Organization formed by local activist Carter Brown a year ago plans unprecedented national gathering at Marriott Market Center next week
For far too long, black transgender men have dealt with limited visibility within the LGBT community.
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 Inc., or BTMI, in 2011.
Brown said that before starting BTMI he was mostly stealth, or intentionally not out and visible as a transman. He said there was a national community of black transmen but not a local community here 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 Black Transmen Advocacy Conference was born.
The conference will take place March 29 through April 1 at the Dallas Marriott Market Center. The theme is “Stepping up-Stepping Out, Men Uniting and Impacting the World.”
Brown said the theme represents the fact that many black transmen go “stealth” and are hidden or living a life of secrecy. Therefore, it’s 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.”
BTMI has created an organization where black transmen can come together and support one another through their journeys as transmen.
Although there are other organizations specifically for transmen, most are for white transmen who have a very different lived experience than black transmen. Although 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 nonprofit organization of African-American transmen solely focused on social advocacy, seeks to acknowledge and empower black 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 scholarships and grants.
Though BTMI specifically focuses on the concerns of the African-American community, its programs provide all female-to-male 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.
BTMI’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.
It also focuses on kinship and bringing members together to connect and establish bonds with people with similar sociocultural experiences.
As excitement builds for the conference, BTMI is ready for this incredible “family reunion”or homecoming. Everyone is looking forward to having the national black transmen community and allies present throughout the four-day event.
Black Transmen Inc. personally extends an invitation to all readers to come out Saturday night to the formal dinner and ball.
As Brown put it: “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 on the conference or to RSVP, visit Retreat.BlackTransMen.org.
Toi Scott is a transmasculine and gender non-conforming writer and acitivist. Toi blogs about the intersections of race and gender and movement building at philosophactivist.blogspot.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 23, 2012.