From The Southern Comfort Conference: Interview With Allison Robinson

I have about four or so interviews from the Southern Comfort Conference (SCCATL — the conference Pam’s House Blend baristas attended last month in Atlanta, Georgia) accomplished, and I’m just beginning to process these videos.

I feel very honored (and a bit humbled too) in calling Allyson Robinson my friend. This video below — the first I’m posting from SCCATL — is an interview of the HRC’s Allyson Robinson. She is the Associate Director of Diversity for the Human Rights Campaign, and a board member of the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE). In the interview we discuss what she does in those positions not only for the transgender community, but for the broader lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community.

Allyson’s personal history seems incredibly interesting to me. She’s attended West Point, graduating after four-years of schooling there. She then served in the Army as a Patriot Missile Battery Officer for an additional five-years — so total time committed to U.S. Army was nine-years. After her service, she became a American Baptist Minister in Portugal — later completing seminary.

Near the end of the video, Allyson and I discuss privilege — she discussed it in terms of ethics and morality. Her take on privilege seems a very powerful statement to me. Her quote on privilege from the video (emphasis added):

Autumn: Now you have a comment that you make…You have a concept about what you with privilege. I’m always fascinated — You mentioned something about if you have privilege, what do you do with it?

Allyson: Well, this kind of rose out of the same issue of representing a community. Whether it’s to an organization as a diversity officer in the context of a training event, and being there as an example of the trans community.

I recognize very clearly — largely because of the work that I did in ministry in some of the poorest communities in Europe where the first context of ministry for us was that I have a tremendous amount of privilege. And then when I transitioned, my privilege only became clearer.

I tell a story about — I was living in Texas at the time when I first began my transition, and driving home from an event one evening. Very, very late. Presenting as female when I hardly ever presented as female, and having this thought of “What would happen if a Texas State Trooper pulled me over right now for speeding?”

I suddenly became the safest driver in all of Texas.

Autumn: *Laughs*

Allyson: And when I called my sister the next day to tell her about this experience, she said “Well, honey, I’ve always done this when I drive at night. I’ve always had to be concerned about these things.”

It was a recognition moment — a light bulb moment for me — about my male privilege.

And so, taking that awareness and that understanding, and filtering that through the kind of ethical training that I had in ministry, I came to the conclusion that really the only ethical thing — the only moral thing — to do with privilege, when you know you have it, is to give it away. To give it away on behalf of people who have less than you do.

It’s a powerful statement — this statement on what to do with the privileges one knows one has — that very much resonates with me.

The batteries in my video camera went dead right pretty much right after that comment by Allyson, so the video ends rather abruptly. I didn’t do a second take to add my usual my closing comment of “So this is Autumn Sandeen with Pam’s House Blend, with Allyson Robinson saying ‘Bye!’” So, if the abrupt end bothers you, you can just mentally add that sign-off comment right after the interview ends. Emoticon: Toothy smile
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