Opinion btac

Published on March 28th, 2012 | by Wild Gender

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Becoming a Black Man, Being the Change: Black Transmen Advocacy Conference

By: Toi

For far too long Black transmen have dealt with limited visibility within the LGBT community. There are a real lack of services geared toward this marginalized group despite obvious disproportionate amounts of health and economic disparity. Noticing a real need for a space where Black transmen could come together, feel empowered, and get much needed services, Carter Brown founded Black Transmen Incorporated (BTMI) in 2009.

Brown states that before BTMI he was mostly stealth, or intentionally not out and visible as a transman. He says that there was a national community of Black transmen but not a local community in Dallas.

BTMI set up a facebook group linking Black transmen locally, nationally and internationally and when it continued to proliferate, it became clear that it was time for everyone to meet in person. But it couldn’t just be any type of meeting. The meeting had to have a message, it needed to be a conference that empowered its audience. A conference complete with mentors and pioneers, medical professionals, artists, religious leaders, and much more. At this moment of revelation, the first annual Black Transmen Advocacy Conference was born. The First Annual Black Transmen Advocacy Conference and Dinner will take place March 29th- April 1st, 2012 at the Dallas Marriot- Market Center. The theme for this year is Stepping up- Stepping Out, Men Uniting and
Impacting the World.

CEO, Carter Brown, informs us that the theme represents the fact that many Black transmen go “stealth” and are hidden or living a life of secrecy. Therefore, it is a call for Black transmen to step up and come out and say who they are. BTMI wants “transmen to be able to embrace who they are without feeling that they have to conform to societal impressions of what a man is.”

Three BTMI members graciously shared their experience with the difficulties in finding other Black transmen locally. Nicolas H., a volunteer and peer-to-peer mentor at BTMI, stated “I didn’t know there were any others like me.” He learned about BTMI when he was added to a Yahoo group and was happy to find out that there was an organization for black transmen available locally.

Micki J., a volunteer, found out about BTMI through facebook and through BTMI’s resource group. He, too, was happy to find others like him in the Dallas community.

Treach Wilson, Director of Finances for BTMI, moved from Philadelphia where there is a large Black, transmen presence in the ballroom scene and at first glance said that he wasn’t able to find his brothers, black transmen like himself. Like Micki, he found out about BTMI through facebook.

The Organization behind the conference

Black Transmen Inc. has successfully created an organization where Black transmen can come together and support each other through their journeys as transmen. Though there are other organizations specifically for transmen, most are constituted of predominantly white transmen who have a very different lived experience than Black transmen. Though many transmen are at a socioeconomic disadvantage, black transmen have been shown to have an increased amount of disparities, the least amount of access to resources, and more amounts of sexual violence against them.

BTMI, the first national non-profit organization of African American transmen solely focused on social advocacy. seeks to acknowledge and empower African American transmen by providing resources to aid in healthy female to male transitions. The resources have an emphasis on forming a complete identity, including culture, spirituality, heritage, family, health, sexual identity, employment, entrepreneurship, and kinship.

BTMI’s causes include FTM awareness, anti – bullying, transgender homelessness, transgender hunger relief, AIDS prevention, suicide prevention, domestic violence prevention, FTM surgery funding, and FTM educational scholarship & grants.

Though BTMI specifically focuses on the concerns of the African American community, their programs provide all female to male (FTM) transmen and SLGBTQIH (Straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transegender, questioning/ queer, intersex and HIV positive) individuals with the necessary tools to secure identity and equality within our society regardless of race, creed, color, religion, sexual identity or sexual expression.

Black Transmen Inc’s motto is : “One is not born a man, he becomes one. Become the change you want to see in the world.”

The organization partners with local community churches, schools, universities, and social groups to aid in their goal of awareness, advocacy and social change. They also focus on kinship and bringing members together to connect and establish bonds with people with similar sociocultural experiences who they can relate to.

The first salon or workshop of the Black Transmen Advocacy Conference, led by Justice Williams, will address “Building Strong Communities.” It comes as no surprise that it is the first on the schedule since it is at the core of Black Transmen Inc’s mission and advocacy work.

Another important and distinct aspect of BTMI is that the organization works with Black transmen to develop strong financial independence. It has been shown through organizations such as Queers for Economic Justice , TransJustice, and the National Center for Transgender Equality’s report, “Injustice at Every Turn: A Look at Black Respondents in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey” that Black transmen have one of the highest rates of unemployment and homelessnesss among many other socioeconomic disparities.

It is important for Black transmen to become educated about how to become financially empowered and how to navigate an economy that actively pushes them to the margins. Treach Wilson, a resourceful financial advisor adds,“ Being a person of color and being trans, you need to understand how to work with your finances …finances get put on the backburner because of our basic needs. We need to create a nation of men that can support themselves and who can then pass [this financial knowledge] on to the next generation.”

