5 million, right? But it's the performance of giving, but never ending the issues, right. Even though many people have the resources for us to really start having those conversations, but they're going to afford them. And so in this town with Haus of McCoy, we got some really good money in a month that we were very proud of, but that was mostly intra community and it came from folks that don't always have a lot. I saw significant giving at $5, at $50. And that was a significant part of folks’ budget, right? And so I'm proud of that money that we raised.
But if we're being honest and if we're being truthful, I would say the bulk of the white folks with resources and money is really just ignoring us, right? We even have a newspaper here, the Lawrence Journal World, who has done no coverage of Haus of McCoy and it's the main newspaper in this community and it's been in this community for I don't know how long. But folks aren't willing to be truthful with what that is, right? That's anti Blackness, meaning that's anti trans, that's anti all sorts of things that the community does not call out. And so I mentioned community with this project because the community is so important in terms of where your project goes and if it's sustained, right? And so there's actually no doing this work without laboring in ways within the community and with people who don't want to understand anything. Then it becomes this plea or this beg, which I'm not about to do. So I'll add one more thing. If I was less queer, more cis, thinner, all of those things, this house will be full. I'll have all of the money. White people love to be a part of things that make them feel good, right?
So if I drop the race lens, all of a sudden we'll probably have tons of money fundraised and we'll have tons of the resources and things that we need in our house for our youth. And it's really knowing that and holding on to that that the fragility doesn't allow them or the way we speak or the way we hold them accountable. It doesn't allow folks to hold on to the politics that allow them to accumulate. Right? And so there's a big rub. There's a rub there in terms of whiteness and how white people participate.
But I'll also say there is a lot of Black and brown people who are playing in whiteness and who are heavily invested in whiteness and not interested in losing their bag, of money.
Yeah, well, there's also thinking about how who gets to be a youth is so racialized. Like what is it? I find the same thing in higher education. Like we say first gen to really mean like poor whites. But no one just wants to say that. No one just wants to say that. So we say first gen and it becomes coded as, and who when we say queer youth pops up in our head as the image I think is really important because usually I think it's like some conventionally attractive little gay white boy who runs away from their small town to run to the like urban center, like it's some like weird shit like that and that's not so much of who we serve or who we are.
Yeah, I was going to say I read plenty of those books and watched plenty of those movies. You can see that narrative all over the place. And what I'm thinking of too, right, like as someone who's only ever lived in the Midwest, thinking about like how attention gets drawn to youth in this context, but like other populations, if you will, when there's visible crisis without acknowledging that there's ongoing crisis or there's ongoing like things, right? I think about, you know, Romeo, you talking about BYP 100 kind of being formulated out of work in the aftermath of Trayvon, right, Rrayvon Martin. And that work and how that was a legible crisis versus the work that Maurica is talking about, where you've got 16 to 24 year old trans girls of color, right, that are having all of these daily material need, like crises of their own, but that's not legible, right? Or Codi's work with Haus of McCoy. It's not legible in the way that folks want to do the feel-good funding. Whereas we saw in Minneapolis, for example, a lot of Minnesotabased social justice type organizations saw unprecedented sums of millions, like millions of dollars plopped into their accounts, which was well beyond their wildest dreams of money, but that they literally didn't know what to do with it at that point because they're like, cool, we didn't necessarily ask for this. Now we got to reconfigure our entire game plan because we don't know what to do with this money.
Meanwhile, you have other projects and other services and other groups that, to Codi's point, right, are in this squeeze of like, do I beg or do I, like, maintain my, you know, integrity here and not do that? Where, you know, where are folks’ willingness to put resources or attention when it's not this big giant sounding alarm crisis, when we are here talking about the fact that there's ongoing daily things?
Yeah, I mean, I think it's a great question and I honestly, I hate to say this, but I do think you have to play the game a little bit. I think if you want funds for your community, you have to. And it sucks. I've been getting pushed. So I started an organization back in 2016. I'm still not the E.D. There's been a push to get me to become the executive director and I literally was like, I don't want to be it, so I don't want to have to deal with white funders like that. And then our leadership kind of reminded me that white people like that don't fund us anyways. Right?
But you do have to play the game, I think, in some sense. So for me, I think about who am I committed to? And I'm committed to young trans girls of color. And I'm trying to think, how do I get resources for them? So if I cut myself off completely, I won't be able to get them the connection for hormone replacement therapy, I won't be able to get them the connection to folks that are giving away the free makeup or doing the free wig install on this date, at this month wherever. And so it's a tricky battle because we also have some older women in our community who, they were the ones walking truths in Kansas City since they were twelve years old. They've been living their life. And so they're the real leaders of Kansas City and a few of them are like, very upset that things are not just given to them. And then when they're brought to the table, I think through their own pain and anger, it blocks them out from people hearing them.
