Lap dance featuring Spokane-based transgender stripper at homelessness conference prompts resignation

UPDATE: 

Tuesday night, a statement was released regarding Beyoncé Black St James's performance. 

According to the statement on St. James's Facebook page, St. James took precautions by getting her performance approved by conference organizers.

She was recruited to speak at the conference to bring awareness to the struggles that transgender women of color face, including high rates of homelessness, discrimination and violence. 

"Beyonce Black St. James, a performer and Black transgender woman, has been inundated with forms of sexual harassment, doxxing (a targeted form of cyber bullying that releases an individual’s private information to the public), and threats from white nationalists due to vilification in media coverage regarding her performance at the All Home Homelessness System Conference in Seattle, WA on Monday, December 9, 2019. 
 
Ms. St. James was recruited to speak at the conference to bring awareness to the struggles faced by transgender women of color, who face incredibly high rates of homelessness, discrimination, and violence. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2018’s hate crimes data found that there has been a 34% increase in hate-based attacks on transgender persons between 2017 and 2018. 
 
Prior to her drag performance, Ms. St. James volunteered her time with a cultural presentation as a featured speaker; additionally, she took the precaution of getting her performance approved by conference organizers and providing numerous announcements about her performance to conference attendees. 
 
“Drag is an art of resistance and survival for the queer and trans community,” explained United Territories of Pacific Islander Alliance (U.T.O.P.I.A.) in the organization’s open letter to King County Leaders. “It highlights our resilience and celebrates our bodies amidst the hate and violence we face. For so many of us who face employment and housing discrimination, this art is often connected to our livelihood. We use this art to celebrate our bodies that are often seen as immoral by those who continue to police our expressions. This art allows [us] to control our queer and trans narratives and reclaim our power.”
 
However, media outlets have criticized Ms. St. James’ performance at the conference while publicly “outing” her — sharing her gender identity without confirmation or permission — and putting her at considerable risk. The media, as well as those harassing Ms. St. James online, have intentionally focused on her gender identity and race rather than her achievements and her powerful story of overcoming struggles in the face of unyielding oppression. Unfortunately, this is a common tactic rooted in “transmisogynoir,” or the intersections of transphobia, anti-Blackness, and sexism, uniquely faced by Black transgender women.
 
This salacious media coverage further perpetrates the harm and reflects the racist trope that Black bodies are harmful and dangerous to white communities. This year alone more Black and Brown trans women have been murdered than ever reported before, with Out Magazine’s 2019 Obituary Project reporting 22 Trans Women of Color as victims of murder this year alone.
 
The Protecting Black Transfemmes Task Force, Trans Women of Color Solidarity Network, UTOPIA, Lavender Rights Project, Ingersoll Gender Center, QLaw, and many others who are supporting Ms. St. James are outraged at the continued attack of a member of our community — and, specifically, a Black transgender woman who has committed her life to fighting for the rights of others. We will not sit idly by while our beloved community member is being attacked. #istandwithbeyonceblackstjames"

PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

The director of a public agency for homelessness in King County, Washington, has resigned after a dancer performed lap dances at a recent annual conference. Kira Zylstra stepped down as head of All Home, a coordinating agency for homelessness response in Washington state’s largest county, which includes Seattle.

A county spokesperson said in an email Monday when officials at the county’s Department of Community and Human Services found out about “a performance that was inappropriate for the conference,” they started an investigation.

Performer Beyoncé Black St. James danced topless in a sheer bodysuit, gave lap dances and kissed attendees, according to a staffer at a local housing nonprofit who attended the conference in South Seattle.