...from nearly 23 years of writing about transgender issues on the Internet...
...is that cisgender people who deign to write about trans issues (overall, a rarity) are likely to have their voices heard by a much larger audience than transgender people. It is just so easy to write off anything that arises from our mouths or pens or keyboards as self-serving claptrap...because, you know...
We're the voices that don't actually exist in the minds of too many religious fundamentalists and their ilk. A recent study of Fox News by Media Matters showed a concerted effort to villainize our community. People don't listen to the words of villains.
So it is with heart felt gratitude that I welcomed Wednesday's ope-ed in the Detroit Free Press by Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign and Judy Shepard, cofounder of the Mathew Shepard Foundation, End epidemic of violence against transgender women.
I'm supposing they published this in Detroit because that has been one of this year's hotbeds of anti-trans violence. Other hotbeds...over the past few years...have been Washington, DC, Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Houston.
Even in a moment of unprecedented visibility for transgender people, their right to simply live authentically is threatened daily by violence, with countless unreported or unseen cases falling behind scattered headlines. At least 25% of those reported murdered this year were victimized by an intimate partner. All but two were African-American or Latina. And many were killed in states that lack gender-identity inclusive hate crime laws.
There is no single answer to stemming this tide of violence — there are many. And those answers start with confronting the realities that put transgender people, especially transgender women of color, at heightened risk for violence.
Transgender people are four times more likely to live in extreme poverty. They have double the rate of unemployment. More than three-quarters reported harassment in their K-12 schools. Forty-one percent don’t have a driver’s license that matches their gender. Almost 20% have been denied medical care. And one in five reported having been refused a home or apartment because of who they are.
The sad fact is that I and other trans people have written about those facts over and over again...and they have fallen on deaf ears of those who represent us politically. We are easy to ignore. Movement towards any kind of public protection from discrimination can be stemmed by one word: bathrooms!
Compounding these injustices, transgender people are observing a growing public perception that equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people has already been achieved. In our work to promote broad acceptance and generate renewed focus on bias-motivated tragedies, we’re finding dangerous complacency and a lack of knowledge that assumes our work is done. Securing nationwide marriage equality this June did not end the unemployment, homelessness, and medical neglect commonly faced by LGBT people.
As has been said: We can now get married on Saturday and fired or evicted by end of work on Monday.
From all appearances the Equality Act, this generation's replacement for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, will go nowhere...at least for another generation. There is no public outcry...other than Bathroom! People think we are already protected...but when we actually try to invoke the few protections that the government has tried to afford us, like Title VII and Title IX, conservative forces have rallied against our rights. Anything to eviscerate our claims to being human.
Our work must also go deeper than policy — and the Human Rights Campaign is committed to addressing not only legal solutions but also solutions that help the institutions that are part of our daily lives — schools, workplaces, health care facilities, churches — meet the needs of the transgender community. We’ve created resources for schools to help transitioning students, and rated medical facilities, businesses and even cities on their ability to provide protections and resources for transgender people.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation is equally committed to the hard work necessary to, as our program says, “Erase Hate.” That’s why we’ve focused on fighting for the full and accurate reporting of hate crimes as a much needed step forward. By working with law enforcement officials and first-responders, we can help better identify bias-motivated crimes and cultivate an atmosphere where victims feel safe coming forward, where those affected and brutalized by hate crimes can rest assured their cases are correctly prosecuted and attackers adequately charged. The more understanding and compassion we can instill in this process, the closer we can come to a future free of hate.
Ah but...forces have been gathering.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors’ annual conference begins Monday. There will not be a transgender voice heard as these folks gather to discuss Transgender Confusion and Transformational Christianity.
And you thought reparative therapy was a relic of the past? Not so much.
Meanwhile in Spokane, Washington, hate crime charges in the attack of transwoman Jacina Carla Scamahorn, who suffered broken bones in her face when she was brutally beaten in January, have been dropped...because prosecutors told Ms. Scamahorn thhat she would have been "dragged through the mud."
They explained what it would have entailed. I would have been dragged through the mud, and prosecutors wanted to make sure that what could happen wasn’t going to hurt my life.
So Adam Flippen and Marc Fessler will walk free.
Having worked with hate crime victims for years now, I understand prosecuting crimes of malicious harassment can be difficult, and can take their toll on the victims. But I am concerned with the kind of message this sends to other victims of a hate crime, which is essentially: ‘Don’t bother coming forward.’ We already know hate crimes are drastically underreported, and I have no doubt that prosecutorial decisions like this only feed in to that dynamic.
--Blaine Stum, Spokane City Human Rights Commission
This epidemic of violence must stop, and it is on all of us to help stop it. It will take parents and teachers ensuring that transgender students are treated fairly. It will take everyday Americans calling their lawmakers and demanding that transgender people are protected from discrimination in each and every aspect of their lives, and working with law enforcement and government agencies to fight for equal treatment of transgender people. It will take all of us, demanding as one voice: Not one more life lost. Not one more family or community robbed of a loved one. Not one more.
Strong words. One can only hope they are not empty.