And so it's difficult because I would like to idealize that white folks would just care and white people would just be there. But I also feel like as leaders, when we're brought into the room, we have to put some of our trauma aside for that moment. Not forever, not forever, but we have to put it aside for that moment to play the game. If we want those dollars, you got to be able to say, we got to strategize and power map and think, how do we get there? And it may not happen to dealing with that specific person, but the leaders and the trans women of color that I look to on a national level, who are successful and who are doing the work, know how to play the game. And so I just feel like it's kind of a double edged sword. I feel like it requires a lot of community support and your free time in your personal life to have you and to catch you and to take care of you, because that shit is tiring and it is draining and it is traumatizing.
Something that is standing out to me, especially about what Codi said is like this performance of giving. And even in large nonprofit organizations that have been around like this, has been around for 30 years and gets millions of dollars a year, but it's still like, it is often a performance because it comes with so many fucking restrictions that I can't spend the money. We run a housing program here where we help you get housed and they give us a large sum of money to house young people, but then I can't write checks to young people directly. I got to pay landlords or like a third party vendor where landlords don't want to take our checks because they have to sign a W9 and be responsible for those taxes and shit like that. And all of these barriers are like, they got to have a lease if I give them money or if we do stuff like that, they're like barrier after barrier. And then it's like at the end of the year, you didn't spend all your money. Well, you all didn't help us spend all our fucking money. You just gave us this money. And like, oh, we're doing great. But no, because you're just funneling money into an organization with all of these restrictions when you could be doing something like buying up some of these damn buildings that lay vacant in most of these cities, especially like the Bay, where the housing crisis is way too high for all the wealth in this city. And the people who are impacted by that, most are Black and brown young people. So you say, oh, we stand out here for Black and brown young people. But even knowing that 1% of San Francisco city budget could homelessness in the city, you'll still ain't doing it.
So it's this performance and then it's like we have a new executive director right now and I'm having conversations with her, like I cut a lot. You also I'm sorry, what the fuck am I bending over backwards for these funders and doing all this shit so that we can have this funding that goes nowhere for us and does nothing for our young people, right? But now you want me to be out here just shucking and jiving for these funders who ain't getting us nowhere. It's really ridiculous. And so it's really hard to even want to play the game to get this and do these things for your organization to support these young people, when it's like, well, I'm jumping through hoops and going away anyway.
Yeah. I'm really thinking about what Merrique said and I totally understand and hold that you got to be able to play the game for success. And I try not to play the game and that's just my decision. And again, what I talked about earlier, if I was thin, if I was more cis, if I was more of those things, the game is different, right, because you don't necessarily have to play a game. So if I was conventionally pretty even in terms of my attitude or my politics, I would already have the connections I need and they would already still be in my life and they will be reaching out asking me if I need stuff, right? But because I know that playing the game takes so much energy and I was on the brink of living in 2020, I'm not doing it anymore.
And absolutely it makes white people scared, it makes them uncomfortable, they feel threatened and they won't fight back. I guess what I'm using is just the truth, right? And if folks are not ready to be more conscious of how they're living and break their delusion, there's not a lot that I can do for that, right? And so with Haus of McCoy in general, I don't really want white money that much, right? If I had it my way, I would have Black money and I will build up those funds and be Black run, Black trans run. Right? That way white people can't have expectations, right? They can't be wanting things to happen. We're not using your funds. But I think that if, you got to be careful when you open that door to say, you know what, you can help, even though that I know that you are anti Black, right. I know that you're an anti ableist because these are the people that want to help or will help or have the resources to help. Right. You have to make a lot of, what's the word I'm looking for, almost allowances for them. And I just think that we need more.
We need all of us, right, to be going at it in different ways. But what I've learned in my time is that if you're not likable, it's going to take so much more work to get things done, but not likable. It's beyond your politics. It really has things to do with desirability politics and all those things. And so the labor, like what we talked about, is overwhelming because you're navigating so many things happening at once and you're trying not to lose yourself in it. Right. And that is a trick, that takes some work and that takes being strong and stealth in your politic, that takes very little support. Right. And for me, in my position, I feel hypervisible and unsafe because of that right. And the target. And it's just so much to have to hold and make sense of that. Again, there's no right way of doing it. There's just where you can also survive. Right. Because in my politic, I've also put my life in the center, which hasn't always been the case, and that changes my decisions and how I move. And specifically, I move much slower with Haus of McCoy because I'm not on white time, I’m on whatever time I'm on. So if Codi is not feeling well and having a depressed episode, then that meeting is getting canceled. Whatever that project was, it can be pushed back and we can move it to later because the role modeling of keeping yourself in the center for specifically Black and brown queer and trans folks is so very important.
Yeah, you know, I joked, I continue to joke around how people all of a sudden cared about Black people last summer, during the uprising, two summers ago now, lots of Black orgs got flooded with millions of dollars. And we know this country, non Black people love to watch Black people die and then respond to it. That's ongoing, right? Whether it's lynchings or like the police videos now of shootings, non Black people love that, love to watch us suffer with no concern for how it lands on us.
