Through My Transgender Eyes
In many ways, 2008 was not the year for transgender rights. 28 brutal transgender-related murders were documented in the United States. A man in drag commits a crime and it gets coverage from Jay Leno to the NY Times. 28 transwomen are murdered and no one hears.
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was tabled in Congress, at least to some degree because there is such a misunderstanding among our nation’s leaders about gender identity. Some of the prevalent (or should I say pervasive) claims were that gender variant identity is 1) covered under sexual orientation, 2) a mental disorder, 3) sexually deviant, or 4) unworthy of protection.
The thing that amazes me most about these attitudes is the means by which some of our leaders lay claim to their positions. If this sounds familiar to those of you who are lesbian, gay or bisexual, it should. It is precisely the means by which they have laid claim to their slowly eroding positions about you. (For my part, I consider myself to be heterosexual. A transwoman who is attracted to men.)
They choose to ignore what science and reality have made astonishingly clear to most of the free world. They espouse and propagate fear as a “what would happen” weapon, when precedents around the country, around the world, only bear witness as to how unfounded those fears are. They sometimes find their “truths” in a limited selection of bible verses which are taken out of context. And they seldom actually know anyone who is transgender. Then they wash their hands in the water of how they are supposedly representing their constituency.
All that said, there is really only one way to view this through my transgender eyes. The people who make the laws of this country . . . see me . . . as less than.
The psychological team that has been reviewing the Fourth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) could potentially choose to continue a completely inaccurate attachment with respect to gender identity to terms such as dysphoria and identity disorder.
I promise you, that I know, that I am not completely sane, nor do I aspire to be. But I am not dysphoric. And my identity disorder went away when I stopped trying to be a man.
Now, all that not withstanding, there was progress in 2008. The American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Psychological Association (APA), issued transgender non-discriminatory policies. Policies that actually speak of things like healthcare coverage. These policies can be found on their respective websites (www.ama-assn.org & www.apa.org).
If you read them, once you sort through all the Where as‘s and the Therefore’s, each policy basically states that transgender people are not less than, nor should they be treated as less than. With all due respect for everyone who has completed the tremendous amount of difficult work that it takes to get a college degree, and I am not one of you, I wonder how much book learnin’ it took for all these folks to reach that conclusion. Wouldn’t it be simpler just to get to know us?
Colorado, in 2008, joined a group which now includes 13 states (plus DC) and more than 90 cities/counties that have legislation giving transgender protections Kansas is not one of those states. But Governor Sebelius did sign an executive order granting employment rights for most LGBT persons who work for the State.
I still struggle with that phrase, “granting rights”. I don’t believe that government has the authority to “grant” rights. It’s more like stop denying rights.
But enough of 2008, I can’t help but think about what the remainder of 2009 might bring to transgender equality.
When ENDA is resurrected in Congress, and it will be, it may be a bitter pill for us. Not just the transgender us. The all of us. For as long as any of us are victimized by prejudice, all of us are victimized.
I am optimistic that ENDA will pass with respect to sexual orientation. I am not as optimistic that it will pass with respect to gender identity. If not, it will still be progress because it is a step in the right direction. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be part of the movement to have gender identity included. I will.
Healthcare Insurance companies will take steps to resist any change that would allow for appropriate treatment options for transgender individuals. They will do this because they can see the writing on the wall. Familiarize yourselves with the terms “medical necessity” and “pre-existing condition”.
More states and more cities will pass legislation that covers LGBT rights. Kansas Equality Coalition (KEC) has introduced a bill to the Kansas legislature that would update Kansas anti-discrimination statutes to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
And then we’ve got this other, quite important, thing that happened at the beginning of 2009. Well, it happened in November of 2008, but it took effect in 2009. It is far too soon to say how President Obama will generate change with respect to LGBT rights and more specifically, transgender rights. As Governor Sebelius taught us, with one signature, discrimination in theory could be ended against LGBT individuals who work for the executive branch of the Federal Government.
Anyway, what I see so far from our new President is not so much an alignment with pro-LGBT OR anti-LGBT. What I think I see is an alignment with pro-justice. Granted, it is his version of justice, but it’s about 93 million miles away from what we have been getting. And yes, that is a reference to the sun. Can you see the light?
I humbly admit that I am still relatively new to the endeavor of actively working for transgender equality, but this is what excites me about 2009. I believe it will be a year where more & more people who are transgender, more & more people who have family & friends who are transgender and more & more people who have themselves experienced state-sponsored discrimination, will raise their voices in a unified “STOP IT! We can’t do this anymore.”
In another miraculous wave, some four million Americans will reach the age of 18 in 2009. They will be overwhelmingly in favor of truly embracing diversity. Change will happen. Significant change.
And if all else fails, maybe I’ll figure out that I‘m not really attracted to men, meet a nice butch lesbian, fall in love, get married, move to Florida and adopt a child. There is no law against it.
© 02/03/2009, Stephanie Mott
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