Itâ€™s a good thing Andy Marra likes to keep busy. Itâ€™s not just that the Korean American transgender activist is Gay And Lesbian Alliance Against Defamationâ€™s Asian-Pacific Islander Media Fellow, or that sheâ€™s served on the boards of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA). Itâ€™s that the 20-year-old transgender womanâ€”pictured here accepting a 2005 Creating Change Award from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Forceâ€”manages to do all of this while attending school full time; pursuing both a political science bachelor degree and a masters in public administration.
â€śI like being busy, and I like to do things that are not only significant for the community but also significant for my personal growth.â€ť Marra says, â€śAnd I find the work I do with GLAAD and my time spent on the boards of NTG and NYAGRA a really enriching way to [do both those things].â€ť
In her work for GLAAD, Marra tracks how the media portrays the Asian Pacific Islander LGBT community and, she admits, thereâ€™s a lot to be disappointed about in that coverage.
â€śItâ€™s extremely hard to pinpoint one particular greatest offense or offensive thing in the media or in the community.â€ť Marra says, adding that besides battling stereotypes, one of the biggest issues for queer Asian and Pacific Islanders is just getting noticed.
â€śTheyâ€™re invisible in not only the mainstream media but alsoâ€”letâ€™s be totally honestâ€”the LGBT press as well.â€ť
GLAADâ€™s work centers around ensuring fair accurate and inclusive representations of LGBT people as a means of combating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
â€śWeâ€™re in the business of changing hearts and minds,â€ť Marra says of her work with GLAAD. â€śBy sharing these very complex and interesting stories that intersect with race and sexual orientation and gender identity.â€ť
Pointing to a recent episode of American Idolâ€”in which a young male contestant of feminine appearance was subjected to taunts by the judges, and edited in refrains of â€śThe Crying Gameâ€ť ushered the contestant off the stageâ€” Marra argues that gender harassment effects more than just the transgender community.
â€śEffeminate gay men are harassed and discriminated against, you have butch lesbian women that are also harassed and discriminated against. â€¦. People who donâ€™t necessarily portray what has been the gender norm, they are harassed and discriminated against. So this isnâ€™t necessarily just a transgender issue or a lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender issue. This is an issue for everyone to take notice of.â€ť
Marra argues, gay, lesbian and trans communities of color continue to struggle to have their issues recognized. Marra calls the diversity within the LGBT community a â€śbeautiful thing,â€ť and argues that the evolving demographics of the queer movement illustrate the ways that sexual orientation intersects with other issues like race and gender identity and class. Those points of intersections can serve to illuminate areas of un-addressed needs within the community.
For example, Marra believes that more queer organizations need to offer information, resources, and activities in other languages for those who donâ€™t speak English as their primary language. In addition, trans people of color, Mara says, â€śneed economic justice, we need access to health care.â€ť
Marra hopes her activist work will help LGBT community leaders to embrace people of multiple identities (race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation), as the center, rather than the margin of the movement.
â€śWe have, I think, a very vibrant and rich culture and history,â€ť Marra insists. â€śWe were there when Stonewall started, we were there when [the pre-Stonewall drag queen riot at San Franciscoâ€™s] Comptonâ€™s cafĂ© happened, and weâ€™re not going anywhere else. Itâ€™s just a mater of recognizing the contributions that the LGBT communities of color have made in the pastâ€”and that they can contribute to the future. And how that will ultimately, I believe, be the largest contributing factor to our success in gaining equality in this country.â€ť
Trans writer Jacob Anderson-Minshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.