And I think orgs who got a lot of money during that time are in a moment to actually center joy and pleasure and happiness and rest in their work because lots of those orders got millions of unrestricted dollars as well. Right, so unrestricted funds were also flying from some heavyweight funders. Because in my experience, wanting to fund things that involve agency and fun is not sexy for people. Right? You're like, no, I just want to get these kids together and have a makeup party, but we don't want to pay for that. That's not viewed as important, that's not viewed as survival. And I think that's once again, part of the white classist notions that underlying youth work and what matters, right. Having the makeup to beat your face matters. Right. And people who don't want to fund that, it's not viewed as something that is measurable. One of the ways BYP 100 works within and around that is through membership dues. It's through resource mobilization, through chapter work, around campaigns or staffing needs and it's unperfect.
And I also think, I’m resonating with what Codi is saying around like, you got to find what you feel okay doing or feels right enough to go align with who you are because there's some brilliant resources. A lot of people who get money from these big funders, oh my girl, I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know how you got through the meeting and I never could. Right? And I think ability is really because I think Codi and I, we have very similar politics and I do more publicly or I do the most publicly and that has not restricted my ability to do lots of things right. Like it just like hasn't, there's some hatin’ ass bitches but when you're a bad bitch, that's going to happen. But overwhelmingly we're not received the same.
And I just think once again, to bring it back to youth, like that's so true about youth and my own trajectory as like a Black child who's always had a smart mouth and kind of been doing the most there was something about the way a bunch of non Black people viewed me as worthy still through that a lot of Black queer youth don't get to experience. And I think that's the missing piece, even maybe to speak directly to other Black people is around like how even our own likability is our ability, proximity to whiteness, right? Like proximity to all those things, how we can be seduced by that. And decenter actually the most marginal in our work because it's seductive. And I don't trust any person who says whiteness isn’t seductive. Capitalism isn’t seductive. I don’t know what you mean by that.
We live in this pla-, like, yeah, whiteness is seductive girl, it looks chill. I would love to be able to walk around with no concern about anything but myself and my two little white children. Like, that sounds nice, but like, you know, what are you talking anyway, so I think I parted that around the funding, the centering, how we do or don't tokenize our youth. Literally, I almost went back to 2.5, but I was talking about the joke, right? Because I was even token- okay, last piece. I was tokenized as a young queer youth of color as well for funders, right? This is through my experience with Young People For, through my experience with Campus Pride, the list goes on. Northern Illinois University, the University of Utah, I mean, we can go on, NCORE. All these places, right? All these places have tokenized me to leverage funders, right?
Because it's cute when the cute little sassy Black queer comes to the meeting and can talk the way you want. And so another question for me is like how we avoid that, right? Because telling my story could be from a place of agency, but it wasn't a lot in those contexts, right? It was a lot of like, well, because it's funder paid for you to be here. Go talk to them so the next Black can come. Okay, great.
I don't want us to move on before we miss this piece because what we didn't do is hold Black and brown queer and transphobic people accountable, right? We're talking about whiteness and folks like that which most often I'm talking about Black and brown support and things like that. I'm going to center through them in that way because laboring for white people has gotten me nowhere and broke, and depressed, and anxiety disorder, right?
And I believe that those things will happen and could happen working with Black and brown folks too. However, my love is different and my level of participation in their lives look very different than white folks. And we need to talk about these phobias within our communities because at the end of the day it is anti-Black to be anti-trans, right? And having those conversations within our community, I think it is very important. Right, and so my hopes with Haus of McCoy, even though we're in a pretty white centered place in Lawrence, Kansas is to really search for the Black and brown youth that's out there. But it's also taking the framing of putting Blackness in the center as we talk about queer and transphobia and utilizing our social media in very particular ways to where the reach is beyond this community, and the reach is specific to Black folks, right. Because I think we need to have that conversation. I think the conversation is happening, right. I think about the Dave Chapelle stuff that's happening which lets us know that there's a lot of work to be done within our communities.
But I also think about the work and the labor that is not giving to Black and brown folks in Black and brown communities, right, and so what does it mean to center them in our education? Those are the people we're pushing and poking, right? Again, white people are there. White people I have not figured out that makes them move or do anything. So I'm not betting on that. But I'm going to work with these Black and brown folks. Specifically Black folks in terms of the work that we're doing. We're going to center Black folks. And so what does it mean to have that conversation in Black homes, right? What does it mean to have that conversation with leaders and communities? What does it mean to have that conversation, I would never do this, maybe with church leaders, but still bringing the conversation to the community? I think it's actually really important right now and moving past the education of white people.
There's so many themes and so many pieces and I feel like we could have like a whole part two specifically engaging around like tactic and like calculated choices or like a lack of feeling like those choices, right? Like just the whole accumulative reality of labor that is not seen. Right. Like I think all of you all do front facing programs of some variety, and what does that look like? What is the not front facing part look like? All the calculated choices, all the networking, all the discussions, all the text messages, all the things that you're kind of referencing are stuff that is not visible, right? The conversations with exec directors about pandering or not, the conversations about whose funding is coming, like, just all of those calculated choices when it all summates to, like, needing these things. The need. Right? Bishop right? The need is there. The want is there, the survival need is there. All these things. So just like, wanting to acknowledge that there's unseen labor that is just very much unacknowledged in working with youth or being a young person doing work for Black and brown youth, or any of this constellation of work we're talking about.
