So this is where we are. Singer Jackie Evancho performed at the Inauguration of Donald Trump in spite of repeated warnings about the danger he posed to the transgender community, including mine. She did it anyway.
This week, President Trump revoked Title IX guidelines that protected transgender children in schools from sex based discrimination. It is a horrible thing to have done, but no half-way woke person could have expected otherwise.
Jackie responded via Twitter asking the President to meet with her and her trans sister, Juliet.
— jackie evancho (@jackieevancho) February 23, 2017
Like many of you, I scoffed at this tactic. First, Jackie should actually apologize for her performance and the legitimacy it gave this President, perhaps admitting that it didn’t do a damn bit of good to stop him from rolling right over her sister. Second, sweet talking a creepy old man who has repeatedly degraded and sexually assaulted other young women is very sad. Third, this isn’t Trump. It is Bannon, Pence, et al.
But in the interest of fairness, I decided to create a list of other opportunities for Jackie to use her fame, fortune and high-profile to support the trans community.
- She can use her March 5 concert in Pittsburgh to raise the visibility of local groups doing important work. Invite them to set up tables in the Benedum lobby or on the ground floor. TransPride Pittsburgh, SisTers United, Garden of Peace, Persad Center, etc. Perhaps organize a meet and greet before or after and have the groups tabling there as well. Perfect opportunity to connect her fans with the groups fighting to protect her sister and her sister’s friends. Note: groups that center trans people, not groups that sell naming rights to cherished political legacy events. Definitely tread carefully here. There are Trumpians who lurk among the queer and trans community.
- She can donate to a very important alternative event – the queer and trans youth prom organized by Thrive, Dreams of Hope, the Warhol, etc. A lot of youth can’t afford the modest tickets, the cost to purchase clothes or find transportation. What if Jackie subsidized shuttle transportation from the outlying counties and back? Not only is it a safe event, it is a chance for youth to get connected with supports and services.
- She can spend some time with trans youth who are not living in Pine Richland and will not have the advantages that upbringing affords her friends and classmates. Spend time on the ground with young people at THRIVE meetings or at Project Silk. Go to an age appropriate ball. Hang out at the GSA at the Oakland Carnegie Library. These are her actual peers in her hometown. Spend time with them. Bring along David Highfield or Chris Potter to report about it if appropriate.
- Start a fund through The Pittsburgh Foundation to support the trans community. I believe that requires a minimum of $50,000. Name it after her sister. Let the Pgh Foundation handle the grant management, but specify that is has to be for transgender youth. Put a donation link on your website.
- Visit the younger sisters of a 24-year-old trans woman murdered in Chicago this week. Her name was Keke Collier. Jackie also has an older trans sister. Go comfort them. Help with arrangements if needed. Sing for Keke. Talk about the epidemic of violence that is systematically erasing the lives of young trans adults across this nation and speak to the families left behind. Keke never had the chances that Juliet will have. Acknowledge that and be part of a world that honors her life.
Are these really so far-fetched? Even one group (say TransPride Pgh, an umbrella group) tabling at the concert could actually have a positive impact. A phone call to Chicago to offer condolences to Keke’s family could have a positive impact. A modest donation to a local trans project could have a positive impact.
Donald Trump might take a meeting, but he isn’t going to reverse course on this policy direction to appease a singer who is already on his team. It has nothing to do with honor or respect and everything to do with appeasing the Christian base, many of whom are her fans. Jackie can swing her focus from the President to her fans and accomplish much more.
The situation with Title IX is incredibly important. My heart breaks for all of the students now thrown into chaos about their everyday experiences in school. But I know that this is just the beginning. We have to hold our allies and ourselves accountable for what we’ve wrought.
PS: I found a distant tie to the Evanchos in my family tree. That should probably surprise me, but it doesn’t. Pittsburgh is a small place.