Organizations, agencies, groups, collectives—we all say the words, but do we actually do it?
In my personal life, I spend a lot of time thinking and acting on what it means to be accountable to the people around us, to our families and communities. I know that when I was in high school, I thought personal justice and fighting discrimination was based on making the other person pay, a kind of Batman-like vengeance that demanded any means necessary to get them to stop hurting you and the people around you. But as the years took their toll, I realized that justice is more of an accountability process, starting with changing oneself before we demand right action from others.
I’ve been working at Jer’s Vision for nearly 6 months now, and I hear the same accusation leveled again and again at us, that Jer’s Vision is transphobic and we’ve perpetuated cissexism and transphobia through our words.
I took and continue to take these accusations very seriously. I have done Gender Diversity workshops with co-op students, volunteers, YAC members, and staff—and will continue to do so. I have sat down and asked current and previous members of the organization for recommendations and am working to implement them every day.
But the accountability process is more than just making these changes; it’s about trying to regain the trust of those who have been hurt. That can only be done by showing that what was done was wrong through acknowledgment.
In that spirit, we would like to offer a public apology for all words and deeds that perpetuated cissexism and transphobia done by anyone affiliated or part of the organization. I know that I can’t personally speak or be responsible for everyone in the organization, as we are all at our own different stages of accountability. Also, this is not a plea or an expectation for forgiveness to those who have been hurt and feel like bridges cannot be rebuilt at this time or ever. Instead, what we hope to do is show that we are sincere in our efforts at working on our accountability.
When Jeremy Dias and I speak about these issues at the office, we discuss the history of Jer’s Vision and our individual struggles that brought us to the present moment. We realize we share that same fighting spirit against injustice, and acknowledge the mistakes we made along the way.
Jeremy acknowledges, “In the early years of my activism, my focus on gay men’s issues lead to an ignorance of trans rights that hurt many folks in the trans community through remarks I have made. I wish I could personally apologize to everyone I’ve hurt and offended. I commit to continuing to educate myself on trans issues while working on improving my communication skills so that I can grow as a team member in our organization.”
In the past I myself, despite the fact that I should know better as a genderqueer person, have perpetuated cissexism by misgendering, asking inappropriate questions, using out-dated terminology, and carelessly outing folks’ trans histories. I continue to educate myself and work with trans activists, elders, and youth so that I can better serve our community.
Mistakes that were mentioned above are unacceptable, and we at Jer’s Vision will do more than just apologize for them on an interpersonal level– we are and continue to be accountable for them on an institutional and community level.
Jer’s Vision has been working on trans rights in the following ways:
Internally, we’re also working on reaching out to the community so that transgender, genderqueer, transsexual, and gender variant folks, and cisgendered folks with trans histories, are included in all levels of our organization, from our Board of Directors to our volunteer base.
But is that enough? Accountability and trans inclusivity can’t be done unilaterally. If there are folks in the community who continue to feel that more should be done by Jer’s Vision to redress injustice and address trans rights and issues, please feel free to contact me personally. We want to work with you in building an anti-oppressive community where we are all included. We don’t just want to show you Jer’s Vision has changed and grown, but that working together, we can bring that change and growth to our communities.
Faye C. Estrella
The international Day of Pink (April 10, 2013)