Lists are, by their nature, tricky; someone or something will always be left off. If you work with the format long enough, you make your peace with it or shun lists altogether. What I’m saying is that no list is “perfect,” and that’s OK.
“The Power List” is not OK — just as it wasn’t OK last year or the year before that. Less than 24 hours after the debut of the “Trans 100,” a list that highlights positive work being done by trans men and women of all colors and classes across the country, Out published the seventh annual edition of “The Power List,” which included four people of color (Frank Ocean, RuPaul, Mark Takano, and Perez Hilton) and zero trans people. This list is framed as a showcase of gay people who are “influencing the way Americans think,” which makes its lack of diversity and trans-inclusion all the more painful. But this isn’t exactly news.
In 2011, responding to criticism of that year’s list and its lack of diversity, Out editor Aaron Hicklin wrote, “In our defense, the Power 50 is specifically designed as a ranked list of men and women with influence in mainstream society, not within the LGBT world (a very different exercise), and the list generally reflects the hierarchies of mainstream society for better or worse.” His letter concluded with the names of various queer people of color and trans folks who had appeared in the magazine recently. The 2012 edition of the “The Power List” featured four people of color (CNN correspondent Don Lemon, Anthony Romero of the ACLU, judge Bruce Harris, and Andre Banks of AllOut.org) and one trans person (Judge Victoria Kolakowski). How interesting that 2012’s edition was conspicuously expanded to include 65 people.
Listen, it is frustrating to read daily about the disenfranchisement of trans Americans or the ways in which race and class privilege continue to impact the realities of queer people of color, but I can accept that frustration as the price of living with my eyes open. What I can’t take anymore are queer people who engage in conversations about the importance of inclusiveness each year, as if it’s some annual spring rite, and then go right back to reinforcing privilege. That’s not frustrating; it’s unacceptable. Diversity is not optional, and erasure is never casual.
The Human Rights Campaign has apologized for the exclusion of transgender and immigrant rights activists from March’s Supreme Court rally. GLAAD recently announced a formal shift toward advocacy that emphasizes trans issues as well as causes that are important to gays and lesbians. Of course, rhetoric isn’t the test of transformation, only time. As Out magazine seems hell-bent on demonstrating, it’s one thing to write a polite statement about not meaning to exclude anyone and quite another to write a polite statement year after year while continuing to exclude.
Any organization or publication that purports to represent the LGBT community while continuing to ignore the full spectrum of the community has its heart set on irrelevancy. What’s more, when we, as queer people, passively accept transphobia and racism, we all but justify bigotry from the straight people we are working so hard to change.
If anything, We Happy Trans’ Jen Richards and Antonia D’orsay, executive director of This Is How, both of whom founded “Trans 100,” should be recognized as “power players.” If the “Trans 100” is any indication, these trans women are creating the kind of power we all so desperately need.
To borrow a phrase from RuPaul, who just barely made the list at the No. 50 spot, if LGBT people can’t love ourselves, how in the hell are we going to love anybody else?
Dear readers, please use the comments section to highlight LGBT folks who, for whatever reason, haven’t made “The Power List.” No one is starving for reminders of the role wealth and privilege play in influencing culture and perception. Our hunger is for a kind of LGBT community that does nothing more than live up to its full name.