According to a press release by the Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center [MGCRC], the Board of Directors has accepted the resignation of founding member Jeff White due to a controversy surrounding some anti-trans statements made on his Facebook page during the Memorial Day weekend.
The release states, “While we greatly appreciate Jeff’s contributions to this organization and to the larger Mississippi LGBTQ+ community, we are saddened by the most recent turn of events that ultimately led to his resignation. We would like to reaffirm our commitment to freedom, fairness, respect, and equality for all in our community.”
The MGCRC states that it will remain committed to their goal of creating and fostering a cohesive LGBTQ+ community in South Mississippi and the greater state. The center is now in the process of rebooting its organization as a result of the aftermath and the Executive Director’s actions.
WXXV-TV 25 in South Mississippi reported that “The LGBTQ+ community suffered a blow today as the founder and executive director of the Rainbow Center resigned.” It goes on to say that after a week of abuse, “White has been under constant attack on social media from the very community he fought for, stemming from comments he made on Facebook about the way he identifies himself.”
In an emotional statement, Jeff said to WXXV-TV 25, “The one thing that we get taught more than anything else in this community is that you are not allowed to define a human being, by your own beliefs, by any definition in any book ever, anywhere. We define ourselves, that’s what our pride is about. That’s why we have pride in ourselves, that’s why we have pride in our community, because we stand up for ourselves and we don’t put up with this crap.”
The definition Jeff is referring to is the term cisgender, a word he was labeled during a conversation between him and a well-known trans activist.
As a point of reference, cisgender and transgender are terms derived from Latin. Cis meaning “on this side of” while Trans meaning “on the other side of,” thus anyone who is not transgender, is considered cisgender. In other words, if you are not transgender, you are cisgender, or a person who identifies with the sex they were born as.
In it’s simplest terms, Wikipedia describes Cisgender and cissexual “(often abbreviated to simply cis) as related types of gender identity where individuals’ experiences of their own gender match the sex they were assigned at birth. Sociologists Kristen Schilt and Laurel Westbrook define cisgender as a label for “individuals who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity” as a complement to transgender.”
Mississippi media has painted Jeff as the victim and the trans community as the aggressor, but taking a look at why Jeff White tended his resignation to the MGCRC tells another story, one that the local media has refused to investigate.
Jeff White is correct, “you are not allowed to define a human being, by your own beliefs, by any definition in any book ever, anywhere…,” however, during a recent conversation prior to his resignation, Jeff defined a trans woman by calling her a man and a dude, the cardinal sin of being an ally to the trans community. GLAAD constantly reports on incorrect pronoun usage in the media and has a whole section in their media guide concerning pronouns and incorrectly gendering people who are transgender. Executive Directors for every LGBTQ+ organizations nationwide should without question adhere to this principle as a base line to include the ‘T’ in your organization’s mission.
The deliberate misgendering alone by an Executive Director of a major regional state LGBTQ+ organization should be grounds for immediate termination; sadly, incorrect pronouns and gender usage were not the only factor in Jeff’s departure. Mr. White went on to label various trans women bitches, c*nts, males, trannies and dudes, again, behavior that should not be associated with the position Mr. White held, but over looked in the local media.
During the 3 day verbal attack perpetrated by Mr. White on the trans community, he called for the “death of intersex” while posting the definition of intersex trying to make the point that “Cisgender is confusing in relation to people with intersex conditions.” Mr. White never went on to explain the call for death, so that can only be left to speculation.
The exchange got so heated between him and a noted trans activist that when the community jumped in to help defend our stance on being misgendered and minimized by an organization, it ended with a threat by Jeff B. White to close down “his” organization and calling people who are transgender “fucking pompous Trans people.”
For more than 3 days, White insisted that he was not cisgender until his final “Fuck every single god damned one of you” post ended with, “There is one less cisgender person that is fighting for your rights.” Just another reminder that White is an Executive Director of an organization dedicated to LGBTQ+ issues. Jeff B. White concluded by threatening to shut down the Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center.
