Dedicated to Brother Phoenix, who lit a fire under me.
Yesterday was Transgender Day of Remembrance, where we gathered in cities, towns, and online to remember our brothers and sisters in the Trans* community who were brutally murdered this year. We made a pledge to honor the fallen and work towards a better day where there is no more innocent blood spilled. It was a beautiful moment of solidarity across states and across nations.
But such solidarity is rarely seen throughout the rest of the year.
It has been one hell of a year on the front, no doubt, more and more states are passing marriage equality, the Supreme Court ruled in our favor in the DOMA cases, and ENDA passed the Senate for the first time in its nearly twenty year history. The opposition seems to be on the run as they lose one battle after another, 2013 seems like it could be the beginning of the end of our long fight for equality and liberty.
Hold on, not so fast. The opposition isn’t giving up so easy; they’re just turning their sights on a new target.
While we’re celebrating our wedding vows, our brothers and sisters in the Trans community are facing more fundamental fights, the fight to use the bathroom in peace, the fight to be able to go to school without fear of harassment, the fight to be recognized as real human beings who deserve respect. And the opposition is zeroing in on them.
In California, Governor Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 1266, which protects the rights of Trans* students in California public schools, it allows them to participate in classes, extra-curricular activities, and sports with respect to their gender identity. The bill has been widely celebrated as the first of its kind to protect Trans* students in public schools. Naturally, the Right went completely apeshit.
The Pacific Justice Institute was the first to strike, spreading false stories about a Trans* student in Colorado who was allegedly “harassing” other students in the bathroom. The backlash against the student (known as “Jane Doe”) was harsh and violent, with people openly calling for her mutilation and threatening to kill her. The school Jane Doe attends said there had been no harassment. But that didn’t stop PJI from stating that her very existence was tantamount to harassment.
Privacy for All Students was the next group to get in on the fight, supposedly a grassroots movement against Gov. Brown’s bill, the group claims to have gotten enough signatures to challenge the bill in a ballot vote. As far as what they plan to do to protect Trans* students if the bill is repealed, they told activist Jeremy Hooper, “Finding a ‘solution’ is above our pay grade.”
Oh and just in case you forgot about them, NOM decided to get in on this fight as well, I guess because being solely against gay marriage isn’t paying the bills anymore.
So what is the LGB community doing to defend the T in all this? Well sadly it doesn’t seem like much, there doesn’t seem to be the powerhouse organizations in the corner of our brothers and sisters in the Trans* community. And the sad part is, that seems almost par for the course, a lot of mainstream gay rights groups shy away from the Trans* community, HRC is notorious for throwing Trans* people under the bus when it’s politically convenient and in 2007, HRC endorsed a version of ENDA which did not include gender identity protections. I suppose in their minds, half a loaf was better than no loaf at all.
Well maybe we don’t need them; I’m here to talk to you, dear reader, not them. You can stand up, you can do something to help our Trans* brothers and sisters. You don’t need a big checkbook and you don’t need a congressman in your pocket, you just need yourself and the belief that they are your brothers and sisters in this fight.
I wasn’t always such an advocate for the Trans* community, it took some brothers out in Arizona to light a fire under my ass. It was back in April, I was on assignment with Polari to cover the fight against Arizona’s bathroom bill, which would have made it a crime for a Trans* person to use a public restroom. Frankly, I thought we had already decided that it was a fundamental right to take a piss here in America; I thought we established that back in 60’s. But I was mistaken.
I talked to a group of Trans* people who were fighting for their basic right to go when you gotta go. I saw what the opposition was saying about them, I saw how they were being portrayed as monsters and criminals, I heard their stories, I reported what was going on out in Arizona. I went in as a half-crazed journalist and left the story a fierce fighter, ready to stand tall and strong with our brothers and sisters unto the Gates of Hell if that’s what it took.
That’s what I’m asking you to do, don’t perpetrate the divide of our community. Those in the Trans* community are your brothers and sisters and they need us now. We all remember when the opposition zeroed in on us, are we going to abandon them now that they’re the ones being targeted?
You don’t have to move heaven and earth, just stand with your brothers and sisters, tell them you’re on their side, tell them we together are united and strong and show them that if we stand together, no force the opposition can muster will tear us apart and no force can stop us from being free and equal together.