Ask Codi, Pride Edition: Lawrence does not deserve Haus of McCoy, and it’s time to be honest about that (Column)

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Note: Ask Codi is a regular opinion feature that Codi Keith Charles writes for The Lawrence Times. Community Voices pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

Read previous editions of Ask Codi here.

I am incredibly tired, and I don’t know if I can survive the work of humanizing Black trans people in this climate, in this town and in this state. 

During a time when Black trans youth are being erased with the intent of extinction. I’m not sure I can survive another year pushing, pulling and poking in Lawrence, Kansas with people who are OK with being remembered as a torment to Black trans people. It’s a shame to watch in real time. But not only a shame, it’s heartbreaking and scary to be thought of so little. 

I often ask the local businesses I frequent, the few places I actually patronize in Lawrence, if they’ve heard of Haus of McCoy. 

Most often, the answer is no. They have not heard of Haus of McCoy. 

Let’s interrogate this answer for a moment. 

What does this say about the community you’ve created in Lawrence if you still haven’t heard of Haus of McCoy almost a year in? In a time when Black trans folks and youth are being hunted? In a time when 39 out of the 50 states, including the one we live in, have proposed anti-trans legislation? In a community that has never had a trans community center before? In such a wealthy community at that? 

What does it mean that trans youth never come up in your most intimate conversations? 

No one is willing to answer these questions honestly and in ways that take accountability for their lack of action. What am I to do? No one sees themselves as the actual problem. No one is willing to implicate themselves in the mess. 

I am only one person and lack the resources to hire another full-time staff member. 

Let’s interrogate this for a moment. 

What does it mean to only have one employee? And that one employee is a Black fat trans disabled human being? In a community with an abundance of resources? 

All of this energy expended in Lawrence on people who pledge to be do-gooders while intentionally and strategically ignoring the evidence around them. The staff (and owners) of these local businesses and organizations are predominantly white, predominantly cisgender, predominantly heterosexual and can’t help but consume and spew out a politic that erases and kills Black trans people. They are all implicated in the mess they say they want to make better, and yet, they do nothing but the most performative acts.

Again, in an anti-Black trans system, what am I to do if no one takes accountability for being blatantly anti-Black and anti-trans? What am I, a Black fat trans human, supposed to do with this level of dishonesty and gaslighting?

And so, I choose to live. 

Unless something radically changes within this community, I will close Haus of McCoy by year end. This is not an ultimatum, as it’s not a demand or an edict. It is a fact. Being able to live freely (and not be killed) can never be covered in an ultimatum. Because how sad that human rights have to be begged and pleaded for in the first place. 

I can no longer be bothered with all the lies and disingenuous people and organizations in Lawrence. I choose to find a place on this earth and disappear on my own terms instead of being a public target for this system to throw stones at and eventually murder. 

I love transness. I love being Black and trans. And I will radically choose to live rather than be shot down somewhere or anchored in a body of water. I don’t want to die, and I don’t want to be killed. And I want other Black trans people to know that our death in this long dramatic story is not required. 

The Community Evidence – The Number 47 – How do we make sense of this number in this community? 

  • Since opening in September 2021, we’ve accumulated 47 monthly donors which provides us with $1,400 per month. This ain’t enough to do much. And I believe this is the community telling me to move my Black fat ass out. I hear you. 
  • With this number, we can’t even imagine providing safe housing for trans youth, paying an executive director a livable wage (in the future) or hiring more full-time staff to help this Black fat trans human in labor. 
  • Let’s dive deeper …
    • 18 out of the 47 monthly donors are not residents of Lawrence. They don’t even go here. (That’s a reference to the 2004 box office hit, “Mean Girls.”)
    • This means that $642.56 of the $1,400 is completely from outside of this community. Again, almost half of the monies collected are not even Lawrence residents. 
    • We had an entire newspaper refuse to do an article on Haus of McCoy until I publicly called them out after being open for almost three months. Beyond the horror of a journalism enterprise not covering the news, what does it mean that I had to call them out myself? Where were you, concerned Lawrence citizens? And to date, they have written only one article on Haus of McCoy. 
    • Lawrence has a large number of churches; most of them want to be referred to as progressive in some way. And it’s all a sham. We’ve heard from one church since our opening, and that church is built off of performance, not goodness. These churches can barely put a Black Lives Matter sign outside of their property without major faux concern. And that’s only considering the churches who believe Black trans people exist. The churches here in Lawrence are wildly anti-Black and anti-trans. And I’ve not heard a word from a Black church within this community. 
  • Simple things that have not happened within this community over the past year:
    • None of the beautiful locally owned businesses (who scream they’re about community) has offered to leverage their social media to uplift the Haus in any way — with or without my prompting. 
    • I’ve tried to meet with athletics leaders for the past year, an attempt to converse on finding real ways to support trans youth within this community. And to have a larger conversation on transness and athletics. We’ve asked white people to help make the connection, and no one has stepped up. I’ve even had two people flat out say no.
  • And to the clowns 
    • Clowns, meaning Black and brown folks who have not yet realized that their liberation is connected to the liberation of Black trans youth. And they still choose to show up as agents of whiteness. 
    • Politicians who have not given a thing and are unwilling to engage actual risk. They do very little other than performance. I’m talking about council people, commissioners and white people with access to real money. 
    • Black and brown people who are so invested in whiteness that they cannot find their way to be helpful to Black trans youth or the Black trans individuals in their lives. At this moment, their politic will see us dead before they engage a reckoning that sees them free. 
    • This is the group of people I’ve labored for intensely over the years. I can fill pages with the people and organizations that I thought would show up for me as I engage the Haus of McCoy project. And I thought similarly, around folks who said that their politic includes Black trans people. I was so incredibly wrong … about it all. 

I feel like a mule. A mule for white people. A mule for brown people who subscribe to whiteness.  A mule for Black folks committed to serve as clowns in this white supremacists conundrum.

Again, I’m tired. 

If Haus of McCoy is not a meaningful part of this community in 2023, it is not a failure on me, or the other Black trans people yelling and screaming in this burning house; it is the failure of a community who doesn’t experience Black trans youth as human and thus not worth saving; a failure of a community who has provided evidence that their fragility is unmovable, unshakeable and rooted in the grandest of delusions. 

You are actually willing to let the house burn, with humans in it, to protect the delusion that you deserve all of what you’ve accumulated … and to protect the delusion that you’re a good person.

– Codi Keith Charles (all pronouns) is the founder and executive director of Haus of McCoy, a queer and trans community center in Lawrence, Kansas. Moreover, Codi is a writer, facilitator, cultural critic and dreamer who critiques pop culture at the intersection of liberation. Codi enjoys trash TV, spending time with beautiful queer people and loving on their dog, Monét.

Find Codi on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Read more of Codi’s writing on Medium. Read more of Codi’s writing for the Times here.

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