The 2nd Annual State of Our Transgender Union
A new year usually begins with a sense of renewal. As we turn the calendar page, we think about what we would like to accomplish in the next year. We call such goals a New Year’s resolution, meaning what we resolve to change or improve about our lives or the world around us. The term resolution, born from the word resolve, may be the most fitting word for what we need to have in 2017.
The year 2016 started with a sense that as a community, we had much to do, but there was also a sense of hope that we would be able to attain some the of goals we set out for ourselves. We fought through an onslaught of anti-transgender legislation and the countless bathroom bills proposed throughout the United States. We saw the Justice Department come to our defense. The case of Gavin Grimm and the fight for the rights of transgender kids took center stage, with the case now heading to the Supreme Court. We saw HB2, one of the most discriminating bills ever passed against our community come to existence in North Carolina. We watched the devastating effects it had on the state’s economy as it resulted in the ousting of Governor Pat McCrory. The transgender community was more visible than ever before in 2016 as our rights to exist finally became part of the conversation.
We had hope that 2017 could be the year where we would finally enjoy the same rights as everyone else. In the end it all seemed to unravel as the year took a turn for the worse. We had a shocking November election that threw everything we accomplished into question. Suddenly we were left with nothing but uncertainty about what is to come in the years ahead. Even the simple repeal of HB2 exploded in the end. Now we watch as President-Elect Trump fills his cabinet with a hit list of people with a known history of being anti-LGBT. We can only hope that these people don’t act in a manner that is consistent with their history. On paper, the road ahead is frightening, but we must show resolve in the face of fear.
“TO MAKE OUR WAY, WE MUST HAVE FIRM RESOLVE, PERSISTENCE, TENACITY. WE MUST GEAR OURSELVES TO WORK HARD ALL THE WAY. WE CAN NEVER LET UP.” – RALPH BUNCHE
We All Need to Be Activists
You don’t have to be leading a giant march with a flag in one hand and a bullhorn in the other to be an activist. Even if you are living a stealth life there are ways you can help our community. The November elections have shown us that 80,000 people can override a majority of over 3 million. Though I believe our numbers are more, recent estimates have the transgender population at 1.4 million people in the United States alone. We have the numbers to make an impact. You can still be stealth and still make sure you go to the polls, and not just every four years. We need to vote every year. Change needs to happen at the local levels. It is our responsibility to get more involved at these levels by helping to elect local officials and judges who respect equal rights for all.
We need to find each other and organize. If there are no transgender resources in the area where you live, perhaps you can be the one to create them. It can be something as simple as creating a Facebook page for transgender and gender non-conforming people in your area. You can start a non-profit or start a community center. If organizations exist where you live, you can volunteer, donate, or help to promote their efforts. You can do this vividly or quietly while still making a difference. We need to find everyone and work together.
Unless you have been living in a cave for the last 20 years, it is no secret that America’s corporations are running the country. Our politicians are pawns who push legislation provided to them by the corporate entities that finance their campaigns. This won’t change until these politicians are voted out, but in our current climate there is one positive to come out of this situation. Recent data shows that America’s corporations are looking to be more diverse and inclusive. Today, 50% of the top 500 companies offer transgender inclusive healthcare. In 2002, that number was 0%. 82% now have protections for gender identity in their non-discrimination policies. The backlash resulting from HB2 has shown that discriminatory legislation against our community can and will have a devastating impact on those who pursue them. Corporations like PayPal, Target, and even the NBA came to our defense. Countless performers and organizations took a stand against North Carolina. We can support their efforts by using their products and shopping in their stores. The moral of this is to think twice about where you are buying your products. You may be supporting someone who is trying to undermine you without even knowing it. This is America, and the dollar supersedes everything. Nothing motivates change like financial loss. No amount of discriminatory legislation will overcome the power of the wallet.
We need to succeed in our daily lives. If you are a plumber, you need to be the best plumber you can be. It does not matter what you do for a living. We each have the power to show that transgender people are just as valuable as anyone else. By doing well in what we do everyday we pave the way for the next person. We will struggle so those that come after us will not have to. We need to work harder than everyone else simply because we are transgender and the road is stacked against us. By overcoming these obstacles individually we can change the way people see us as a whole.
The world will not accept and respect us if we are unable to accept each other. You can be transgender, non-binary, genderfluid, intersex, agender, or anywhere else on the spectrum. Each individual has their own perspective on their identity. We need to respect this. No one person owns the rules on the gender experience. We need to respect each other’s views and work together. We will never achieve anything if we are all attacking each other. Quite frankly, I have seen way too much of this in 2016. I hope we are able to do something about it in 2017. We all share a common thread and a common goal, even if we have our own perspective about it. We have to all get along or we won’t get anywhere.
We have to stay alive. The most recent survey by The National Center for Transgender Equality showed 40% transgender people have attempted suicide. This is down only 1% from 2011 and within the margin of error. At the current rate of improvement, it would take over 140 years to reach the averages of the cisgender population (4.6%). As someone who is included in this number, I often remind myself why I need to exist. Simply by existing we affect change. We struggle today so those who come after us will not have to. By taking our own lives we justify the views of those who hate us. We all need each other and we must do everything we can to support those who are hurting or may be less fortunate. Our community needs to work together to bring this number down.
Though 2017 appears bleak at the onset, we must show resolve. As a community we face so many challenges, and there are too many to list here. To point is to just think about what you can do about it and how you can help. We have to stay in the fight and focus on our goals. We cannot wait for someone to come save us. We have to work together as a community. If you are thinking about your resolutions for this year, I hope that one of the items I mentioned here will make your list. We all need to be activists whether we do so quietly or out in the open. We cannot afford to sit on our hands and we need each other now more than ever before.
Stay safe and keep fighting for all of us!
Love and peace,