DOMA has been de-clawed, as far as preventing federal recognition of same-sex marriage, and we’ve got a great judicial precedent established by “no standing” ruling on California’s Proposition 8. It’s a great time to be an advocate for LGBT equality – a victory that could have gone terribly wrong, but will instead, we all hope, shine as a bright beacon in our nation’s history as a turning point against bigotry.
However, while we all celebrate progress made for marriage equality and a growing social acceptance of people who love people of the same sex, there is an aspect of LGBT equality that, I feel, does not incite the same passion in society as a whole.
It seems a rare thing in Kansas City for someone to have at least one friend who is trans; I am fortunate enough to have such a friend. Not only is she a wonderful person herself, but her experiences as a trans woman have helped me identify inappropriate language and behavior that I’ve adopted as a result of the culture in which I was raised. Much like I no longer use the word “gay” or “retarded” to describe things that I find dumb, I’ve learned to identify behaviors that ridicule someone who doesn’t fall within the traditional definitions of “right” gender behavior and to avoid that language and those behaviors. I’m by no means convinced that I’ve got it all fixed, but, with her help, she’s helped raise my awareness of these issues and made me a better person for it.
When you’re friends with someone who raises awareness of trans issues, there comes the bad with the good; stories of harassment, discrimination, and outright violence against trans people simply because someone couldn’t accept that someone would want to express as a gender different from their sex, or might want to change their sex, or may simply like wearing clothing that we typically designate for the other sex (the silliness of the concepts of “women’s clothing” and “men’s clothing” notwithstanding). She raises awareness by her personal experiences of the sexual harassment and assault that she suffers – problems that cis and trans women alike face every day.
When I went to my first (and, I hope, one of many) Transgender Day of Remembrance, they read a list of trans people from around the world who had suffered violence at the hands of transphobic people. Even without knowing these people, the raw brutality of this violence pierced deep into me – people were shot, beaten, strangled, and beheaded simply for not fitting into what others thought should be their “correct” gender role.
This violence took on a personal note when my friend was assaulted and, as a result of the assault, was shoved down to the concrete, hit her head, and was knocked unconscious. She’s now going through a multi-week stage of recovery. All of this was because, on finding out that she’s a trans woman (and, thus, not a “real” woman), her attacker felt he was justified in attacking her. While the violence listed at the Transgender Day of Remembrance was upsetting, the fact that it’s happened to a friend makes it all the more visceral.
My point is that, while we all congratulate each other on the work we do to help achieve equality and social acceptance of people who love people of the same sex, don’t forget that there is a “T” in the “LGBT movement”. If you find yourself uncomfortable with the idea of someone who is a cross-dresser, transgendered, or transsexual, reflect on that and try to understand why you feel that way, and whether you should feel that way. Beyond personal introspection, publicly display your support for trans people. Find out if there’s a trans awareness event, such as a Transgendered Day of Remembrance, and go and show your support. Much in the same way that you don’t have to be gay to support equality for people who are gay, you don’t have to be trans in order to show your support for equality for people who are trans.
The bottom line is: if you call yourself an LGBT equality advocate, support all four letters. Fight against not only homophobia, but biphobia and transphobia as well.