Building Trust

The murder of Lashai Mclean highlights the best in our LGBT community – and what's lacking

While ”LGBT” has grown commonplace, the ”T” remains not quite as fully integrated into the broader community. Just as commonplace, in my own experience, is a lack of understanding among the Ls, Gs and Bs about transgender people.

I don’t write that as some great sage who’s a more enlightened member of our community. I think I still have my own considerable ways to go toward a better understanding of trans people and issues. I’m lucky, in a way, that I have a job that forces me to learn about other people. Most of the preconceptions and misguided ideas I once held have been changed by the simple act of knowing transgender people.

I say this because I hope that at this moment in time gays, lesbians and bisexuals are paying close attention to what it means to be transgender in this city and this nation.

In the aftermath of the murder of Lashai Mclean, the recurring theme that saddens me the most is that of exhaustion on the part of the advocates who’ve devoted themselves to protecting and serving those in our community who face some of the greatest risks and challenges in their daily lives.

”It makes me want to go because you get tired of hearing it,” says Transgender Health Empowerment’s Brian Watson in this week’s cover story. ”You get tired of planning funerals. You get tired of planning vigils. I was thinking today, I get tired of pulling out my Transgender Day of Remembrance candles. I hate pulling that stuff out in the middle of the summer.”

At the vigil for Mclean over the weekend, Ruby Corado of the DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) told Metro Weekly‘s Yusef Najafi, ”I’m standing here next to [transgender activist] Earline Budd and we have been through this too many times. It just gets to the point where you become numb.”

It speaks volumes about the dedication of Corado, Budd, Watson and the many others who continue to fight on for the trans community, that despite the losses they’ve never let the exhaustion or numbness overtake them. Doing community-level service and activism is always a challenge, and doubly so for a community that’s too often disenfranchised and ignored. They’re on the forefront of the battle to make sure everyone — including gays and lesbians — understand that transgender lives simply matter.

Another point that the past week has highlighted is the failure of the reorganization of the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU). As Watson points out in his interview, from the perspective of Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier there may be some organizational or bureaucratic need fulfilled by her decision to disband the GLLU and distribute its functions throughout the police force for those officers who volunteer. But from the perspective of the LGBT community that had grown to trust the GLLU as a force with the MPD that understood our concerns — a trust born in large part from the remarkable commitment of Sgt. Brett Parson — the reorganization has severely strained the relationship between our community and the police.

Given the historic lack of trust between LGBT people and the police, it’s disheartening to see the work of the GLLU undone over the past few years. It’s time for Lanier and the MPD to heed the calls to recommit to making the GLLU what it once was — and rebuild the trust and confidence our community has lost.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.

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