Mr. Wilson provides financial workshops for BTMI and the community and will be leading a salon on Saturday March 31st entitled “Building a Strong Financial Foundation.” There will also be two more workshops on Saturday related to becoming financially empowered: a workshop on “Making the Workforce Work for You” by Antywan Smith and a workshop entitled “Economics of Being a Transgender Individual” conducted by Dr. Oliver Blummer. Preceding these workshops, Mister Cris, will present on “Affording the Transition.”

The Conference:

Presenters

The conference kicks off with a keynote address from Louis Mitchell who is a minister and long-time advocate
for many disenfranchised communities. Among many other credentials, he was the first out transgender-
identified member on the board of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is a founding member of Lesbians
and Gays of African Descent for Democratic Action, a member of National Black Justice Coalition’s Leadership

Advisory Council, a member of The Fellowship’s Trans-Saints, and is a founding member of the Trans People
of Color Coalition. Mitchell was recently honored as the recipient of the 2011 Haystack Award from the
Massachusetts Conference of the UCC for his work in Social Justice and Social Ministry.

Minister Mitchell stated that after two black transmen that he knew committed suicide in 2000 and 2002, that
he wanted people not to have to do this alone and that he wanted people to help connect the dots as best as
he could. The Black Transmen Advocacy Conference was a dream come true for him and there was no way he
was not going to be present to support it.

Other presenters include: Justice Williams, Antywan Smith, CK Life’s Mr. Cris, Treach Wilson, Dr. Peter Raphael
and Dr. Oliver Blummer, Holiday Simmons, Joshua Holiday, Wives of Transmen, Antoyneo Robinson, Mercedes
Thompson, Lyle Blake and a farewell address by Carter Brown. All of those presenting, performing and assisting
with the conference are volunteering their own time and money to support and be a part of the event.

Salons and Workshops (649)

Throughout the 4 day conference there will be workshops and salons covering community building, HIV
and responsibility, transitions and affordability, financial empowerment, gender confirmation surgeries,
workplace strategies, religion, economics and much more. A full schedule can be found here: http://
retreat.blacktransmen.org/schedule.html

Friday, March 30th events to note are the keynote speech by Minister Louis Mitchell, the film screening and
discussion of “Brother Outsider,” a documentary about the life of black, queer civil rights activist Bayard Rustin
led by Louis Mitchell, and the TransManifest live talent showcase by members of the LGBT community and
allies featuring an open mic, spoken word pieces by many local andnational poets, the vocal stylings of Jurni
Rayne, stand-up comedy, a dance expression piece, and much more.

Brown goes into the history of the showcase saying it evolved from a monthly newsletter that had a portion
dedicated to the writings of black transmen. There was such an outpouring of submissions and interest that
BTMI decided to make the blogsite TransManifest- Letters of Transmen to continue to get a look into the minds
of these amazing men. From this blogsite, the talent showcase at the conference was born.

Saturday March 31st events to note are the Black T.I.E.S. Dinner Ball “An Evening of Empowerment”,
The Face of Transmen Awards ceremony – a recognition of individuals, groups and organizations who are
dedicated to social change and for those focused on equality, advocacy and empowerment.

Brown indicated that the awards are meant to express BTMI’s gratitude for people in organizations that have
given support to BTMI and the transgender community and who have tried to educate others within the
community or about the transgender community. BTMI wishes to honor those who make an effort to build
bridges between the transgender and straight or LGB community and those who seek to unify and support.
Brown says that BTMI wants to pay homage to those who have paved the way, those who have stepped up and
stepped out.

The conference concludes with a farewell address and prayer on Sunday, April 1st.

Come be a part of history!

As excitement builds and sweeps locally, nationally and internationally for the conference, BTMI is ready for
this incredible “family reunion”or homecoming, as Carter Brown expressed. Everyone is looking forward to
having the national Black transmen community and allies present throughout the four day event.

Black Transmen Incorporated personally extends an invitation to all readers to come out Saturday night to the
formal dinner and ball. He says, “Come treat yourself and eat with family and casually get to know people and
see how they love and come share in this love.” Also, come to the salons and workshops during the day if you
are able, whether you are straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or otherwise identified. It will be a great
chance for dialogue and empowerment. Come join in this amazing opportunity to expand your minds, uplift
your community, and join in the sharing of important information that will change the face of our community
as we know it. There will be resounding impact from this conference for years to come and this is only the
beginning. You definitely should come be a part of Black history, and American history in the making.

For more information about BTMI and the conference:

 

BTMI on YouTube

Website Home Page

Retreat Schedule

Online Press Release and PDF 

 

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About the Author

Wild Gender

is an online magazine and creative hub born out of gratitude for the gift of full expression. We are dedicated to creative practices that celebrate gender fluidity, identity and expression. Wild Gender prioritizes visual art, creative writing, and journalistic work by trans/gender-variant individuals who have never before been published in a public venue. Run entirely by volunteers,we are always in search of writers, thinkers, and creators hoping to participate in our growing community.



One Response to Becoming a Black Man, Being the Change: Black Transmen Advocacy Conference

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