An open letter by Dana Yost regarding
the anti-transgender climate within the ICRME
From the files of an investigative report by Lynn Conway
Columnist Benjamin Paige, a member of the Board of Directors of the Board of the Imperial Court of the Rocky Mountain Empire (ICRME), recently published one of the most hideously transphobic screeds we've ever seen in the GayZette Denver.
In response to escalating criticism of Paige's column, Tom Japhet the President of the Board of ICRME e-mailed me on March 9th, expressing mere "disappointment" with that article and saying that he'd be "discussing it" with Paige.
In his e-mail, Japhet mentioned the names of several past transgender members of ICRME, using those names to support his claim that ICRME is a transfriendly organization. I'd wondered about this at the time. It seemed that Japhet was tossing out and exploiting those names, rather than letting the women speak for themselves.
On March 10, 2008, Dana Yost, a former member of the ICRME and one of the women mentioned by Japhet, courageously sent us an open letter giving a very different perspective on the ICRME. With her permission, we've posted Dana's letter below. In it she says, among other things, that:
"Based on my experiences with many of the individuals involved, I would say that Mr. Paige’s article does indeed represent the position of many people within the ICRME." - Dana Yost
The ICRME now faces quite a dilemma: They're experiencing severe difficulties in sanctioning Paige, because many of their members are similarly and openly transphobic - and actually support the kind of hideous statements made by Paige. On the other hand, if they do not remove him as a member of the Board, they'll face long-term public ridicule as a haven for transphobic bigots.
No matter what the ICRME decides to do, we feel it's important to gain insights into the nature of the organization at this point in time. Dana's letter is of great assistance in this.
Dana Yost's open letter:
From: Dana Yost
Dear Ms. Conway,
I have been following this situation with Mr. Benjamin Paige of the Gayzette and the Imperial Court of the Rocky Mountain Empire (ICRME) very closely over the last few days. It has come to my attention that the President of the Board of Directors of the ICRME, Tom Japhet, has written you a letter of response in which he names me personally as a transperson involved in the Imperial Court. I feel like I must respond as I do not feel that Mr. Japhet accurately described my past and ongoing involvement in the ICRME. I have spoken with Mr. Japhet to clarify my feelings and wish to do so in this letter as well.
I performed for many years within the GLBT community as “Coco Chanel”. Much of my involvement included charity work as an ICRME titleholder. There are a few key details that I believe were omitted from Mr. Japhet’s letter. First of all, I was given my title of Princess Royale approximately twelve years ago; many years prior to transitioning to female. I was not out as a transperson at that time. Our local organization has had a very small number of high level titleholders that have eventually transitioned after they have left the Court. To the best of my knowledge, none of them were elected to their positions while out as transgender nor did they transition while actively involved.
The part of Mr. Japhet’s letter that disturbs me the most is the characterization that I, and some of the other individuals mentioned, continue to be involved in the Court and that Mr. Paige’s article does not reflect the position of the organization or its membership. Based on my experiences with many of the individuals involved, I would say that Mr. Paige’s article does indeed represent the position of many people within the ICRME. Mr. Paige is after all on the ICRME Board of Directors. Additionally, I have been shocked and saddened by many of the unsupportive comments that I have heard from Court members over the last few days.
As far as my ongoing involvement, I have largely put active participation in the ICRME behind me. In the last few years, I have attended very few Court functions and not a single meeting. Don’t get me wrong, the Court has done and continues to do some wonderful things for the community that I have been honored to be a part of. I have developed lifelong friendships with more than a few individuals involved in the Court.
That being said, I have also encountered a very significant amount of anti-transgender sentiment within the Court and the GLBT community. As a transsexual woman, some of my most negative experiences have been with members of the Imperial Court up to and including being slapped in the face at an ICRME function. My experiences prior to my gender transition when people perceived me to be a gay man were incredibly different from my experiences now. Many people that were once kind to me can now be quite cruel.
Even recently at an ICRME function, I was told by one of the organization’s most respected members that I am “sick”, need “psychiatric help” because I am transgender, and that I have “ruined” my significant other’s life. This came from an individual that is a local icon and has received numerous awards on the Imperial Court circuit. These are the reasons why I have substantially reduced my involvement in the organization. Sadly, I know several women of transgender experience that have suffered similar harassment. My stories pale in comparison to some that I have heard recounted by others.
In my opinion, there is no place in the GLBT community for sentiments such as those expressed by Benjamin Paige. I hope that not only the local Court, but, also the International Court will take a stand in support of those of us that are transgender. That said, I wish the GLB community and the ICRME nothing but the best. I hope that they will treat this situation with the serious attention that it deserves and that we can use this as an opportunity to advance understanding. Thank you for your time.
Dana Yost a.k.a. Coco Chanel
Princess Royale 23, ICRME
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