And some of the other pieces that I caught that were brought up from other folks, right, is the concepts of agency and autonomy and what does choice look like? And so I did want to pull up one of the prepackaged questions, just because I really love to invoke authors. As an avid reader, what I had offered to you all ahead of this space, right, was wanting to bring up a quote from bell hooks’ book All about Love, where there's this whole section, right, where she talks about how are we, essentially teaching children the concept of love. And her definition of love is very particular, right, where it includes kind of six components beyond just like, amory and pleasure. It's respect and trust and other elements. How are we modeling and bringing children into communities or cultures of care and love, right?
And so the quote specifically that I pulled from that portion was, quote, when we love children, we acknowledge by our every action that they are not property, that they have rights, that we respect and uphold their rights. And I wanted to kind of engage with you a little bit around, A, anything that is evoked from that quote. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's read the book. So if there's other components you'd like to bring into the space, for sure, but ultimately, right, how does this relate to experience that you've had or that you will be talked about? In what ways, maybe are TGQ youth’s like agency and autonomy inhibited? Right. How does this play into what we've talked about so far? When we talk about agency and autonomy and consent, any of those elements?
I think what's coming up for me is really like, when I think about the ways that youth are expected or their expectations laid on use of how they should behave or how they should interact with adults and positions of power and respect and parents and really just kind of like, it don't matter what this young person think. I'm the parent, I'm the adult, and they have to do what I tell them to do. They got to respect me because I'm their parent. And it's like just those acts in general really just kind of demean youth into this kind of space of just being an item, right? Like, no, it don't matter how I feel because you feel disrespected. And that's all that really matters in the sense it don't matter that I actually am very harmed by the way that you said this or I am actually very uncomfortable. I actually don't understand what it is that you are trying to tell me or trying to ask me to do. But it don't matter. What I care about don't matter because you see that what I said is disrespectful. Or as, I am not bowing down to the power that is you adult, or you person in power, or even just like person at this agency, right?
And we kind of like start to really kind of pigeonhole youth as like these things that need to be saved in that anyone who does not feel or fall into that youth category and whatever you're serving is the savior and that they cannot do these things without us. When in reality, most of us in organizations or nonprofit work are gatekeepers and just like are here to open the door for young people to go through. And I just feel like even just these systems just remove that agency, the individuality or the voice from young people in general.
Yes to all of that. I don't have this fully thought out, but I'll just throw it out there. It just feels that white supremacy is anti youth. Right. And I don't know. So even thinking about the things bell hooks listed, how those things happen without addressing white supremacy right. Specifically thinking about your child having agency, right.
What we know specifically in the Black community is that a lot of that is taken away so they can survive. Right? And so if that's taken away, what stops Black children from being killed, right, if they're not following these specific rules? And so I think yeah, I don't know how you do this without white supremacy being addressed because people are still living in their delusions, right. White people don't even talk to their children about these things until it comes up in school, in the institution, in very wrong ways. Right. And so for me, I think I feel that more is aspirational and I feel like it's a grand statement, not addressing all of the roadblocks. I don't know if that makes sense. I'll think about a little more.
No, it makes sense. I think children are perhaps the most oppressed group of people in the world. Just as a group, you want to talk about no legal protection. I mean, like, you know, like children have no rights in this country. It's wild. And it's also wild that magically at 18, we turn the switch right in and so it's wild that way.
I would say mostly white people turn to switch, if you think about that.
Yes, well, and I was going to say too, around childhood that I think you were hinting this around, like Black survivability depends on Black children doing all kinds of shit, like for ourselves or with ourselves. Everybody got to go to work, come home, make yourself a snack, all these sorts of things. For me, it's still the sense of agency, even at like, a seven year old walking home from school along. There are just certain ways the things that we just I mean, we're just like poor Black people. And it wasn't actually special. I remember I got to college and I was telling people, like, me and my siblings will be home alone a lot when we were like elementary school, and that would stress them out because whatever, they couldn’t be left alone until they were like 18. It’s just whatever, something like that.
But there's something about the way that we just, if we truly love children, if we love Black queer and trans youth, I think there's a bunch of structural things that needs to happen. But at the root of it, I think it's when I started to pull a sense of agency that I can make choices and that systems have a way of shifting the barometer of what actual danger and safety is for us as we and sadly, we teach you right. To fall into that same pattern. Right. So for like, Black academics, like, not being called by a title and not getting tenure, like, the worst thing in the world, that's like, not the worst thing in the world. Like Black young queer and trans people are dying, right? Like actually not getting the job isn't the worst thing in the world. Not getting the promotion is not the worst thing in the world.
And part of that feels like my own personal work and responsibilities remind people of that. Because I think what I also hear Codi say, too, is around like, there's a way that I think a certain section of Black people in higher education have not been mobilized around this project and around support in ways too that I find concerning. And what is that about? I think it's all things we've talked about, right? Likeability, who your work centers, why you center them. It's not easily marketable and packaged and sold as a rescue of these youth in danger, when you say no, we're just trying to provide a little container for them to be themselves in both their agency. So those are the collection of random thoughts in my head at the moment.
