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CNN’s Don Lemon and Transsexual Activist Ashley Love Spar Over Words

CNN’s Don Lemon and Transsexual Activist Ashley Love Spar Over Words

by Karen Ocamb on August 22, 2011

Ashley Love (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

Out CNN Anchor Don Lemon was interrupted by audience member Ashley Love at the NAACP’s LGBT town hall meeting on July 25 at the LA Convention Center when Love challenged Lemon. She considered Lemon’s exclusion of transsexuals and transgenders an insult when he said he intended the discussion of homophobia and the “gay” community to be all-inclusive.  Feminist scholar Beverly Guy-Sheftall said that people need to understand that many in the African American community don’t even know the word “transgender,” as she discovered just days earlier during a lecture at Spelman College. Civil rights icon and former NAACP Board president Julian Bond promised that next year the NAACP will be more inclusive on their LGBT panel.

One critical lesson from this exchange is how some LGBTs assume that non-LGBTs understand us more and better than perhaps they do. That students at the famous historically Black Spelman College didn’t know the word “transgender” in 2011 is shocking and speaks volumes as to how much education the LGBT community must undertake. This is simultaneously a terrific reason why the California FAIR Education Act is needed – and a scary sign of how that lack of knowledge could lead to misunderstanding and defeat at the ballot box.

This video was shot and produced by Traipsing Thru Films for LGBT POV.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Lucrece August 22, 2011 at 4:45 PM

I’m not sure she won any allies in there by being recalcitrant about nomenclature.

At the same time, Lemon represents the problem in the conversation. LGBT has become token. Politically correct because inclusiveness has become another facte of public image, so now everyone uses LGBT for fear of being condemned as exclusive. As if specialization was a bad thing.

So now HRC says LGBT, but they don’t really mean it. And gay men and women say LGBT, but they don’t really mean LGBT either.

When people say gay community, they should not feel obligated to mean anything more than whom they’re talking about. When Morehouse College focuses on black males, they shouldn’t feel obligated to include all other males of historically oppressed minorities (Asian, mestizo, Native American).


lambda98 August 22, 2011 at 11:31 PM

And if he had said “queer” other people would have objected. I understand that visibility is important, but attacking someone like Lemon for not using an alphabet soup is silly. Use “sexual minorities” or some other phrase if you don’t think “gay” is appropriate.


Jeanne August 23, 2011 at 9:04 PM

“One critical lesson from this exchange is how some LGBTs assume that
non-LGBTs understand us more and better than perhaps they do.”

No, the critical lesson is that there is no such thing as “LGBTs”.  A few people dreamed this term up about 15 years ago, and they rely on clueless politically correct bloggers like Karen to keep the myth alive.  LGBT doesn’t describe reality b/c LGBs are not defined by their gender identity and Ts are not defined by their sexual orientation.  Although there may be some areas of common concern, it is not one community. 

Stop promoting a lie Karen.


Lisa August 24, 2011 at 4:11 PM

Karen, you did a poor job on this piece, sorry. You diminished what transsexual people say abou the transphobia and exclusion in the lgb”t” coalition. Lemon is not an expert, and it showed. I feel you misrepresented, almost vilified, what this transsexual activist was saying. She was right on all points. And yet you were apologizing for Lemon’s ignorance and arrogance. Many gay and lesbian people resent trans people when they speak out, obviously, you do too. Its a shame you didnt tell both sides of the story, instead, you just defended the gay community’s “right” to exclude and erase trans people. Maybe one day you will get it. Until then, I know more trans people will continue to speak out. You “gay washed” what happened, instead of addressing this woman’s valid and urgent concerns. I give this article (propaganda) a C- or D+. At least you kind of tried, yet it was a disservice to transsexual people, and just giving gays an excuse to repeat the same mistakes over and over again


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