One Colorado’s Alliance-Building Caucuses tackle more than ‘homophobia’
April 2, 2012 | 12:00 pm
(Updated: February 25, 2013 | 6:37 pm)
One Colorado’s new Trans* Caucus is looking for volunteers.
The group, founded in March, invites “anyone who does not identify as cisgender or gender conforming” to join the effort to help One Colorado combat transphobia in the LGBT community as part of a now three-pronged effort to address the intersections between race, gender identity and sexual orientation.
The Trans* Caucus is being headed by One Colorado’s Northern Colorado Organizer Mac Simon, and is in the process of airing concerns to determine which issues the group will address first, said Shannon Masden, One Colorado’s Organizing Director.
“They’ve been brainstorming, and they plan to start to narrow in,” Masden said. “Eventually, we would love to have a cisgendered caucus to address how to be an ally to the trans community.”
Masden said the caucus is being organized in response to data from a broad community survey shortly after One Colorado was launched. One Colorado’s 2010 LGBT Needs Assessment Survey found notable disparities in priorities for change among key subsets of the 4,600 Coloradoans who responded.
While many respondents identified homophobia and anti-gay discrimination as a top concern, “We looked at the data by a variety of factors like age, race, and region,” One Colorado Deputy Executive Director Jess Woodrum said. “We found that for LBGT African-Americans and LGBT Latinos, the first priority was ending racism.”
Masden said, “There were several different leaders who stepped up” wanting to organize in response.
The organization held town hall meetings to discuss the disparities, and found that LGBT people of color identified racism not only in the broader culture but in the LGBT community itself.
The Needs Assessment Survey found similar concerns among transgender respondents.
One Colorado has now created three “Alliance Building Caucuses” to address the issues brought forward by the community feedback: the People of Color caucus for LGBT people of color, the White Allies for Racial Justice caucus for white LGBT people committed to ending racism, and recently, the Trans* caucus for those not identifying as cisgender or gender-conforming.
It was “To make sure One Colorado (itself) was inclusive, and expanded, to make the LGBT movement more inclusive,” Woodrum said.
Participation in the groups, which meet monthly or twice a month, requires a level of commitment and consistency.
“Right now every caucus is at a different phase” in their formation processes, Woodrum said. “Most are open to welcoming new folks, but they have to make the commitment.”
It’s part of One Colorado’s broad effort to build coalitions, Woodrum said.
“The caucus work is part of a larger project we call ‘alliance building’ that includes faith organizations, and immigration work.”
The caucuses expand on the information found in survey data and develop recommendations to influence One Colorado’s work and to also raise awareness among family, friends and the community on how to combat bias or discrimination.
“Our groups will be really critical in providing anecdotal information to accompany the data,” Woodrum said. “They’ve already been making recommendations.”
In particular, Woodrum said, the People of Color Caucus has been concerned about violence against LGBT people of color.
Last year the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reported that 70 percent of the victims of 27 documented anti-LGBT murders in the U.S. in 2010 were people of color.
The same report also found 44 percent of the victims were transgender women – including many transgender women of color – spurring widespread special efforts to address both subsets of the LGBT community.
The People of Color Caucus works closely with the White Allies Caucus, which Woodrum said has voiced concerns about the representations of LGBT people of color in media, “including in local media – Out Front, Jump and Gayzette,” Woodrum said.
At the time the White Allies Caucus made the comments, Jump was not yet re-named Pulse and Gayzette had not yet ceased printing.
“The idea is oppressed people should not have to end oppression on their own,” Woodrum said. Just as the LGBT people look to the support of straight allies to advance equality, “white allies are a key part of the work” ending racism, she said.
And at the core of that work is self-education; White Allies Caucus members attend regular training sessions in anti-racism. Five members, including Masden who co-manages the White Allies Caucus, were in Albuquerque at a conference addressing white privilege when Masden spoke to Out Front Colorado.
“It’s not a group that believes they’ve dealt with racism in themselves and now they’re working on everybody else,” Woodrum said. “They still believe they’re working on racism within themselves. The white allies are really committed to recognizing their own privilege and disrupting that.”
The best way to learn more or participate in one of the caucuses is to contact her or a caucus facilitator, Masden said.
To learn more about One Colorado’s alliance-building caucuses:
People of Color Caucus
“The People of Color (POC) caucus was formed soon after the release of One Colorado’s 2010 Needs Assessment—which showed that LGBT People of Color have different experiences, priorities, and needs than white LGBT people. Specifically, addressing racism within the LGBT community was a high priority for LGBT people of color.”
Started: January, 2011
Meets: Once a month
Contact: Cristina Aguilar, firstname.lastname@example.org or Karen Collier, email@example.com
White Allies for Racial Justice Caucus
“This Caucus was formed specifically for white LGBT people who want to talk about how to be allies to communities of color in combating racism. The group is working to create awareness of racism by addressing white privilege within the dominant Colorado LGBT culture to enact heart-centered change in themselves, their partners, and their community.”
Started: Summer 2011
Meets: Twice a month
Contact: Shannon Masden, firstname.lastname@example.org or John Ferguson, email@example.com
From One Colorado’s 2010 Needs Assessment to our report on LGBT health to national statistics and personal stories, we know that trans* Coloradans continue to experience overwhelming transphobia in their daily lives. The Trans* Caucus was started in March of 2012 and is still searching for members to help create a mission, vision, and work plan for the coming year.
Started: March 2012
Meets: Once a month
Contact: Mac Simon, firstname.lastname@example.org