Tag Archives: accountability

Post the Eighty-Third or On Where I Stand

The following is a bit of reflexivity that I feel I needed to own up to on my blog. I think its important that I articulate my social location because it affects what I see and where I am coming from when I write. I’ll probably repost this in my about page, as well. Enjoy!

I am a pansexual, Pagan, kinky, able-bodied, neuro-atypical trans woman of color. I am a first generation american. My mother emigrated here without documents from Colombia shortly before I was born and my father was born in Florida but raised in Puerto Rico. I was born into a working class family but have recently joined the middle class due to my mother’s employment at a bank. I suffer from major depressive disorder and I am a recovering alcoholic. I was born and raised in Boston.

I went to one of the best public high schools in Boston and got many scholarships to attend Northeastern.

I feel that I occupy a strange space within the classroom as well as in the world at large. I have been very, very fortunate. When I came out as trans, my mother did not kick me out of her home. I have a lot of educational privilege as well as class privilege. Thus, I have been able to escape much of the violence that my sisters are subjected too. I have never had to resort to survival sex work. I’ve never been homeless. I’ve never gone hungry. I’ve never been assaulted, although I have been frequently harassed. And I’ve had the time, energy and resources to pursue a college degree.

Because I have health insurance, given to me through my mother, I have been able to pay for the hormones for transition and have undergone some electrolysis. Three years into my transition, I read very well. The only ones, usually, who read me as trans are those who know what they are looking for; namely, other queers and trans people. Many of my sisters do not have that luxury.

I am also light skinned so while racism still affects me, I am treated much better than my sisters with dark skin.

My position as a queer, light skinned trans woman of color allows me to see the many ways that the various systems of power and oppression operate but my class and educational privilege allows me to mitigate the ways that they affect me. While I struggle against cissexism, racism, heterosexism etc, my middle class and educational privilege allows me some wiggle room. While it might be harder for me to get a job than a white man, I will still have the qualifications to apply. Because of my light skin and the fact that I talk “white”, folks with privileged identities are more likely to listen to me than they are to my sisters with darker skin and less access to education.

My experience is informed by my identity and my identity informs my experience. They are the two sides of the same coin. I cannot tease one out and say that one aspect of my identity as informed my experience the most. They are not separate strands of the same cord. Rather, I think that my identity and my experience are a multi-layered portrait. Its existence, and resultant beauty, comes from their unity. This is because I experience them all at the same time. The types of experiences that I have are, at times, a direct result of my identity. And my identity is a consequence of my experiences.

I think that my “purpose”, if you will, is to open the way for others like me to have their voices heard. I feel that because I’ve had the opportunity to study the work of feminist authors/philosophers/poets that have come before me, via my education, I am able to integrate their analyses into my cultural organizing. I want for other trans women of color to have a visible, articulated presence. I want to open the way for other girls like me to liberate ourselves and smash the systems that keep us oppressed. I want the radical theory, the radical vision for a new world to leave the academy and enter the hands of those who will use it to make this world a better place.

My job is not to educate or coddle white people, straight people, cisgender people. My job is not to convince would-be “allies” to “help” us. My job is not to be liked.

My job, as I see it, is to blaze a trail with poetry and art for a space for trans feminine people of color. My job is to work with other Q/TPoC and our comrades (whether straight or queer or PoC or white) to create a self-sustaining community that loves and affirms its own existence and struggles against all systems of oppression. My job is to hold people with privilege accountable. My job is to love myself and protect myself against those systems that would co-opt me, silence me and destroy me. My job is to surround myself by people who love me.

            My job is to struggle for the collective liberation of all people.

Advertisements

Post the Seventy-Seventh or On Accountability

For those of you who don’t know, I used to work for an organization called Out Youth. As you could guess, Out Youth is a queer youth organization that strives to “promote the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social well being” of queer and trans* young people. In other words, they seek to empower queer young people so that they can become leaders in their community. Out Youth is a crisis prevention organization because it gives young people the tools and community necessary to survive. It gives some young people the access to family, support and community that might not be offered at home. I know Out Youth has forever changed my life.

And it was, without a doubt, my favorite job. I got to work with amazing, inspiring young people all day long. I was constantly surrounded by a queer family that I knew had my back. I was working with some badass organizers who were working on the ground, creating safe spaces for queer young people all over Texas. I was working to empower young people to fight for the lives they wanted today and not just wait for it to “get better”. And I loved it. I would come in everyday and these young people would teach me what was really good.

Unfortunately, however, I lost that job. But it wasn’t because I was bad at my job or not meeting my goals. And it was not because the youth felt that I was oppressive or problematic and wanted me fired. I was fired for trying to hold the board of directors accountable. I was fired for organizing the young people against the board of directors. I was fired for trying to revolutionize the organization so that power was centered with the young people.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m no saint. I certainly fucked up and made mistakes. I said several things that probably would have been better heard in a private forum. I’m a hothead and my sharp tongue sometimes gets the best of me. And I have a long way to go in learning how to engage to transform. However, nothing that I has ever said have been untrue. And I was always accountable to the young people that I served.

The board of directors, however, is anything but accountable to the young people that they purport to serve. And no action displays this lack of accountability more than in their recent hiring of Aubrey Wilkerson as the new Executive Director. This is the same Aubrey who was the board chair of Out Youth. You know, the same board that hires the Executive Director (I won’t even get into how shady that is). The same Aubrey who squandered a surplus, failed to raise enough money for the organization (despite being a professional fundraiser) and made only a token effort to include young people in the decision making process. This is the same Aubrey that talked down to and misgendered many youth. The same Aubrey who fails to address racial and economic justice at Out Youth and disrespected the only staff member of color on multiple occasions.

