Or Are Trans People The New Scapegoats In This Equal Rights Movement?
Are times really changing for the LGBT community? More specifically, is it really the tipping point for transgender folks? It appears that there is an increase in media attention covering transgender issues across America. But why? And what is causing this sudden interest with a community that has been living in the dark and has been oppressed for so long? As a trans woman and activist, I have formed my own opinions based on the current state of affairs that we are currently facing.
If we look back just forty-three years, we find that the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and declared that homosexuality was not a mental illness. Not so long ago, were the gays and lesbians fighting to be seen as equals in the eyes of American law, but they were fighting to be seen as sane and mentally capable individuals. What is astounding is that within that movement, the transgender community was never mentioned, nor was gender dysphoria addressed. As a result, the stigma and fear that once accompanied homosexuality during those times of ignorance is the same stigma and fear that is currently placed on gender identity and transgender individuals.
To begin understanding gender identity it is important to acknowledge that it is not a choice, just like sexual orientation, but rather a state of consciousness that a fraction of the population experiences. The choice in this matter is choosing to live authentically, as the person we know we are within. Until the general public and the religious opposition begin to understand this fundamental truth—which most likely won’t be tomorrow—general views and acceptance of trans people will not shift or come about at the rate we would like it to. The transgender community, therefore, must continue taking actions to bring forth change at a local and national level to guarantee its very own protection. As the new “equal rights movement” in America, the trans community needs to look back at history and understand it, so that we may get a glimpse of our future. Just as the Jews were once oppressed by the Nazis, and the African Americans were once slaves and second-class citizens, we must fight our battle head-on and win. It is inevitable.
We may not change every mind or religious belief out there, but history tells us that we will gain equal rights in the eyes of the law, that we will gain complete protection from discriminating employers, and that law enforcement and elected officials will uphold and obey the law of the land and protect every citizen of this nation. The “Transgender Tipping Point,” as Times Magazine called it in its June 9th, 2014 issue featuring transgender actress Laverne Cox on the cover, is in fact approaching if not here already, and the signs are evident.
Just last month, Sheriff Chuck Wright, from the South Carolina’s Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Department, spoke at a Republican’s women’s meeting and threatened to ‘whip’ any trans woman found in the women’s restroom. Not long after, Tracy Murphee, a Denton County, Texas cop, also threatened to beat transgender women that may be using the same restroom as his little girl. Various states have recently passed and are trying to pass more anti-LGBT legislation that blatantly discriminates against transgender people. It’s obvious that fear and ignorance are deeply rooted in our society and our government and that it is directed at trans men and women, whom many see as sexual predators and as mentally ill. What the masses are failing to admit is that the trans community is in fact the new focus for social injustices and that this community is being used as the new scapegoat for those who propagate their hateful religious agendas and bigotry. At this point in time, it is more socially acceptable to be gay, but it remains a disgrace and an abomination to be transgender. So how is all of this seemingly bad news a sign that things are changing for the better?
As with any equal rights movement, the opposition appears to get stronger as the movement makes great strides forward. The fearful and the ignorant will speak up against us, threaten our cause and even our lives. But they are inadvertently helping us gain more ground by showing the leaders at the top that it is time for change. Life has drastically changed in the past thirty to forty years for the queer community, and every injustice that a trans man or woman suffers at the hands of the oppressors—and often violent perpetrators—becomes one more notch on the scoreboard in favor of our cause. This in no way makes it admissible for any of us to become victims of violence or injustice. Simply put, we should not have to suffer or die in order to have equal rights. But this is the current reality we are facing as a community and as part of this largely divided and misguided society.
So where does this leave us now, and what must we do to move forward? For one, we must push harder than ever before. We must live in the face of opposition and not give into fear. Our stories need to be told and heard, and more of us need to flood the media outlets and share our journeys. Visibility in large numbers is the key to persuading our local and national leaders that we will not stand for it any longer. If we are to be known as “The United States of America,” tremendous changes will have to take place and local and state authorities will have to yield in front of our federal laws. This country has the potential to be great, and undoubtedly it is on its way there. But it is ultimately our responsibility to bring about those changes and a new day when our nation can proudly say, “United we stand!
Daliah Husu is the author of “I Am Woman: Surviving the Past, the Present, & the Future,” and she can be found on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and her personal website.
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