Covering trans issues beyond Caitlyn

My name is Sharron L. Cooks; I am the owner and CEO of Making Our Lives Easier LLC, which is a consulting firm that provides quality information and resources to under-represented individuals and organizations. We are a community-based organization that engages in social, political and economic advocacy and activism, as well as community grassroots organizing.

The purpose of this letter is to address the lack of sustainable resources, media coverage and opportunities for oppressed marginalized communities such as the trans community, particularly trans women of color. In light of the recent publicity that Caitlyn Jenner has received, it has prompted me to address certain concerns I have.

First off, we at Making Our Lives Easier LLC acknowledge that there are many different ways and times that people transition. We also believe people have the right to live as they deem necessary for them to be happy and healthy. Gender and sexuality are vey diverse and respect is due to everyone. With that being said, there are a number of issues that will be examined in this open letter.

To begin, I would like to pose a question to the readers: Why is it that a person who has gained their social, political and economic role and position in society as a white male, who has been straight-identified for decades, granted the privilege of being hailed as someone who is breaking gender barriers, because all of a sudden they have decided to transition and live what is being called their “truth”?

Countless individuals have preceded Jenner, yet none has received the same respect and acceptance she has by the LGBTQ community, mainstream media, the sports industry and many other organizations and groups. To not acknowledge the race, class and wealth issues regarding the nation’s captivation with Jenner’s transition is to diminish all of the work that women who have transitioned prior to her have dealt with. Many trans women, especially trans women of color, cannot afford basic medical care, obtain sustainable and gainful employment, still face discrimination and violence and only make headlines when they have been brutally attacked and/or murdered. What does this say about our culture here in America and in the LGBTQ community — when we have young people being disowned by their families, engaging in survival sex work and living on the streets and in abandoned buildings?

Social media, television and other outlets used for publicity are failing to recognize the issues of trans people. This is my major frustration. I have nothing personal against anyone who transitions, whether it is in their adolescent years like me or many women I know, or later, like in this case at 65, as Jenner has.

Many trans women of color have struggled to obtain an income, a safe place to live, food and medical care, yet the media does not discuss these issues. Why? Many organizations designed to help trans women, especially those of color, fail to create adequate programs and resources to educate and empower trans women. Why is that? Why is it that individuals like Jenner, who have obtained such notoriety being male-identified for so long, get immediate respect and acceptance when other trans women do not, even by the LGBTQ community? What I am seeking is answers to these questions and for people to really think about how race, class, economics and socio-political status as a white, cis-gender male helped Jenner, while other trans women are neglected because they have never identified as male or benefited from male privilege.

This letter is to clarify my position as an activist and advocate for people of color, particularly trans women of color, and to inquire of the public and organizations: Why aren’t trans women of color highlighted, respected and accepted in the media as Jenner has been?