Robin Shahar—a Kasim Reed appointee meant to act as an office liason to the city’s LGBTQ community following the humiliating debacle that was the Atlanta Eagle raid—is now under fire for doing precisely what trans-rights activists have been accusing government officials and LGBT lobbyists of doing for months: ignoring them.
The Phillip Rush Center is a collective of LGBTQ-focused non-profit providers. Yesterday, they hosted a panel for International Transgender Day of Visibility (#TDOV). The panel placed particular focus on state violence towards trans folks, citing several instances of brutality by Atlanta’s own APD. Robin Shahar was sent as an envoy of Mayor Kasim Reed’s office to observe the discussion; however, it is difficult to say whether or not she gained anything from being there.
Atlanta-based designer and trans-allied activist Antonio Garza was among those in attendance. Following the event, Garza angrily posted to Facebook claiming that Shahar appeared anything but interested. The post has since gone viral, sparking a heated debate around Shahar’s alleged disinterest and the objectivity of Garza’s post.
WUSSY MAG reached out to Garza in an attempt to gain a more accurate contextual understanding of what he had witnessed as social media posts often have a way of misconstruing the truth. According to Antonio, the discussion portion of the evening included a speaking panel of trans folks as well as six local government representatives who were there to listen.
Many of the trans women who were given the opportunity to speak told stories of being put in men’s jail cells, having their bodies violated, and of the numerous times they were outright ignored by the very institutions meant to protect them.
As Antonio observed, Shahar’s interests were otherwise:
“[She] was in the back row, and not up front like everyone else, but she also got up and introduced herself as Kasim Reed's LGBT liaison,” he said. Antonio noticed that during several personal presentations by trans women, Shahar played games on her phone, checked emails, and ultimately checked out.
“I'm standing in the back against the wall because the place was full, and [I] notice her on her phone. But then she kept on and I snapped the pictures,” he says. Garza alleges that he wasn’t the only person to notice this, claiming that several others around him whispered their concerns. One individual even made an effort to physically realign Shahar’s attention by way of a gentle shoulder prod.
While some people have criticized Garza’s post for not being “fair,” it bears noting that Shahar’s lethargy parallels an inescapable shortcoming of the state, which has long demonstrated an abundance of indifference to trans lives and has effectively rendered the community invisible. Without that sort of visibility, trans folks have no hope of being recognized as three-dimensional individuals who are every bit as worthy of justice as their cisgender counterparts.
Robin Shahar may be the Mayor’s LGBTQ liason, but that doesn’t mean transgender issues are of any particular concern to her.
WUSSY MAG reached out to both the Mayor’s office and Robin Shahar, their offices declined to comment.
Download SNaP COalition's "The Most Dangerous Thing Out Here is the Police" presentation HERE. Thanks to Jess for the update.
Zaida J. is currently a Features Editor here at WUSSY and a self-described transgender loud mouth.