I don't know, I just was listening to y'all talk. I feel like so much of what you're saying, I didn't want to like, water it down. I feel like you're talking about a really specific thing about Black youth, and I just wanted to give space for that.
I was going to say something earlier. It's really off topic, but I just wanted to say this. So, you know, I spent, like, almost 20 years living as, like, I self identified as this I'm going to say this word, as a faggot, right? And I still love that word.
It's a great word.
It's such a good word. But you know white people hate that word? Oh, my God.
No, they do. They do.
Okay. And actually, that's how I met folks organizing this, was RB was doing my documentary series 50 Faggots, which was following 10 self-identified effeminate gay Men in Chicago and New York and DC for four years. So longitudinal, ethnographic study. The point with that was that I remember when I was like, this little light skinned brown sissy, like, pumping up and down New York and in DC and Chicago and feeling like some of the ways that you all are talking, like, I never fit like with the man box, never fit. Like, I felt like I was masculine. Like the conversation of man-ness didn’t work for me, but I was like, I always heard that, like, trans people had to, like, hate their bodies. Like, you had to have such visceral distaste for your body, right? And I was like, you know, mostly it's fine, I'll eat it, right? It's like, that sort of thing.
And I remember having conversations with people, and especially when I got to, like, when I left Chicago. So I was in Chicago for ten years when I left Chicago, and I went back to Missouri, and I was in St. Louis for a bit and then Kansas City for a while. Conversations around race and racism and identity, like, did not hit, like, white gay ears at all. Like, it got brushed aside. It was, like, really dismissed. There was a lot of white fragility. And then I transitioned and I identified as a woman. Like, obviously I identify as a woman now. Like, if I'm not giving that, I feel like I failed.
But people listen to me more, like, so there is something about, like, having a gender presentation that is threatening. Now, I'm not going to go on a limb and say that I feel safer overall. I don't think that, but I do think that I can get into doors easier now than I could when I was like, kind of people are like, what are you like, what's going on here? What are you committed to? What have you not committed to? Right? And so I think even as organizers and us doing this work, I feel like we're so put into binaries, there is truth. And I just wanted to sort of, like, uplift you all. I feel like in some ways to say, like, I want to affirm that and say I see that because I spend a lot of time in a femme, male-esque body, and now I'm navigating in a different way.
And while, you know, the reality is that it's almost like when violence happens now, it just happens. Like, it's like you're going to get killed or you're going to get raped or going to beat up. But like, I don't feel, I feel like funders and people are way more willing to listen to me because I feel like I'm just way more conventionally attractive, and I feel like they can understand what's going on. Like, oh, you committed. Like, you did it. Right?
And so I think that's unfortunate because when we talk about our young people, so many of them are not committing to a specific binary gender, right? They are, like, on that journey, and they're going to stay on that journey. My favorite kids have always been, like, the femme, assigned male at birth person of color, in high school who's in alternative school with the Janet Jackson, like, big old 80s earring cross and the Black Converse and the Black lipstick. And they're just like, all of you suck. I'm like, oh, my God, I love that kid. Bring that kid here. That is my child. I love that child, right? I feel like so often as children are developing and going on their journey, they're going to explore all types of gender. And it's when they don't confine and I talk about this a lot as a DEI, trainer, consultant, when they're not sticking within a binary notion of gender, that's where people have real issues with it, right?
They're like, why can't you just do this? Why can't you be this or this? And so I just wanted to say, it's so interesting as organizers and as leaders here to hear you all talk about access. Because I just wanted to say, like, yeah, I see that. And I want to affirm that, like, I think for some of us on our journeys, when people can't understand what's going on or they don't agree with it, or they get pissed off at it. Because also what Codi's saying, it's not just like, white folks too, right? Like, the people we’re looking for love and romance and connection with and like, if we're looking in, like, gay communities, our queer male communities can be very toxic. Oh, my God, they can be toxic. That's a whole separate conversation. But they are so toxic. I just wanted to affirm that as well and share all those.
I wasn't sure at first because I had to step away for a second. I was like, what word are we talking about? And I was like, yes. Now I remember. There's many options and I missed a key piece of information.
Something that I'm thinking about is just the notion of protection, right? And thinking about how in most senses, there's not necessarily a need for protection because that breeds paternalism. That can breed, save your complexes. But to like Romeo's point, right? Like, if we're talking about the concept of rights in a more, like electoral politics sense, right, there's not a lot of actual protections, like things in place, codified that say, you can't do this stupid shit to young people. You can't do these things, these violent things to trans folks. You can't do these disgusting things to communities of color, right, that you cannot.
And I don't mean hate crime legislation, because that's its own messy jumble of stuff. But, like, I even, like so this whole thing, right, says Protect trans youth. And I was like, Do I wear this today? Because since I bought it, my politic has changed. And I'm like, I don't know that I mean that, but knowing, again, as I said in the beginning, that we're seeing legislative tactics in, like, a legislative policy type way, I think in that sense, there's some protections or some push that maybe applies in that arena, which is not the most important arena. I don't believe electoral politics or electoral is, like, necessarily the pathway to liberation, but, like, it's a big roadblock at the moment that needs some attention.
