EXCLUSIVE: Ashlee Marie Preston on CNN Town Hall

EXCLUSIVE: Ashlee Marie Preston on CNN Town Hall


>>So CNN held their forum on LGBTQ rights
with a number of different presidential contenders showing up yesterday. We’ve got a variety of clips we’re gonna show
you. But although there was good representation,
there was not universal representation for all communities affected by the issues discussed
at last night’s event. And so activists stepped in to make sure that
their voices and concerns were heard.>>To validate the pain of our transgender
siblings that demonstrated earlier, and that have spoken up today.>>Especially black trans women.>>I’m so sorry, I don’t wanna take this away
from you, but let me tell you something. Black trans women are being killed in this
country and, CNN, you have erased black trans women for the last time! Let me tell you something, black trans women
are dying. Our lives matter! I’m a extraordinary black trans woman and
I deserve to be here! My black trans sisters that are here, I am
tired! I am so tired, I’m just saying this.>>Ma’am.>>And it’s not just my black trans women.>>Ma’am.>>It’s black trans brothers too!>>So Don Lemon engages the activist and we’re
gonna have a little bit more on that. But I wanted to give you both a chance to
step in initially.>>So Ashlee Marie, you were supposed to be
involved somehow in this CNN.>>Yes.>>So I wanna talk about what Blossom C Brown
did there in a second. But first, let’s talk about what she was referring
to in black trans woman being erased from this event.>>Right, well, so initially, HRC and CNN
had reached out to me to have me attend the event. I really didn’t want to be too much involved
because there’s a lot of controversy right now with HRC’s new president who said some
pretty controversial things in response to an op-ed of sorts from Out Magazine. And his response to the transgender community
was a little bit shaky. But after careful consideration, and them
continuing to reach out to me and offering me to ask questions of the candidate, I figured
that it was an opportunity to really engage these candidates around the issues that are
specifically impacting trans women of color. That is an opportunity that doesn’t come around
all the time,as Blossom C Brown alluded to, and I was there for it. Hours before the event took place, I received
a call from the producer that I had been corresponding with. And even in the opening of the call, I could
hear this forced optimism in her voice like she was about to deliver a blow. And she said, hey, we’re so excited to meet
you tonight and it’s gonna be a great event. By the way, don’t worry about those questions
or anything like that but we’re still excited to see you, when you come you can find a seat. And I was like, wait, it was that blow when
you know you’ve just being gaslighted but you’re trying to figure out if it’s, maybe
I need more sleep, maybe it’s those flights back and forth. Did I just hear her basically cut me and then
try to make it look as though it’s a beautiful thing? And so she then was like, yeah, I understand. We’re gonna do some amazing things with you
in the future. And I was like, but you just gave us a voice
and then you took it away. And at a time where black trans women are
disproportionately impacted by the actions of the current administration we need to have
visibility front and center. And so a lot of Blossom’s rage and anger,
as she’s been talking to other outlets about, stem from people like me who, I mean, not
only am I a trans activist, I’m a political analyst and cultural commentator. This is my trade, this is what I do. So the fact that I wasn’t even doing something
more involved to begin with, even Chris Cuomo sitting there telling transphobic jokes, that
could have been a seat that had a trans woman there. And it was just one of those moments where
I was reminded that no matter how high you think you are out in the world, or in your
industry, in your field, there are always those people who are there to remind you that
we still have work to do.>>Yeah.>>So let me ask a couple more, first of all
HRC a lot of people are familiar but a lot of people aren’t. It’s the Human Rights Campaign.>>Yes, the Human Rights Campaign.>>Okay, and they were working with CNN and
they represent the LGBTQ community in a lot of ways.>>Right, well let’s just be really specific,
they typically represent wealthy gay white men. And so what happens is that, this goes way
back to the days of ENDA, with Barney Frank and the idea that we would just leave trans
people behind and it’s just way too weird, way too confusing, way too complex. We’ll come back for you all, we’ll send you
a post card, happy holidays, that vibe. And so there was never any healing around
that. And so what’s happening, I don’t know how
much of it is HRC and how much of it is just those who are involved and it ends up informing
the culture. But the truth is that there are many wealthy
