We have come a long way in ten years concerning LGBTQ equality in the workplace. HOWEVER, as you will see in this report from the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) there is still MUCH WORK to be done! This is of particular note for transgender individuals who still can be fired for coming out in 27 states (54%)!
Mapping LGBTQ Equality: 2010 to 2020 presents a fresh perspective on the current status of LGBTQ equality in the states by examining MAP’s policy tally, encompassing nearly 40 LGBTQ-related laws and policies across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories as of January 1, 2020. The report also compares the current status of LGBTQ policy landscape to the status of these same laws as of January 1, 2010.
Supremely honored that my friend and fellow activist, Monica Helms, who is the creator of the transgender flag, included me on this list with such awesome trans women, most of whom I can count among my friends. If you click on the image you’ll find me right above the word “Trans”!
Where to begin? Over the course of a mere three days in this lovely city I experienced the warm embrace and graciousness of an LGBT community that has redefined the term “togetherness.” Without exception, every person I met at every event I spoke at, every reception I attended, every media appearance or interview – and yes – even at the drag shows – made me feel so welcomed and included. From the very first time I was approached to participate by the Capital Pride committee to be a part of this year’s events oh-so many months ago, I have said it is truly an honor to contribute to the amazing undertaking that is Capital Pride.
To Jennifer and the entire staff at the U.S. Embassy, I thank you for your sponsorship and I am profoundly appreciative of all your efforts in shaping what was an incredible 72 hours.
To Brodie, Stephanie, Andrea, Giselle, Dixie, Hannah, Rob, Alex and everyone at Capital Pride, from the bottom of my heart I thank you for your tireless efforts and your commitment to the LGBT community of Ottawa and beyond. You have so much to be proud of.
To Sophia, Janne, Amanda, Linda and everyone at Gender Mosaic, what you have created and nurtured over the years is truly inspiring to me. Many transgender organizations in the United States and around the world can learn from your model of togetherness, unconditional acceptance and commitment to the creation of community for each one of its members. I am proud to be your sister.
All of you have successfully shaped – and continue to shape – the narrative for transgender and LGBT rights not only in Ottawa and Ontario, but across all of Canada. As an activist, I am energized by your commitment to equality and human rights for all. I consider it a privilege to have been given the opportunity to contribute to this narrative in my own way. Please know that as I leave Ottawa I will take a little piece of each one of you along with me. I leave a different person than the one that arrived. I am deeply touched by your outpouring of love and support. You have enriched my soul. For that I am eternally grateful.
As someone at the Human Rights Vigil said to me afterward, “this is not goodbye,” and indeed it is not for I know in my heart that our paths will cross again.
Thank you, Merci beaucoup, God Bless . . . and Happy Pride!
Your honorary Ottawan,
As the month of June – Pride Month – comes to a close, I feel compelled to pause and reflect for a few moments on where the transgender community finds itself at this moment in its history. The setting for this missive is the beach at Asbury Park, New Jersey where I am taking a break from the blur of activities, events and speaking engagements that come along for the ride when the calendar turns to June. The warm sun and comfortable breeze make for a delightful afternoon where I can be alone with my thoughts. I am a part of a diverse mix of beachgoers on this day: gay, straight, families, young, and old peacefully coexist in a swirl of laughter, animated conversations, Frisbee and volleyball. That’s why I love coming here. I feel like I am part of a family of sorts. The new season, my favorite – summer, has arrived and everything in the world is in perfect alignment.
Ah, if it were only that simple! Depending on your particular point of view, you might agree with that perspective, or vehemently disagree with it. Put in the context of the equal rights of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, the world seems anything but perfect. While I will acknowledge with deep appreciation the recent strides the community has made: the pending executive order that provides protections for transgender workers with regard to contractors doing business with the federal government, Medicare providing coverage for transition-related healthcare and the Time magazine cover that featured the image of Laverne Cox along with the title “The Transgender Tipping Point – America’s next civil rights frontier.” Well, I’d say that we are making quite a splash – and good for us!
While I am genuinely thrilled by these developments – and how can one not feel just a bit giddy about the “air cover” that the Time coverage provides, I must cop to a more than mild sense of concern about what still must happen for transgender and gender non-conforming people to have a level playing field from which to live their lives. Vast differences remain between my community and the rest of society when it comes to housing, employment and healthcare. You may have seen the numbers, they are frightening, frankly, but what’s more frightening is there are many outside of our community that do not know. You can argue the point that they do not know because they choose not to hear. I have a different perspective: they do not know because they have yet to be reached by us.