And I'm reminded of this journal article I read a long time ago that literally used the word it was one word, womenandchildren, in italics. Like, they clustered it as one word because it was talking about how the language around women and children is used to justify anti-trans policy, right? It's to protect women. It's to protect children. But it's not protecting trans children. It's not protecting trans women.
So it was even talking about how that's used at, like, an imperialist level. It's been used to justify warfare and missile attacks that we're trying to protect women and children in other countries. So I was really fascinated by that piece. Yes, I see we're in our private chat, but did you want to uplift what you just mentioned?
I think it's just a great time to look at if you're doing youth work, right, what frameworks are you working from? So, at this point across the board, for Transformations, we don't work with people on a collaborative, organizational level if their youth programs, projects don't work, I would say, honestly, from ideally from five frameworks. So we work from five frameworks. We work for more than that, but we work from anti oppression. Most of us would be antiracist, we also work from trauma informed care, which every white social work woman loves to talk about. So everyone can do trauma informed care and not be anti-racist, right? It's like believe survivors, except if they're like a Black gay man, right? Then no. So it's like there's specific things that have to happen in order for all of it to combine to make sense. So anti oppression, specifically antiracist, trauma informed care, positive youth development. So PYD, right? So, like, letting youth lead, create programming, design, design your logos, design what the space feels like, giving their input, have, paying them stipends for their leadership as much as possible.
And then the two for me that feel like really non-negotiable are harm reduction. So if someone is doing a program and they're doing this safer, if they're doing a safe sex or abstinence only thing. Obviously we're not working with them. If they're giving really specific messages around people who use substances and they're like don't do drugs, sort of stuff, which you can still find a lot of that in the Midwest, especially in traditional school systems, we're not working with them, right? I mean, we will let them know about our programs so they can refer in, but we're not going to collaborate with them on some sort of events if they don't work, right?
If there's judgment around young people who do sex work, we're not working with them. We have to have a lot of conversations right now in the Midwest about sex work and harm reduction around sex work and the judgements around sex work. And every little white girl is put on that poster being trafficked in the shadows. We all know the image now, she's like this, right? That's the image that they have out there about the traffic youth. It's not, frankly, a trans kid of color. We know that trans kids of color are highly disposable in this country. When we think about kids that are not protected and kept safe, it is LGBT youth of color and specifically trans nonbinary kids of color where people are like, you’re already going to hell, you're already deviant, so nobody cares what happens to you. So then we have the school to prison pipeline being built. But we also have things like these kids are literally gone and when they're gone, they're either trafficked or they're killed.
And so we saw that a lot at BYC, back in the early 2000s with what was happening with youth of color. But then the other framework that we have is transformative justice. So having a conversation explicitly about what is your relationship with law enforcement? How are you using law enforcement within your services and programs when there's a fight with kids, are you calling the police? Do you as staff know how to deescalate that without ever having police or the criminal injustice system intervene? Because we know that that is only just going to further traumatize. And we also know that systems like DFS, our DCFS, children's services in different states, is highly problematic. It's highly unsafe for trans people of color. So we're trying to constantly think about who has at least a similar lens that we can partner with. And that gets really hard in places like Missouri or Kansas. But I would encourage folks and organizers watching this to really invest, if you don't, into some harm reduction programming, into some transformative justice training.
And yeah, what I shared in the chat was just that people who work from a harm reductionist and transformative justice practice will say the criminal injustice system doesn't work. It's not going to keep trans people safe. The whole hate crimes, national hate crimes act, when I was working on the homicide cases, was a joke. We've never had somebody who's actively gone to murder trans women of color, Black trans women, like, I think maybe once or twice have they actually been prosecuted federally for a hate crime? Right? It doesn't work when it actually is LGBTQ antiviolence. That law actually doesn't go into effect most often and it's not prosecuted. So there's a lot of things that are given to us that we're sort of supposed to swallow and believe in that actually are not put into practice or play.
I'll say that I've also divested from a lot of whiteness in general and specifically organizations, and at some point even politics and politicians. I've not heard anything that was helpful to Black people in general. White people are not willing to do much. People come up with every reason in the world to not do something or they will leverage every policy and procedure to not do something. And it feels like, RB, as this legislation is coming out, I almost engage it like a game, like it's just for sport. Right. Because very rarely are any of them talking about truth. And so I'm not saying that we shouldn't be concerned with what's happening in all those particular spaces, but I am saying that we have to create too many ways. Right?
I'm thinking about as we raise money, I also know that there are Black billionaires who have been quiet, who have said nothing, who are not doing much. And so I'm also thinking about how do I engage those communities and those people? Because I already know, I mean, at the core, we already know what white people are going to say and do that's really gifts of Black and brown queer trans folks, particularly Black queer and trans folks, is that we've learned the ways that white people move to keep us safe. Which also means that whiteness is predictable and will very rarely do the right thing. And so to put so much emphasis on it, I just wonder if that just wears us out, burns us out.
