So What Now?
Signs of Fear
"So what happens now?" For many in our community this is a question that is being asked over and over again. So many are in shock and are experiencing real fear that the results of the recent Presidential election could roll-back the recent gains that our community has experienced in recent years. As a recap these gains include:
Transgender people being able to openly serve in the military
VA benefits now cover trans health needs
Requirements that schools respect the rights of trans* students under Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act
Provisions that trans* people may not be discriminated against for healthcare as part of the ACA
Streamlined processes for changing your name and gender marker on federal documents (SSN/Passport)
Signs of Hope
There have been many other advances as well. Even that fact that people like Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono and (like her or not) Caitlin Jenner are able to live open and productive lives while being accepted as who they represents a sea change in how many Americans view trans* people. For me and so many others these signs represented opportunity and hope that we would finally be able to participate in society as equals.
Signs of Ignorance
Of course, like any movement that forces people to reexamine their core beliefs there are groups – large groups - of people who will push back on progress. In some cases they are motivated by hatred but in most cases it is ignorance and unfamiliarity that is the issue. Politics and social change has an ebb and flow and the result of the recent election very well may represent a swing of the pendulum away from the growth and recognition of trans* rights. For many of us it can feel like an impending disaster.
Signs For the Future
But the reality, to quote Mara Kiesling the Founding Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, “Over the last two decades, we have made faster progress than any movement in American history. The progress has come through supportive and unsupportive presidents because we always fight.” To further paraphrase her, during that time we have had setbacks. But by sticking together we have managed to push ahead and maintain positive momentum.
So what do we do now? The answer is simpler that it may seem.
First, we need to maintain our vigilance and speak out when we encounter discrimination or a potential legal backtracking on our legal rights.
Second, we need to build and maintain alliances within our communities. This includes education and outreach as well as that most powerful of tools… Making one-on-one connections.
Third, we become brave. We need to get out there and show people that in our hearts and minds we have more in common with the cis population than differences.
Fourth, We do not hate. That only breeds more hatred.
Signs of Action
I sincerely hope that President Elect Trump, the Republican House and Senate and the soon to be conservative majority of the Supreme Court quickly realize that trans* rights are no different that human rights. But I, for one, am not going to simply hope. I am going to fight for my right to live my life according to the principles outlined in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. So here is what I am going to do:
I am going to reach out to my Congressman, Senators and State and Local Officials
I am going to refocus more energy on outreach to the larger community
I am going to build alliances with other community groups
I am going to live my life openly and in full view
I am going to take care of and protect others
Signs of Life and Courage
The day after the election a good friend of mine called me. She is a school teacher and a sponsor of the Gay-Straight Alliance in her school. The student leaders of the GSA came to her that morning and said they wanted to cancel the meeting for that afternoon because they we afraid of violence from other students. My friend hugged them and supported them and listened to them. That afternoon they had their meeting.
That is what we need to do. We need to hug each other. We need to support each other. And then we need to get on with the business of making this country and our town a better place to and live and work for transgender people....for all people,
One Last Question...
So here is my question for you. Are you with me?
Would you like to write for our transgender blog or learn more about our support group for transgender people in the Lehigh Valley and eastern Pennsylvania? If so, please contact Lehigh Valley Renaissance or better yet join us at one of our monthly meetings!
*Note the opinions in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Lehigh Valley Renaissance.