Empowered. Supported. Resilience. Resistance.
On July 25, 2012, FIERCE organized a Call to Action asking supporters to submit letters to the New York Times demanding Dignity for Transwomen of Color and LGBTQ Youth in their reporting. The Call to Action was organized in response to a July 24th article: “For Money or Just to Strut, Living Out Loud on a Transgender Stage.”
The article, which relied on and fed into harmful, negative stereotypes of young transwomen of color, neglected to highlight or consider the root causes of why LGBTQ youth are disproportionately on the streets and finding it harder to maintain access and ownership over this historical safe space.
Over the weeks following the action, we received dozens of letters that were not only powerful, but also the acts of solidarity were incredibly moving for all of us here at FIERCE! Seeing your words and feeling the support of so many allies, we saw the depth and strength of our struggle against transphobia, homophobia, gentrification, and criminalization of LGBTQ youth of color, especially transwomen of color.
As far as we know, theTimesdid not publish the letters. In an effort to empower LGBTQ youth and the communities that support LGBTQ youth-led organizing in NYC and elsewhere, we wanted to share a small collection of these letters with you.
In love and struggle,
Everyday transgender youth go to Christopher Street to build community, access lifesaving services, and organize to address issues like homelessness and criminalization.
You wouldn’t know this from Sarah Nir’s article “For money….transgender stage,” (7/25/12). Nir reduces Christopher St., the heart of the gay liberation movement, to a “scene” on a “nocturnal” “stage” where transwomen are little more than an “exotic flock of parakeets.”
Everyday trans youth of color are harassed and profiled based on the same stereotypes of being hyper-sexualized troublemakers that Nir perpetuates in her article. This sensationalizing has real costs, especially in a neighborhood where nearly 80% of stop and frisk happens to African-American and Latinos.
It’s time that the NY Times start reporting on the realities that trans youth face and the work being done daily to fight for safety and rights. Whether in our homes, in our streets or in our newspapers, trans and queer people have a right to dignity and respect.
Jai Dulani, Co-Director
Framing young transgender women of color as drama-loving sex workers relies on outdated stereotypes and ignores the challenges they face— lack of access to services, jobs, and housing while at the same time being over policed. This elides the often difficult choices they make to survive.
The article fails to question why Christopher Street is so heavily populated by young trans women of color. Every night there are at least 4,000 homeless youth in NYC, nearly 40% of whom self-identify as LGBT. Despite this grave need, both the city and state routinely propose sweeping cuts to the resources available to homeless youth.
As lawyers serving these women, we see the devastating impact the intersections between gender, sexuality, race, class, and immigration status have on them. There is a way to talk about the problems faced by young trans and queer people without making the youth themselves into the problem.
Megan Stuart, Esq. and Lee Strock, Esq.
on behalf of:
Peter Cicchino Youth Project
Urban Justice Center
New York, NY
As I read your article in 7/24 NYT on Transgender youth in the West Village, I thought I was reading the NY Post. Your sensationalism of a painful situation was irresponsible and damaging. You made youth-at-risk sound like they were engaged in a fun-loving, free-for-all.
Perhaps if Ms. Maslin had done her homework, she would have learned the deeply heart-breaking situation that puts these kids on the street. I am talking about that on any given day, there are almost 4,000 homeless youth in New York City. It is estimated that at least 40% of New York City’s homeless youth are LGBTQ, and an uncounted number “couch surf” or are marginally-housed. LGBTQ youth of color in New York City are often bullied and ostracized within their homes, schools, and communities for a desire to be true to who they are.
Be the Times. Report this story.
