An Interview With Cleve Jones LGBT Icon on Compton and Beyond
Cleve Jones and David Mixner held an a Q&A session during the opening reception for the LGBT Journalist’s at this years Convention in Philadelphia that left many in the room scratching their heads wondering why they were talking about topics not normally associated with the LGBT agenda.
Ah, coalition building:)
One recurring theme talked about by both speakers was the importance of coalition building and their shared grief at losing much of their generation to Aids/HIV. Cleve Jones being involved with unions trying to introduce us to a demographic thats not usually LGBT friendly relaying his horror at seeing LGBT activist cross picket lines and exhorted those present not to do so. Both Jones and Mixner joked about being over 60 but answered questions with such youthful joy as to stir emotions and passions within everyone present, albeit not favorable from everyone.
This first class reception and dinner was held on the top floor of the Comcast tower so we had the opportunity to listen to a presentation expounding on how inclusive Comcast is, owner of NBC universal and Logo, and how they are striving to become the LGBT community’s channel of choice.
After a quick perusal of Comcast shows I couldn’t find anything highlighting transgender people in a positive way, only Rupaul on Logo who’s made his contempt of trans people public and Drag Queen Sherry Vine, again not representative of trans people
Cleve Jones, sometimes called the conscious of the Castro became a volunteer for Harvey Milk after this chance encounter with him as shown in the movie “Milk”:
I had a chance to catch up with Mr. Jones after he spoke. I asked Mr. Jones about the level of participation trans people had in the LGBT’s communities earliest uprisings. He told me “at Compton they did but not so much at Stonewall.”.
Then I asked if he felt as many trans people do, that we were being erased by mainstream media now that President Obama has raised the bar by mentioning Stonewall along with other civil rights milestones. He told me that more people did need to talk about our participation because it wasn’t just gay and lesbians, there were transsexuals and tranny’s there as well.
Jones noted I was slightly taken back by his use of the word tranny so he explained saying he knew it’s not a word to use cavalierly but said he has always had friends who identified as trannys. He said he didn’t’ think it should be thought of a bad word anymore so than ‘queer’. In the respectful context that Cleve said it, nether did I. Jones went on to say that he thinks transgender people spend way too much time and effort arguing about dichotomy and believes trans people need to take a more active role in advocating for ourselves.
He also said he didn’t like the concept of the transgender umbrella. Monika Roberts joined in the conversation then explaining to Cleve the word transgender is essential as it allows legislators to more easily identify us.
Given that trans people are still not being represented overall in media a positive light I think one major focus of ours as LGBT journalists is to remind Comcast that there desire to be ‘our’ channel can only be achieved with a fair portrayal of trans people as well as gay and lesbians.