To say that 2020 has not been a banner year thus far for the transgender community might very well go down as the understatement of all time.
But to me, it sure feels like 2020 has all the makings of a horrible year for the transgender and non-binary community. While I have always taken great pride in being a glass-half-full person, this year seems to be taking great delight in emptying my glass on nearly a daily basis.
As I sit here at my laptop, perusing the media stories that come to me every day via the Google Alert I have set up simply with the word transgender, I found myself utterly overwhelmed at what has been happening to my community this year. It’s not just one thing either. Quite the contrary, it’s been a preponderance of things, coming at my community from all sides.
But here’s the thing: none of them have anything to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.
To be sure, I have made it a point, of course, to post to my social media networks an array of helpful resources from wonderful organizations like The Trevor Project, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) and from my very own PFLAG. All of which, I hope, have shined a light on the unique threats the COVID-19 pandemic poses on the transgender and non-binary communities both inside and outside of the workplace.
Then suddenly, completely out of nowhere, I heard the melodic and soulful voice of Marvin Gaye pop into my head:
There’s too many of you crying . . .
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying . . .
As if I hadn’t already realized it, those words just made me snap to attention to this fact: Eleven (!!!) transgender persons have already been killed in 2020. And for what? For being guilty of embracing their authentic selves?
Oklahoma. New York. North Carolina. Missouri. Maryland. Texas. Five in Puerto Rico alone. Will it ever stop? Will there ever come a time when we no longer mourn the loss of these radiant points of light?
Mother, mother, everybody thinks we’re wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us . . .
But it doesn’t stop there. While the nation has been preoccupied with the pandemic the government that is supposed to protect us has instead decided to continue its assault on the transgender community. I offer the following as shining examples:
· The Department of Justice is preparing to strip trans-inclusive protections from Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of characteristics like national original, age, race, disability status, and sex in federally funded health centers.
· The Department of Education has finalized the stripping of Title IX protections, which could disproportionately impact vulnerable LGBTQ students, especially transgender students who face greater rates of sexual harassment and assault.
Lest we forget that this is the same administration that has attempted to legislate away our existence back in the fall of 2018, by seeking to “. . . narrowly defin(e) gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.”
Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
And then there’s the Supreme Court. Theoretically, we will be hearing from the highest court in the land any day now regarding their ruling on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It will determine if transgender, and more broadly LGBTQ, people are protected from employment discrimination. There’s no denying that their decision, on whichever side it lands, will be a game-changer.
Sadly, Aimee Stephens, the transwoman who is a plaintiff in one of the three cases that were heard last October, is now in hospice care having struggled with kidney disease in recent years and may not live to see the decision. A GoFundMe page has been set up by her wife Donna to pay for end-of-life care and funeral expenses.
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today
We all cried from the depths of our being as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s words of “Love is Love is Love Is Love” echoed through our souls to help us heal after the Pulse massacre. And we all shouted at the top of our lungs with unbridled joy “Love Wins!” when marriage equality became law across our land.
As a community, transgender and non-binary people can only hope that in this surreal, upside-down world we live in that love will not, as Lin-Manuel so eloquently put it, “. . . be killed or swept aside.”
In the wake of the simply horrendous anti-transgender bills signed earlier this week by the Idaho governor, I was asked by one of the awesome allies in my network, Rebecca Braitling, Founder of InspiraWork, LLC, what all allies could do to help and influence change.
To that end, I believe the best way to exert influence is to do so at the state level. It is there, closest to home, where allies can exert the largest degree of influence as they are the citizens – and more importantly – the constituents of the state leaders that bring these hateful bills into existence to begin with. Calling and emailing state representatives in opposition to these bills is a great place to start.
Thankfully, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has assembled an interactive map that enables one to do just that. You can see at a glance where these hateful and marginalizing bills are being promulgated, if at all, in your particular state. Simply click on the state and you can obtain further detail on the bill(s) that are being considered, or in some cases, have already passed. You can access the map HERE.
As I have often said, the transgender community cannot do it alone. We simply do not have the numbers. Allies of all stripes exponentially raise the level of our collective voice for change. We rely on their passion and commitment to move the needle in a positive direction in every state of our union.
So, I ask you, dear ally: are you an ally with a “Capital A” or a “small A?” I sincerely hope your answer is the former versus the latter.
Stay Safe, Stay Home. Stay Well. Love One Another.
Is your company on this list? If it isn’t, why not? Perhaps it is time to ask: how committed is your company to ensuring the rights and well-being of transgender individuals? They are your customers and in many cases, your employees. Is your company an ally with a capital “A”???
On the eve of Idaho potentially becoming the first state in the nation this year to pass a law specifically targeting transgender people, Chobani, GoDaddy, Hewlett Packard Inc. and Verizon today joined more than 40 major employers in a previously released open letter, calling for lawmakers in states across the country to oppose bills that target LGBTQ people, and transgender children in particular. These business leaders stress the importance of fairness and opportunity for their customers, their employees and their employees’ families. This letter was released earlier this month, but has been updated with these new, additional business signers.