This post I put up on Monday has gotten a lot of traction. As of Tuesday afternoon, it has been read almost 400 times and has reached more 2,300 people on Facebook. It maybe the most popular post ever on the Eagle.
The reason is both good and bad. First, it’s about a first for an event that is one of the largest primarily LGBTQ events held in Chicago. Only the Pride Parade and Northalsted Market Days have more people. Jack Thompson is the first transgender man who is also a person of color to win the title. It’s great that he won.
But also bad because one of the people sharing it also attached his own transphobic comment saying that Jack is not actually a man. This has started a storm in the leather community, which has been struggling for years between people who are wanting to see more of this kind of inclusivity versus those who want to take it back to a mythical pre-AIDS golden age. It flared up when the first trans International Mr. Leather, Tyler McCormick, won in 2010. It has flared up repeatedly since and in a firestorm this week. The people who want to move forward are winning in the long run, but those who want to go back to a community that only existed in their mind are still fighting to stop that change.
It is, in a way, a microcosm of the larger LGBTQ community. Transgender men and women, especially those of color, still fight to live while the most visible parts of the community seem to think the fight was over once we got marriage equality. It wasn’t.
The person who triggered this week’s firestorm commented on the post itself. He said it didn’t take the opinions of others into account. The post is the most basic possible kind of journalism. A who, what, where and when. No editorializing. The only possible opinion you could get from it is that I felt it was news that needed to be on the Eagle. A transgender man being a man is a fact, not opinion. Same with transgender women. They exist. They are the gender they identify. This is not a debate.
This blog is usually aimed at the larger LGBTQ and social justice community, not just leather and kink. And I generally don’t do a lot of editorializing. However, especially since it was a post from this site that was used with transphobic comments, I felt a need to make sure that people knew where the site stands.
The Illinois Eagle has and always will stand behind Jack Thompson and any other transgender man or woman. It will always work to support those who have been marginalized, whether it’s for gender, race, ethnicity, religion or orientation. Period. I will not miss anyone who leaves because they disagree with that.
I’m a white, cisgender guy in early middle age. The only parts of who I am that are marginalized are my orientation (very gay) and my mental health (chronic depression), both of which I can hide. Supporting others with this blog is the very minimum of what I can and should do.
Because mental and emotional issues from the past few years, there is a limit to how much I can do. I’m not good with crowds, travel very little, and suck at public speaking. But what I can do is make sure others have a platform and boost the signal as much as I can.
I will try, as much as I have time, energy and bandwidth, to hold up and support any marginalized community, especially those in areas where just existing takes bravery. I may drop the ball sometimes. I will make mistakes. But I will work to learn from them and improve what I can do.
Any and all organizations focused on LGBTQ, women, people of color and any marginalized communities are welcome to send announcement and news to this blog. Put it through the submission page or email it to email@example.com.
I chose the flag that is at the top of this post for a reason. I know it will probably piss off people. I’m not worried about that. This flag is as good an example as I can find right now that shows who I and this blog support. If that is a problem for anyone, trust me, you won’t be missed.
Tom Wray is the founder and writer of the Illinois Eagle. He lives in Chicago with his cat.