I’ve been around a long time as an out and proud trans woman, almost 18 years now. I thought I’d seen it all – misrepresentations, out-and-out lies, double-dealing, betrayed promises - the very worst of American politics in regard to the basic civil rights of trans people.
I was wrong. It can get worse, and in fact, it already is.
It used to be that we could lobby Congress and other elected officials to advocate for increased trans inclusion and protection in civil rights laws. Sometimes we won and sometimes we lost, but it was always about how much further we could push toward the ideal of full and equal anti-discrimination protections for all Americans.
Things are different now. Now the legislatures of Republican-controlled states like Florida, Texas, and Kentucky aren’t just refusing to offer trans people any anti-discrimination protections, they’re currently in the process of trying to pass laws that will actually criminalize us for using a bathroom which corresponds with our gender identities.
As if that’s not enough, a Congressman in Texas wants to put a $2,000 bounty on every trans person found to be using the “wrong” restroom. Trans people convicted under this law could face up to a year in jail. In addition, a business or school which allows trans people to use bathrooms in concert with their gender identities could be held liable under this law and sued.
A year in jail. For using the bathroom. A bounty placed on any trans person found in a bathroom corresponding to their gender identity. Not only do these Republicans want to criminalize us, they want to encourage cisgender people to hunt us down like animals, complete with cash prizes for those who succeed.
If this doesn’t scare the crap out of you, then you’re not paying attention.
We’re no longer fighting for increased inclusion and protection in many areas of the country, now we’re fighting just to protect what we already have from being taken away. We’re not working to make things better for trans people in these states anymore, we’re just trying to prevent things from getting even worse than they already are.
It seems that the Republican Party has collectively decided that since they’ve clearly lost the war on the gays, trans people are an easier and more vulnerable target. The problem is that they’re right.
Anti-trans discrimination gets little coverage outside of our own community media, and only a tiny percentage of the money donated to LGBT equality causes goes to funding trans equality organizations and initiatives. A report by Funders for LGBTQ Issues indicates that out of a total investment of $129,122,119 donated to LGBT causes in 2013, just 6.4 million went to trans causes and organizations.
That’s roughly a 1/20th slice of the pie, about a nickel out of every dollar spent on LGBT equality. Of course there are many more gays than trans people, but you’d think you’d see at least a little more effort and attention paid to where the need is greatest. One of the biggest problems trans people face in advocating for our equality is that we know that when gays and lesbians win full rights including marriage before trans people are protected in a given jurisdiction, donations and participation drop off precipitously, leaving trans people unprotected and generally incapable of continuing to fund and staff the movement ourselves.
As the money and media attention dry up, the politicians lose interest and it can sometimes be decades before those legislatures decide trans people are worth protecting too, if ever. Indeed, some states like New Hampshire seem perfectly content with providing full civil rights to gays and lesbians but no rights at all to trans people as the state’s status quo.
Where are our so-called “progressive” political leaders on this? Where are those who cast themselves as our allies?
We need you now. This is no longer about gaining rights or not. This is now about being criminalized for who we are and placing bounties on our heads. This has now become about our very lives, the right of trans people to simply live and pee in peace.
Where are you?