That is why I do what I do. It begins with a very simple premise: Education. During this Pride Month I have seen first-hand what the power of education and simply telling your story can have on an audience. It’s about connecting with people on a very human level. It’s about changing hearts and changing minds. What I don’t know is what preconceived notions existed within each person as they enter the room to hear me speak. What I do know is that they left the auditorium with a much different view of what a transgender person is all about. About how human we are, and that we are, in so many respects, no different than they are. Yes, we have our own set of unique challenges, but we are no less human because of them.
How do I know this? Did I suddenly become telepathic? Not at all. I know this because they told me. They told me with their voices when they came to speak with me after I finished my program, and for others they told me with their eyes, their expressions and their smiles as I spoke. Education. It forms a foundation of Understanding. That, in turn, sows the seeds of Acceptance.
It’s about time a wider and brighter national spotlight has been cast on our community. For us to have our voices heard we must step out of the shadows and share our stories. They are so amazingly powerful. But before that can happen we must “own” who we are – individually and collectively. As I was once told by someone a long time ago, “you cannot expect others to accept you, without first accepting yourself.” The conversation must be broadened. The narrative must expand. Tipping point? I’ll buy that, but in my humble opinion it is up to the transgender and gender non-conforming communities to up our game and continue to advocate for what we intrinsically know are ours: our civil – and human – rights. We control our own destiny, we can shape our future, we possess the power to tip the scales in our favor by the power of our Authenticity.
Baseball and Running. Running and Baseball. For those that know me well, these two things are major aspects of my life. Important and interchangeable. They color my world in many different, yet positive ways. They create spaces of childlike joy, relaxation, contemplation and spiritual introspection. As I write this, on the morning of Patriot’s Day and the 118th running of the Boston Marathon, I find that in the past week there has been an interesting convergence of the two. Permit me to explain.
Earlier this past week, Jackie Robinson Day was celebrated across all of Major League Baseball. For those of you who may not follow baseball very closely, or perhaps do not consider yourself a fan, it is a day when Jackie’s life is honored and celebrated: not only as the first African-American to break the color line in baseball, but of more importance to me, of how he dedicated his post-baseball life to advocating for the equal rights of Black people, at a time in our country’s history when the civil rights movement was, arguably, in its infant stages. But that didn’t matter to Jackie. He used his celebrity to convey a message of equality for all wherever and whenever he could. In short, he put himself out there to create a better world.
Not so suddenly, his accomplishments on the baseball diamond were moved to the background in the pursuit of what he firmly believed was a much more noble and important goal. The quote attributed to him that will always resonate with me is the following:
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
What I admire so much about this quote is that Jackie felt he had a higher calling. I believe he knew his place in history. He didn’t just embrace it, he ran with it – and in so doing he changed his world – and the world we live in today. An individual act of courage – repeated over and over again – that transformed him into a catalyst for the change that was so desperately needed in our country and in our society.
Speaking of running, there’s this little race in Boston that happens on the third Monday of April for the past 117 years that many people have anticipated with great fervor since last year’s tragedy. It was difficult, neigh impossible, to avoid the stories of courage that permeated the media leading up to the race this entire week – and rightfully so, as far as I am concerned. Services highlighted individual acts of courage and inspiration amongst the victims, first responders, runners and spectators alike. We know the stories, we remember their faces. They have filled our collective consciousness in the year that has passed. One more touching and moving than the other. “Boston Strong” personified over and over again before our very eyes. Multiple acts of courage and humanity repeated over and over again that I hope have become a catalyst for change in our society.
To my way of thinking, there is much we can learn about our humanness from the inspiring stories that emanate from Boston and from the man who proudly wore number 42 and batted second for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The parallels to me are very apparent. The victims and their families, didn’t complain. Neither did Jackie. It would have been exceedingly easy for both to embrace the victim mentality and say for all to hear: “woe is me” – and most of us wouldn’t have batted an eye. But the fact is they did not, they picked themselves up and got on with their lives. They endured. They did the hard work when no one was watching. They grew stronger. They thumbed their noses at the challenge put before them and persevered – no, make that – triumphed.
As I finish this piece, watching the coverage of today’s Boston Marathon in the background on television the feelings of joy, triumph, perseverance and healing that are projected from Boylston Street and along the entire route are palpable. It’s time to move on: we’ll never forget, but it’s important for our spirit and for our soul that we turn the page, take a deep cleansing breath and perhaps, just perhaps, approach those we encounter in our lives – however different they may seem than ourselves – with dignity and respect.