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.”
As more and more companies move from “policy to practice” and imbue their cultures with a greater degree of inclusivity, the listing of preferred pronouns in company-related communication vehicles such as email has become much more prevalent.
To this end, my friends at Out and Equal Workplace Advocates have created another wonderful resource full of practical guidance on implementing successful practices around pronouns in your workplace….read more
And this is my biggest concern as we wait until June (!!!) for SCOTUS to rule. I have concerns that the ACLU’s argument that Aimee Stephens is an “insufficiently masculine” man who was fired for not adhering to male stereotypes is fraught with risk. Risk in further confusing judges that already do not quite get the gender identity argument at the root of what being trans is. Conversely, it does move the narrative away from gender identity – something that, arguably, a person cannot “see” when they meet a trans person for the first time – to the much more “visual” dimension of gender expression. Rather than looking at these dimensions of gender separately, the much more compelling – and complete – view is to present them together in explaining what the true essence of being transgender is.
I feel so utterly deflated and numb by the hateful and horrendous events that have unfolded in Orlando. I am in pain. The wind has been taken out of my sails. I am angry. I am depressed. On an emotional level, it brings front and center the same array of feelings I experienced when I was working in Manhattan on September 11, 2001. At its best, it is disturbing; at its worst paralyzing.
Innocent, vibrant lives were taken far too early. Bright lights of hope for a better, more loving tomorrow snuffed out in the blink of an eye and in the muzzle flash of an AR-15. One hundred and two families forever changed by the horror of that night seared into their memory. As I write this, there are some parents that still do not know the whereabouts of their children. I pray for them. I pray with them.
This was not ISIS; this was not some quasi-radicalized terrorist. Quite the contrary. This was an act of pure, unadulterated hate. The kind of hate that blinds and eviscerates the soul of the person who embodies it. That was Omar Mateen. By all accounts thus far, he calmly and unemotionally stalked his prey and carried out his perverse plan, unaffected and unmoved by the cries and pleadings of his victims.
When I woke up Sunday morning, the news had broken, but the extent of the carnage had yet to be revealed. It wasn’t until I reached the park in Brooklyn where I was being taped for a Logo series that I found out from the production team that 50 people (50 people!!!!) had perished. My heart immediately sank, and I suspect it will remain heavy for a very long time. Tears come rather easily.
Because you see, I may not have actually met – in person – the patrons of The Pulse nightclub, but I am intrinsically connected to them. They are, for all practical purposes, my brothers and sisters. They are, in a very real way, a part of my family. We share a common bond, a common thread – we are all unique. In one form or another, we have let our freak flags fly high and wide.
We have suffered the indignities of those who choose hate over love and throw their version of the Bible at us at every turn. We have felt the loss of loved ones and friends who either could not, or would not, see past what they did not understand to the loving human being that lies within. We have struggled with that strange brew of excitement and sheer terror that comes with – finally – revealing our true selves to our co-workers and hoping we won’t be fired on the spot. We felt the exhilaration of the immense weight lifting off of our shoulders when we weren’t. We all have slowly opened up the door of our very dark closet to embrace the light of day that was always waiting outside – for all those years.
The South African Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls this connectedness Ubuntu. He describes it this way, “‘It is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up and is inextricably bound up in yours. . . They know that they are diminished when others are humiliated, diminished when others are oppressed, diminished when others are treated as if they were less than who they are.”
Make no mistake . . . there is a disturbance in the force.
But lest we forget, this is Pride Month – it is our time to hold up our heads proudly and demand that we take our rightful place in society. Our voices, though perhaps temporarily weakened by the tears we shed and the cries of justice we shout for our brothers and sisters who perished in this horrific act of hate, must never be silenced. In fact, we must be louder and prouder and queer-er than ever.
We must be seen. We must be heard. We must be strong.
We must be fearless.
Sure, do it for yourself and for those closest to you – the ones that love you unconditionally and celebrate the awesome person you are. But more importantly, do it for your brothers and sisters in Orlando – both the perished and the survivors – because they are an elemental part of your family.
We need to hold on tightly to each other and our allies and love each other like we never have before. We do so to honor and celebrate the lives of the fallen and to remind ourselves that we are amazing points of light that will never allow our collective flame to be extinguished.
We stand in solidarity with Orlando, because we are all Orlando.
As she did last year, Stephanie will be returning to speak at the 2016 edition of the Forum on Workplace Inclusion sponsored the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business and being held at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 29 – 31.
On Wednesday, March 30 from 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm she will present a workshop entitled, “So What Do We Do NOW? Evolving the Transgender Workplace Inclusion Narrative from Policy to Practice.”
The session overview outlines what will surely be an interactive and enlightening workshop for all who attend:
The current narrative with regard to the workplace issues of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals has tended to focus on the events and preparations leading up to the time of transition itself. This lively and engaging session evolves the conversation beyond this stage and covers an area that up to now has not been discussed—the post-transition (and beyond) story.
A major international voice in the workplace equality movement for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, Stephanie throws open the shutters of this darkened room and casts a bright light on the pertinent issues that D& I and human resource professionals need to know to successfully transform their workplaces into a truly welcoming environment for ALL of their employees. Participants will learn key actionable takeaways that will “bring to life” their transgender-inclusive workplace policies and procedures – and leave better prepared to be an advocate / ally.
To learn more about this wonderful conference, you can access a downloadable PDF summary HERE.
You can also access the 2016 Forum website HERE.
Hope to see you there!