Reverend Mark Erson
St. John’s Lutheran Church
West Village, New York, NY
Shame on The New York Times for Publishing A Stereotype-Ridden Article on LGBT Youth of Color
When Sarah Maslin Nir wrote “For Money or Just to Strut, Living Out Loud on a Transgender Stage,” she willfully ignored the reality of LGBTQ youth of color who live and gather in the West Village. The trope “flocks of exotic — if risqué — parakeets, sometimes herded along by silently flashing police patrol cars that stalk the street,” masks the reality of human beings who suffer violence and harassment at the hands of sexist, racist, homophobic, and transphobic New Yorkers, the NYPD, and media outlets like the Times every day. With minimal research, Nir would have discovered amazing organizations like FIERCE! that support and empower the subjects of this article. I hope to never see such hate-filled images and careless writing in the Times again.
Forest Hills, NY
You should have done better
I was disappointed to read the article about Christopher Street that appeared in the Times on July 24, 2012. While you gave a passing nod to the historic nature of the area, you diluted the true significance of this neighborhood with your trite references to “red-pleather boleros” and your sensationalistic allusions to “those who prowl Christopher.” The real story is much deeper and richer. You could have reported on the longtime struggles of trans and LGB youth to preserve the pier as public space. You could have asked your interviewees, not only about the spats on the pier, but about the community and solidarity that exists alongside all that. You could have emphasized the reasons the pier is a haven: the hate crimes, racial profiling, sexual harassment, and stereotyping of every well-dressed transgender woman of color as a sex worker. Most importantly, you could have highlighted the brave and bold resistance to these injustices. Instead, you chose to feature “brawls” and “catcalls” between trans women with “brightly painted nails.” Such a choice is an echo of the very transphobia that people flock to the piers to escape.
Avy A. Skolnik
New York, NY
This article was highly misleading in its lack of context. The majority of these young people are making difficult choices on a daily basis concerning where to sleep, where to eat, and how to sustain their lives. 40% of New York City’s homeless youth are LGBTQ, and even more are marginally housed. These youth face bullying within their schools, homes, and streets. Even with a high school diploma and a non-discrimination statute, transgender youth experience employment discrimination simply for their identities.
Instead of allowing exploitative articles on the survival of our youth, why not report on how the New York State Legislature has slashed funding for homeless youth services by almost 70%? The cost of such poor reporting further dehumanizes LGBTQ youth of color and creates a twisted justification for the policing and criminalization of young queer and trans people of color in the West Village.
CUNY School of Law, 2013 Candidate for Juris Doctorate
New York, NY
Dear New York Times Editor,
The article “For Money or Just to Strut, Living Out Loud on a Transgender Stage” July 25, emphasizes a pageantry of dress and the mystique of criminality, picturing gender-variant and racialized subjects in primitivist terms.
This rhetoric dehumanizes the activity of survival and informal kinship. The article downplays the dismantling of affordable housing and free public space, gendered evictions from homes, school, employment, for a jaunty picture of people on the edge. Already the police target LGBTQ people of color and youth, through stop-and-frisks, false arrests, security towers and other appellations of control. Indeed, queer youth contend with extraordinary structural – and now, metaphorical – violence, while studies show that New York University raised the West Village’s decibels more than these purportedly rowdy young queers.
The article cites the history of Stonewall but neglects its crux: drag queens explicitly fought the policing of gender and sexuality in the West Village. Clearly the capacity for both liberation and policing persist – but it’s disappointing to see the Times justify the latter.
New York, NY
Dear Times staff,
You are, at the very least, in serious need of LGBTQ cultural competency training. On May 12th, the Times published an article about an apartment fire that caused the tragic death of Lorena Escalera, a young transwoman. Lorena died a frightening death and yet, nearly the entire article was devoted to sexualized descriptions of Lorena’s appearance and rumors about her personal life.
On July 24th, the Times published another dehumanizing article riddled with damaging stereotypes about transwomen of color. The West Village is, historically, a safe space for LGBTQ youth of color. Yet in recent years, gentrification and increased police presence have led to increased racist, transphobic, and homophobic violence. Your article does nothing to address these issues, but instead dehumanizes transwomen and LGBTQ youth of color. Transwomen do not exist for the entertainment or enlightenment of the ignorant. Get educated.
an angry ally
New York, NY
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