Op-Ed: A Letter to Erin Jones From A White Genderqueer

by Mirit Markowitz

Dear Erin Jones,

Hi, this is Mirit Markowitz. I am a white genderqueer, (TRANS,) former organizer of the King County Seattle Area.

We only met twice before, so I would not be surprised if you don’t remember me. Once was at a business conference at University of Washington where I was woefully underdressed and just there to hang out with my much more accomplished friend, the other time we ran into each other at the H&M downtown.

I was buying slacks or some kind of tight men’s clothes, you had a handful of very official looking shirts and blouses. We talked briefly, introduced ourselves and you gave me your card and said: “We could use you to help with change around here, let me know if you want to.” Or something to that effect. I saved your card planning to get back to you, even though I never did. I had never had someone of any kind of official stature talk to me let alone let me know my voice mattered.

So color me surprised to read that the Stranger had deemed you transphobic. I read the reason why, put on the spot you misspoke. You wrote a beautiful and heartfelt apology. Yet, the scrutiny continues, what is going on?

Don’t get me wrong, like a member of any marginalized community, it would be nice if people would get it together and undo some of their binary thinking and paternalistic decision making for my community, especially my communities youth who are struggling in the public school system right now. It would be nice if we had safe bathrooms, the access to our own care, support, etc. Ok, said my piece on that one.

However, this whole affair is feeling deeply sticky inside. By sticky I mean racist, flat out. And when I say racism I mean as a system, not individual people, somehow creating a dynamic where ultimately we are going to have another cis white straight man as an official for our public schools. Your opponent is not being scrutinized the same way you are, plain and simple.

The truth is, and this is controversial to say, even in the trans community there is a huge divide on which kids are struggling the most in the system right now. When looking at the statistics of who needs the most attention it is overwhelmingly trans kids of color, not white transgender and gender nonconforming folks. When looking later as adults at who is the most marginalized, who is the most scrutinized, who is the most at risk physically, mentally, emotionally it is  trans women of color. When looking at the enormous murder rate in the transgender community, it is trans women of color. My community knows this.

Racism is ultimately the most violent and divisive force destroying our public education system right now, and as a result ultimately racism is most impacting my community’s youth. So let me reiterate, watching you, a black woman, get raked over the coals while your opponent somehow rises up without a dent in his reputation in a city as white and privileged as Seattle is deeply unsettling. It is promoting our communities being pitted against each other when ultimately all that will do is blow back and hurt the very same trans youth of color that most need our attention. I could write more about the intersections of transphobia and racism, but I am not an expert and I am sure it is going to be picked apart and scrutinized much in the way you have been.

The system of racism wants to convince me that a white cis man who happened to have more time to edit himself when asked questions somehow cares about my community more than you, someone who I had first hand experience in knowing how respectful you are. The system of racism wants to convince me the Stranger is on my community’s side, despite past history of publishing transphobic articles by their very own columnists. This is not justice for my community and it is certainly not justice for my community’s youth.

I am sorry I was so late to post this or to stand up for you. I accept your apology. I certainly hope you win. You have my vote.

Til We Meet Again,
Mirit Markowitz

4 thoughts on “Op-Ed: A Letter to Erin Jones From A White Genderqueer”

  1. Mirit, I don’t even know how to express how much this letter means to me! I have always sought to affirm ALL people I encounter on this journey of life, and it hurts my heart that I am being characterized as a bigot. I have learned so much and plan to continue to learn in order to best serve ALL students.

    As someone who has experienced (and continues to experience) bigotry and prejudice on a regular basis – for being Black, for being a woman – I have sought to show others grace and mercy when they make comments that are ignorant or naive. Thank you so much for showing me that same grace!

  2. Thank you Erin for getting this right the hard way. Mirit is right on to step up and reach out to work with you in a fair honest way. I recently lost a job for having comments I made offsite with a group of co-workers that I thought were ok but were not. It hurt. Pushing boundarys can sometimes be misunderstood as attacking. Human respect and empathy is perhaps the deepest combination to balance. Especially while teaching or mentoring young people. Please continue to press into tough spaces with your incredible strength and fearlessness.
    It’s worth so much more than a vote…but you have mine. No brainer.

  3. I think anytime you have a progressive community that over-compensates for past racism and automatically favors the candidate of color over equally or more qualified white candidates, you’re going to eventually see backlash. Sorry, I know it’s not PC to say it, but it just needs to be said. Chris Reykdal was just the better candidate. Period. On multiple counts, not just the LGBT issues.