Yeah. They think at a fundamental level, right? This nation is never going to care for me or the people I care about, like, just ever. And you know, I think as long as we are, and I say we as like a broader movement, focus time and resources towards reforms, I think the more harmful it is. It’s also hard, like funding and raising money. Like, you know, when you create a proposal saying like, your ultimate goal is to end the US government, which should be our goal for lots of reasons, people aren't really drawn to that. I don't really speak to people, but that's what needs to happen, right? Like, that's the simple fact, like, the nation state needs to end. Like, this is unsustainable. This is terrible for a host of reasons.
And I won't reduce it to a generational gap, that I think lots of people do reductively, but right. But I do think it's something about, like, do you believe or do you want to be a part of this democracy or not. There's something in my own research, I think about, like, why would I want to be represented in the US Government? I actually don't want that. I actually don't want a Black child to become president. Like, that's weird. Like, why do I want a Black child to become a war criminal?
So these are, like, I think, fundamental messaging work with youth that go unexamined right around all this aspirational shit. You can be the next basketball player. Actually, that child most likely can't be. And that's okay. We need other dreams, right? We need other things. But it's weird because those things, once again, don't. I'm working with them. I mean, right? Like, BYP 100 is an organization that believes in transforming systems, right? Like, we are abolitionists. Cops got to go. We have not explicitly extended that to the nation state, so I won't speak on that. But we do think cops got to go, right? The police got to go because the police don't keep us safe. Police don't keep Black queer and trans youth safe. These are things we also just know.
So I think if we need more evidence that people are going to do what they want to do is, like, we actually have all the research in the world around, like, this particular thing. Yet so many LGBT organizations refused to explicitly be abolitionist, right? Because that puts all kinds of things in danger. How do we do with all that? One time I asked Staceyann Chin, she was suggesting her daughter to do all kind of beautiful, bold shit that Black girls get in trouble for doing. And I was like, don't you feel afraid for your child? Because I was trying to figure out for myself at the time. And she was like, there's worse things in this world than dying, and there's many ways to die. And I think about that, a lot.
Like, is the work I'm doing just totally contributing to a form of death or not? And I think that's a real hard question. And, like, how we don't project our own fears and insecurities onto the youth we work with and really allow them to construct their own features and reality. Because I think we're actually going to get free by listening to children because toddlers are great. Toddlers are the best. Like, they're going to get us free if we act like toddlers, because they're unapologetic about their needs and their thoughts and their feelings. And I like that.
All of that. I think and this is from my personal experience that if we're not careful, the way the system is set up, particularly for us, for Black trans folk, is, it will have you working in every area trying to fight for your humanity, right? You'll be fighting at your job. You'll be fighting at your church. You'll be fighting at the store. You'll be fighting the government. You'll be fighting your senator. You'll be fighting your own family. You'll be fighting all those things.
And I think what's important for us to also role model and state explicitly that it is okay for you to carve out time for you to live, right? And you're not responsible to or for anyone but to live because so much of our lives is labor.
I think that is kind of like such a perfect way to kind of like, wrap up all this shit. Let kids live. Just let them live. Half the time they know what they want. They know what they need. Let kids live. Listen to them. And that's how you align yourself with queer and trans young people. Listen to them and let them tell you what they need and what they want to do and how to do it.
Look at you leading us into the taper off here. Look at you. Yes. Right? I love that. I love all of this, right? Thinking about a lot of things, but also watching the clock and wishing that we had, like, many more hours of this, because this has been majestic. But I think something that I personally learned through this pandemic especially, is that even if you're not working with children specifically appealing to adults, if that's what we're really considered in this space, because that feels fake, right? Appealing to folks with childlike inclinations, especially when they're in crisis, right? Do you need food? Do you need a break? Do you need someone to carry this for you? Right. I think in this era of grief that is related to COVID, that is related to, you know, all the other ickiness that impacts queer and trans people broadly and specifically write, like, there's a lot of pain and there's a lot of ways that folks can lift folks out of that by, again, appealing to folks’ childlike inclinations. Because sometimes you don't know how to articulate your needs and you go nonverbal. Right? So how do you input some thought around if I was working with a seven year old, not to, like, infantilize any of us, right? But, like, if someone's really going through it, if you had a seven year old that you were working with but that person is actually 27 years old, what does that seven year old need? Because at that moment, they are maybe operating in that way. And just how do we kind of think about the same ways we apply, supporting young people who maybe have less resources, tools, and agency because of the impacts of systems and figuring out what we can offer to them.
And I think there's something to be said, actually, about trans and non binary folks when we come out and we really start to present and own who we are. Is that developmentally, in some ways, we are still young. Like, we are still starting that journey. A lot of us have been stunted from really important childhood developmental lessons because we didn't get those. We didn't have, often, the first dates, we didn't have the first kisses. We weren't affirmed constantly in school for being like, you look great, you look awesome. Like, we had lots of messaging that there was something wrong with us. And so you see that play out within trans communities. You'll see someone, you'll be like, why is this, like, 45 year old trans woman dressing like she's like, why is she all in Hello Kitty gear? Like, she probably didn't have a childhood. She didn't have that fantasy. Let her live her fantasy. Okay?
