Journalist discovers fourth rail of politics: The LGBT debate

JAZELLE HUNT | 6/18/2015, 7:25 a.m.
It was a typical Friday night when journalist, author and political analyst Sophia A. Nelson did what she typically does: ...
Sophia Nelson NNPA

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – It was a typical Friday night when journalist, author and political analyst Sophia A. Nelson did what she typically does: She posted a photo on her Twitter account. It wasn’t a typical photo and it did not draw a typical response.

Nelson posted a satirical photo of three injured soldiers saying, “PLEASE EXCUSE US. WE ARE ON OUR WAY TO THANK BRUCE JENNER FOR BEING SO COURAGEOUS.”

A devout Christian, Nelson called Jenner’s transition to a woman now known as Caitlyn Jenner as “detestable,” “distasteful” and “confused,” and proposed that Jenner’s Olympic medals be revoked because “Caitlyn Jenner did not earn them.”

And in case anyone missed the point, Nelson wrote, “Bottom line: Caitlyn Jenner is a man biologically and based on her DNA. No surgery can change that. Calling a man a woman is an insult.”

With that, Nelson became an active target of insults.

Among the tweeted comments: “You are absolute garbage” and “You’re disgusting, please drown.” One person called her a “c*” in a tweet that has since been deleted.

Hundreds of responses poured in over the next several days, some in support, but many sharply critical.

“The anger,” she exclaimed. “When did everybody get so angry? That’s what shocked me so much. I would ask my fellow Americans in the LGBT community – if you want people to respectfully engage with you and treat you the same, then you have to be willing to extend that to others who don’t think the way you do. We’ve got to get to a place where we can be civil in our discourse.”

Civil discourse around LGBT issues is Rev. Cedric Harmon’s work. An ordained pastor, Harmon is co-director of Many Voices, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that helps create LGBT-safe, inclusive conversations within Black churches and communities.

“I think that some of the negative backlash comes from the very sincere hurt and harm visited on trans folks every day,” he explained. “On the other hand, the transgender experience is just now getting a full public hearing. So people are coming at this with a whole lot of questions.”

Kylar W. Broadus, lawyer, educator, activist and director of the Transgender Civil Rights Project of the National LGBTQ Task Force, the nation’s oldest LGBTQ advocacy group, has also been trying to mend fences between the straight and LGBTQ community.

“Words are very harmful, particularly when you’re dealing with marginalized communities. Trans communities are hugely impacted by violence, particularly trans communities of color,” he said. “So if we allow people to say what they want, those words roll into bigger hate. And if we don’t dispel the notion immediately, it ramps up.”

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs finds that trans women of color accounted for 72 percent of all LGBTQ people murdered in 2013.

At the start of 2015, a Black trans-woman was murdered every week for six consecutive weeks. The National Center for Transgender Equality finds that almost half of all Black trans-women have been incarcerated at some point, and several groups report that the rate of suicide/suicidal thoughts and attempts among transgender people is around 40 percent.