Transgender activist Ashlee Marie Preston is calling on the St. John’s Well Child & Family Center to drop its plans to give an award to Caitlyn Jenner at the Center’s “Eleganza,” the Saturday closing event for its four-day Transnation Festival.
Preston’s “Trans Liberation Now” has posted a petition on Charge.org that asks Jim Mangia, CEO of the Center, not to proceed with the award. As of publication of this story, it has received 1,143 signatures.
Preston told WEHOville that she and other organizing the petition will demonstrate outside the event at the Cicada Club, 617 S. Olive St., in downtown Los Angeles if Jenner is honored. “And we have people prepared to disrupt the event on the inside,” Preston said.
The petition cites several reasons for opposing honoring Jenner: It says that “Caitlyn Jenner has been nothing but harmful to the LGBTQ community by:
“– Supporting an administration that has aggressively attacked transgender children, service members in the armed forces, and has reversed civil protections for transgender people which were implemented by President Obama.
— Justifying the discrimination and violence against trans women by stating that “they should put people at ease and not make them uncomfortable by looking like men in dresses.”
— Expressing opposition to same-sex marriage on the ‘Ellen DeGeneres Show.’ “
“These are not attributes worthy of honor or an award. Caitlyn Jenner’s values and ideology aren’t those that the LGBTQ community; especially trans people, would look for in someone as a ‘representative.’ When organizations honor Caitlyn Jenner despite the fact that their mission and vision are the antithesis of what Jenner stands for, it expresses tolerance for Caitlyn’s harmful actions, which ultimately breaks their promise to protect and advocate for the vulnerable, at-risk populations they serve.”
The petition claims that Jenner is effectively “buying” the award, arguing that she is being honored because of her donations to the Center. The Trans Liberation Now petition says the Center should consider honoring only Jazzmun Nichcala Crayton, a transgender female activist and model who has produced a film, “In Full Bloom, Transcending Gender,” and who is on the list of honorees with Jenner. The petition also alleges a conflict of interest, noting that Zackary Drucker, the president of the Caitlyn Jenner Foundation, is the organizer of the TransNation Film Festival, which is part of the Center’s event. “Instead of allowing a hard-working, well respected African-American trans woman have her moment, Caitlyn Jenner used it as an opportunity to center herself by having Zackary Drucker, her president, honor her at this event,” the petition reads.
Jenner sparked controversy with her initial endorsement of Donald Trump and declaration that she is a Republican. However, in recent days she has backed away from that. “They are by far the worst administration ever towards the LGBT community—and particularly the trans community,” Jenner said in an interview with L.A.’s KABC after a tour of the St. John’s Center. Jenner earlier had criticized Trump for revoking a federal requirement that transgender students be allowed to use the school restroom matching their gender identity. And she also has criticized Trump for his decision to no longer allow transgender people to serve in the U.S. military.
Jim Mangia, the St. John’s Center’s CEO, said the event and its awards “are not about politics. It’s about service.” Mangia said that the Center is the largest service provider to the trans community in the nation, with as many as two thousand trans clients. And he said that Caitlyn Jenner has been one of its earliest supporters in that effort.
“We believe in trans power, trans love,” Mangia said. “It’s about bringing together people of different beliefs … I’ll work with anyone who wants to help the trans community.”
This is not the first conflict between Preston and Jenner. In August Preston approached Jenner at a performance of the Trans Chorus of Los Angeles. “It’s really f–ked up that you are here,” she told Jenner during the encounter, a video of which went viral. “Some people may be afraid to confront you for being here, but I am not … You are directly responsible for what has happened with transgender soldiers and the military. I am not afraid to say it to you, I am not. I am not afraid.”
Jenner, formerly known as Bruce Jenner, was a celebrated Olympic gold medal-winning athlete before coming out in 2015 as a transgender woman. Publicity about her transition has led to her being called the most famous transgender woman in the world.
Preston is known for speaking up loudly on transgender and African-American rights issues. She appeared before the West Hollywood City Council on Aug. 21 to condemn Ed Buck, a noted local white political donor and activist, after a young black man was found dead in his apartment from a drug overdose.
The St. John’s Well Child & Family Center is a non-profit community health center that serves low-income people of all ages. It also offers services to the transgender community and employs transgender people.