Updated: Oct. 13, 2014 at 11:56 a.m.
Wearing a veil and dress inspired by the African queens she admired as a young girl, Dane Edidi spoke to an intimate crowd of students during the first campus event headlined by a transgender black woman in recent memory.
Growing up, Edidi said spirituality pervaded her household. The Baltimore native has a Christian Evangelist mother, of Cuban and Native American descent, and a Nigerian Muslim father. Her childhood was filled with visits to the halls of the wax museums that her grandmother curated, where she said seeing images of African queens there helped her love herself.
“You are all beautiful,” she told the group of students. “How did I learn to love being black in a world where I’m taught being black isn’t ‘good’? I learned to love my blackness by looking at my history of pre-colonization.”
The Multicultural Student Services Center brought the priestess, cabaret singer, writer and poet to campus Monday to speak about her latest book as part of a larger push to show more diversity within the LGBT community. The student organization Allied in Pride has also looked to highlight diversity this year.
Todd Ramlow, an adjunct professor of Women’s Studies at GW, said he believes an event sponsored by both a cultural and LGBT organization is a good starting point.
“The representation of trans people is significant and has visibility but overwhelmingly by how white people imagine them. Having a trans woman of color is the beginning of representing a more realistic image of trans identity,” he said.
Allied in Pride is partnering more with groups like the MSSC, the Association of Queer Women and Allies and the Feminist Student Union this year while it plans events for a queer identities campaign to teach students about diversity in sexual identities.
AQWA President Emily Schirvar attended the event Monday, and said she appreciated Edidi’s candid speech.
“We’re doing something other than just parroting facts, we’re learning how to be heard so we can use that privilege,” Schirvar said.
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet misattributed quotes about Edidi’s talk and how the MSSC has tried to create an inclusive environment for transgender non-white people on campus to Krystal Warner, the center’s latino program director. Another event attendee, not Warner, had made those comments. We regret this error.