The MGCRC is a 501 C3 non-profit organization and an Executive Director does not have the ability to shut down an organization without board approval and it would be difficult to believe that the foundation of this specific non-profit is so weak that the Executive Director would have the final say in its closure.
In reality, it takes months to close down a 501 C3 non-profit organization including filing an intent to close with the Secretary of State office, a vote by the board, a division of assets and paying any outstanding debts with the current cash on hand required by a non-profit organization. A general announcement on Facebook that you may be seizing power and forcefully closing down a nonprofit organization is for all intents and purposes illegal.
By this time, it appeared that the board of directors for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center was already in a weakened state based on the following message outlining the stress already felt by the board members, possibly by the actions caused by the Executive Director.
On May 29th, 2015 the Board of Directors then issued a press release stating that Jeff B. White had resigned, however, over the next 24 hours, there was an alleged take over by Mr. White of their website and twitter account. Claiming that the “new leader” had never changed the passwords, Mr. White declared on Twitter that he “never hijacked” the accounts he had created and in one instance, encouraged one Twitter user, who asked about the alleged takeover and the previous Facebook remarks, to kill herself.
On the Rainbow Center’s blog section, Jeff White posted a final entry titled “Ding Dong Jeff is Gone” verbally attacking various people within the trans community. The blog was immediately taken down by the Rainbow Center and at this time, a 404 error shows in its place and all Google, Bing, and Yahoo cached pages have been deleted showing them as unavailable on the server and inaccessible through WayBackMachine.
The issue was finally resolved later in the evening when the Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center issued a tweet stating that they have regained control of their account which included blocking members of the press and those involved in the original verbal assault and installing True Twit, a Twitter service that manages and controls who can follow an account.
An anonymous source told Planet Transgender that Jeff White is prone to these types of rage’s and name calling; the source questioned his ability to be part of, or running an LGBTQ+ organization and that other LGBTQ+ organizations in the area were hesitant to work with him because of his previous behaviors.
Under and biased reporting on the resignation and its causes fall in line with the media’s representation of the trans community. Reporting a one sided story as WXXV-TV 25 ran without questioning the reason behind the resignation, while allowing Mr. White to victim blame, is poor journalism at best and WXXV-TV 25 in Mississippi has created a level of disgust in the national trans community for not delving further into the story, which is that the Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center had to separate itself from someone who no longer represented the betterment of the greater Mississippi LGBTQ+ community without damaging its reputation.
This is the second time in as number of months that the Mississippi media has incorrectly reported or violated media standards when dealing with the trans community. As reported in this publication, the Sun Herald in Biloxi Mississippi incorrectly reported the arrest of a trans woman by violating AP Style Handbook Guidelines by using an incorrect pronoun and dead naming her in their story. The Sun Herald was met with immediate backlash as a result of their poor journalistic integrity that in a later story, pronouns and preferred names for the trans woman were used.
Inaccurate media representation aside, this is what we in the trans community have known all along, that many regional LGBTQ+ organizations see us as nothing more than “men in dresses” and when pushed to explain their views, they simply go into a cisgender meltdown releasing their true feelings about people who are transgender. We are deliberately misgendered, mispronouned, legislated against, minimized, and made to feel that the T in LGBTQ+ is silent only to have people in the greater LGB community say that it’s because we were socialized as males and we miss our male privilege.
What LGBTQ+ organizations do not understand is that we were never socialized as male or female, we never attached to what was assigned to us and we are in a constant struggle to prove our existence. We as a community are attacked daily for simply existing; should this attack really be coming from non profit donor supported organizations designed to help us or are we just the new bargaining chip to toss aside in next years legislative session when the “gay agenda” will come under attack from the right in the form of Religious Freedom Bill.
Regional LGBTQ+ organizations need to fight for their viability in the future. This summer, the Supreme Court will rule in favor of marriage equality and that debate will finally come to an end and many donors have already stated that the fight is over and the need for these organizations on a regional level will no longer exist.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Rainbow Center made the right decision in accepting Mr. White’s resignation and the trans community, both locally and nationally, want to see this organization survive, grow and learn from Mr. White’s actions to create an all inclusive LGBTQ+ organization.