gay white men who use their sexuality as a shield to hide their racism, sexism, and transphobia.>>Peter.>>Okay, well he’s a avid Trump supporter,
so he’s not hiding it very well. But there are others who claim to be in the
Democratic camp, the progressive camp and sometimes do as well. So now what was, so you got that call from
the producer/booker.>>Yes.>>So what was your reaction and what did
you decide to do?>>Well it was a really awkward situation
because I had already promised people I would be in attendance. So people were excited to see me. Some people had even flown in for this event. It put me in a really peculiar situation so
I had to decide whether or not I was going to play public relations, keep it cute, smooth
it over. Or if I were going to stay on brand which
is say it like it is shoot from the hip, give it to him straight up, no chaser, and that’s
what I did. So I went to Twitter and just let people know
that hey, I was excited about this. But I’m actually going to pull out because
really, when you tell me that you want my visibility and not my voice, you are exploiting
the optics. You are trying to present this false veneer
that you’re inclusive and we’re doing this amazing thing, but in reality you’re not. The same dynamic that we see when sometimes
a black man is walking down the street and maybe a white woman across the street holding
her purse. When trans women of color are in these very
white moneyed LGBTQ spaces, they take the mic and cross the street. They don’t trust us. They don’t know what we’re gonna say. They’re almost, it’s like we’re relative that
they’ll let us sit at Thanksgiving dinner but they are always keeping an eye on you
because they don’t want you to embarrass them in front of company. And that’s kind of.>>Well, it’s interesting because as you were
saying that I was thinking, it’s kind of like how this outreach treats voters. Like you’re not allowed to talk to senators
and congressmen, you’re not allowed to talk to my dinner. You’re not allowed to go into their office
and do sit ins, you’re not allowed to communicate with them cuz that’s uncivil. Right, so we want the optics of a democracy
without you guys actually having any power. So, as you were describing it that was what
was resonating in my head. We’re like, yeah, hey why don’t you show up
and we’ll show you on camera but don’t say anything. And so I guarantee the reaction to Blossom
is see we knew it.>>Yeah, but that’s the thing. It was a self fulfilling prophecy. You did that because, had you, we could have
did this one of two ways. You could have left me in the program. We could have asked questions that were pertinent
to the experience of trans people who are disproportionately impacted which is another
thing. The fact that they have all of these, again,
white moneyed wealthy privilege people talking about experiences that don’t directly impact
them. It’s like cosplay of trauma between trauma
cosplay is what’s happening. And so they’re like, yes. We’ve been discriminated against but you’re
building the entire platforms on the box of people who aren’t invited into the room, they
aren’t at the table, nor are we invited into the conversation.>>So you’re not allowed to complain about
someone shouting if you never allowed them to speak in the first place.>>Exactly.>>Yeah.>>And so just real quick last question on
that front, did you and Blossom talk ahead of time?>>No, so Blossom, it’s really interesting. So Blossom and I have a history. If you recall the video at PolitiCon. It was me, Patrice colors of Black Lives Matter
and Blossom Brown. That’s who that was when we disrupted it was
MSNBC, Charlemagne the God. So with. So like we have that history, but to be honest
with you, contrary to popular belief, I usually don’t like to be in spaces where I’m uncomfortable
or that kind of possibility is present with which is why I decided to stay home. So Blossom like many other people had no idea
until people started tweeting around and while they were waiting on the program, people were
like, my god Ashley is not coming. Do you see this thing that happened? Meanwhile, back at the ranch, president and
vice president of Trans-Latina Coaltion Bambi Saucedo and Maria Ramond Taylor had their
own demonstration with the flags when Pete Buttigieg was speaking. And then there was Shea Diamond, Angelica
Ross was a part of that. So basically what you saw, was trans women
of color as a collective saying to the community at large, do better. What we’re learning is that yes, race definitely
does play a part in the discrimination that we face even within our own community. But it’s a bigger conversation around class
solidarity and we saw this happen with even Ellen DeGeneres this week. These people who forget what it’s like to
be a person of marginalized experience who have now crossed the threshold and who are
distancing themselves from the realities that we face.

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