So, like, that's the kind of stuff I feel like people forget, is that straight cis folks have been given the privilege to navigate and make mistakes and have communities around them support and say, have, like, life lessons taught to them by older mentors and by guidance counselors and stuff. So I feel like we just need to allow also there to be, I think most trans nonbinary people have an ugly duckling phase, have an awkward phase where, like, we come into it, we look back, we're like, that makeup was not working right or whatever. You learned how to pick what worked for you and how to sort of finesse it. And I think there's nothing more beautiful than watching a trans young person or non binary young person, like, fine tune themselves, you know, like, really own who they are and really, like, get their swag, get their strut, get their charisma, get their confidence and just own it. And that takes time. That's not going to happen overnight.
I want to do a quick shameless plug because that reminds me of the Institute did a podcast episode. It's our third episode. It's about like, queer aging and queer death. Because I don't know if this is an experience for you all, but one of my co-conspirators on the Institute team, we both had been told early on in college that once you reach 30, that's like gay death, right? And so we unpacked. Why did we hear that? Because we both grew up in different places of the Midwest region. And so then we get into kind of a deep dive into messaging that we received about life prospects. And then we have someone who's studying to be a death doula talking about how do we create communities of care about trans folks and what does it even mean to be a trans elder? So shameless plug that folks should maybe if you're interested, check out our podcast, which is called Take the Last Bite, where we do talk about some generational stuff in episode three. And there's I think we have six episodes up now, including the recording of last year's teaching, which was called The Rise of a Trans Abolitionist Vision. So if you missed out on the teach-in last year, the recording is up on the podcast episode list wherever you listen to podcasts.
So again, I could do this for hours because I love hanging out with all of you, all in general. And I don't know that I've ever been in space with more than two of you at once at the same time. But I do want to move us towards wrapping up. So I just want to make space for y'all to maybe offer a sound bite of final thought either around any parting words about how you think folks could best be in alignment with TGQ youth and how that can be done in a way that doesn't deny their agency or literally anything else you want to say for the good of this fantastic conversation.
Yeah, I'm going to leave a sort of question because that's what I do now on panels. That's just what I do now. I'm wondering what what would be possible if we truly honored the agency experience and beauty of queer and trans youth of color?
Anyone else? I think, Bishop, I saw you do one of this. You made a good ending, proclamation.
Yeah. I just want to say to people watching, donate, support everyone's work here. Use that, especially if you are not a trans person of color. Donate for real. I know that you might have paid your $5 to $25 or more potentially registration fee, but you know what? Like, pay that forward. I mean, that's the thing. Like the funding. We've heard so much conversation today about funding. So check out our work and hopefully that will get dropped and the links will get dropped. But support this work. You have those Giving Tuesdays coming up. You have your Black Friday sales. You have the Buy Black literally movement happening on Friday. So make sure that you are uplifting and supporting trans people of colors to Black trans folks in this work. So support it.
I think what I'll throw out there is let go of this notion that you have to understand in order to be helpful and move forward, right. You most likely won't understand as it has not been your experiences or narratives or your living. Right. You don't need to understand something in the moment to know that there is a problem and you are responsible to that problem. Right. And so if you're holding on to what I don't understand, this or this and this and this, ask if those things that you don't understand, how does that work with queer and trans folks dying? Right? How do you hold those things? So, you know, there should be some things that are done.
And I also give that to Black queer and trans folks. Right. You don't have to understand yourself in many ways, right. Just allow yourself to be and navigate and figure it out as you go if you have the privilege to do that. Right. Not everyone has the privilege to do that, but it gives ourselves grace. We don't have to know it all to know that something is wrong.
Right. I feel like I'm just stalling or this is what a Midwest goodbye looks like. This is what this actually is. So, again, just so much deep appreciation for all of y'all's wisdom and vulnerability just by sharing some of these personal anecdotes and stories and sharing space here. I've loved every moment of this, and I hope this was meaningful and generative for you all. I hope folks watching the live stream have gained a whole lot of information and directive about what they can do or can continue to do if they're not doing it already. Checking out all of the links of the organizations and the rad work these folks are doing. You can check out all of the Institute socials and website stuff to continue learning about the constellation of things that are happening within this ecosystem of folks here.
So I think with that, I have nothing else to say because now I'm standing in the doorway of the Midwest goodbye, and I think that is the end. So thank you all so, so much, friends.
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Our inbox is open for all of your insight, feedback, questions, boycotts, memes and other forms of written correspondence. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. This podcast is made possible by the labor and commitment of the Midwest Institute for Sexuality and Gender Diversity staff. Particular shout out to Justin, Andy and Nick for all of your support with editing, promotion and production. Our amazing and queer as fuck cover art was designed by Adrienne McCormick.