What’s more is that the hiring committee (which only had one youth member, even though a youth run and led organization would/should have had more youth than adult members on any decision making body) didn’t even recommend Aubrey to the board for consideration. When they recommended three different people, instead of picking one of those three, the Board went back to review applications and hired Aubrey. Let me repeat that again. The board of directors hired someone that had a direct influence on the decision because they were the goddamn board chair for 4 goddamn years. They hired someone that wasn’t even recommended.

I can’t even.

Now, I don’t claim to speak for the youth. Only they can speak for themselves. But from what I understand, in my time involved in Out Youth, Aubrey has never been liked by most of the youth. I have countless stories where Aubrey’s self-importance was very off putting, especially to trans youth and youth of color. I have so many stories of youth not even knowing who Aubrey was until Lisa Rogers was fired. I have so many stories of youth not feeling heard by Aubrey.

So, not only did the board hire someone who had a stake in the decision-making process (even if he “temporarily” resigned as board chair) but they hired someone who the young people don’t even like. I see where the board might be coming from. They hope that Aubrey will raise those millions that he did at his last job. But what good does millions do if there are no youth? Because that is what this decision is going to do. Its going to push youth out of Out Youth.

What, than, does accountability look like? It looks like changing the structure of the organization so that young people have more power than the adults. It means that all decisions must have final approval by the young people. It means that we empower the young people and give them the tools to drive the organization in the direction that they choose. This is more than just asking for their input. It means integrating young people into every decision making process and giving the young people the knowledge and tools to do that. It means that the adult allies must remain allies and act in support roles only.

But most of all accountability means that we, as adult allies with adult privilege, keep our privilege in check. It means that we don’t take up to much space, that we don’t dominate conversations. It means stepping back and allowing young people to take charge. It means we don’t treat young people like children or think that they can’t handle the responsibility. Accountability means that when we fuck up, because we will, we don’t get defensive. We apologize and don’t do it again.

Accountability means that we do not recreate the systems of power and oppression that exist in society within our own organizations. Within our own families.

So I call upon the Out Youth board of directors. Be accountable to the young people that you serve. Show your willingness to work with young people by renouncing your power. Show your desire to really empower young people by restructuring the organization to give them power. Show your dedication to social justice by being just.

And young people, never forget that they are nothing with out you. There is no Out Youth without youth. El pueblo unido jamás será vencido. The people united shall never be defeated. Its time to take your organization back. Force them to be accountable to you. Its time to create something new.


Post the Twelfth or An Open Letter to the Out Youth Board of Directors

This is what you are missing

I love Out Youth. I love working there and I love the work that I do. Out Youth is important to me in ways that I cannot begin to enumerate. Most of all I love the people, the family that I have found there. From the young people that I serve and who teach me in turn to the other interns to the volunteers to the paid staff. In many ways, I feel that we are closer then any family. Certainly we have our squabbles and differences but for all that there is a true sense of love and community that I feel there. And thats because we have all been through similar struggles. Out Youth is the oasis that we find and become a part of. After wandering through a desert world that hates us and oppresses us, we find Out Youth in the midst of it all. With cool water and a place for all, its a haven where we are all safe, staff and young people alike.

And there to greet you when you arrived was Lisa Rogers.

Lisa, with her bad puns and warm heart and strong hands, with her unending energy and her undeniable passion, she was always there. With her amazing ability to inspire young people and her unbelievable commitment to Out Youth, she did everything from orient the new volunteers to write the newsletter to develop programing. She was here the earliest and left the latest.

She was always here. That is until the Out Youth Board of Directors eliminated her position and laid her off in the most disgusting of ways.

With absolute lack of professionalism she was terminated effective immediately with no notice and no chance to not only say goodbye but also to follow up with people she was to meet with and delegate tasks to those who would remain behind. But even beyond that she was treated with out humanity and she was not treated as one would treat a family member. She was not treated with the respect and dignity that you would give to a beloved elder or a badass crazy crone. And we were not consulted or asked or even given the opportunity to work on this as a community. Why?

Because the Board of Out Youth are not a part of this family.

And I wish to Goddess that they were! I want them to be a part of this community. I want them to know the family that they serve. Meet the young people that have been saved because we were here. I want them to know us! I’ve asked young people and volunteers alike if they had ever met a Board member and the answer again and again was no. How can they know what is best for this community when they don’t even know its members? How can they pretend to have executive power when they don’t know us?

They have forgotten that they work for us.

They can mouth at us that it was because of the recession and lack of funds but thats not good enough! There were other ways that this could have been done but even if there wasn’t, we still should have been consulted. We still should have been asked, “What do you think?”

So I say to you, Oh Board. We are on to you. We are on to your lack of organization and ineptitude. We are on to your pompousness and on to your self-importance.

We are on to the fact that you are not doing your job. 

I propose a call to action. It is high time that we hold the Board accountable to us. It is high time we created a culture where young people can empower themselves to be a part of the Board and give themselves voice in this organization. It is high time that the Board met us where we were at and made us a part of the decision making process. It is high time that we steered our own ship and its high time for the Board to get us the fund we need to run effectively.

Beware. For the actions you take have consequences.

And the storm is coming.