Why I Stand for Transgender Rights

Chett Pritchett, a Facebook friend from Washington, DC recently wrote an essay in his notes outlining why he stands for Transgender Rights. After reading it and recognizing his analysis to be accurate, I asked his permission to repost. He gladly agreed.

Why I Stand for Transgenderr Rights
by Chett Pritchett

Some gay men I know act as if transgender rights are just something that they know they should work for because they are included in the alphabet soup of letter we encounter in our movement. Most gay men I know don’t even “get” the transgender discussion, let alone want to support civil rights for persons of all gender identities. Sometimes it’s because we are simply uneducated; sometimes it’s because exploring gender identity challenges our own binary gender constructions, because after-all, we’re men who love other men; and sometimes it’s because we’re deeply afraid that in seeking civil rights for others, we will somehow lose the precious political powers we have gained. Equality for all must mean that we overcome these deep fears and misconceptions.

I know that my own identity was shaped, for better or for worse, around what was considered masculine and feminine. Much of my adolescence was shaped, not solely around physical and emotional attraction to other males, but because the society around me told me that the things I enjoyed: singing, dancing, reading good literature, and acting were all “gay.” In reality, my early sexual identity had little to do with actual sexual experience. It depended greatly on the social construction of gender. This is true for most others, too – regardless of sexual orientation. My transgender friends have helped me see that a deeper understanding of gender and gender identity is not only healthy for those who are transgender, but for all of us who transcend the binary structures of masculine and feminine each and every day of our lives.

It is because of those friends who are transgender that I am able to stand for transgender equality. From San Francisco to Boston (and towns and cities in between), I have been fortunate to meet transgender and genderqueer individuals who have shared their stories and have allowed me to be part of their journey. I stand for transgender rights because of them. I stand because they are unable to have consistent and quality medical care. I stand because they are discriminated against in the workplace (if they are fortunate enough to make it through a job interview). I stand because their legal marriages and health benefits are called into question. I stand because sometimes changing their driver’s license could be a task more daunting than applying for a home mortgage (if it’s even allowed). I stand because it takes them longer to get through airport security because of ignorance. I stand because going to the bathroom can be a frightening experience for some. I stand because they have been denied housing and because homeless shelters aren’t much of a shelter for people who don’t fit easily into “men’s housing” and “women’s housing.” I stand because I take seriously the Christian theological idea of the redemption of all creation, and I believe truly that all means all.

In his letter from a Birmingham jail cell, Martin Luther King, Jr states that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Later he preached that “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.”

Won’t you stand with me, wash yourself in God’s universe, and work for equality, so that all means all?

Want to show your support? You can do something today. The Transgender Law Center sent out the following Urgent call for action yesterday:

Congress is back in session, and now is our moment to take action on ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. We must tell our federal legislators how important these protections are to our community and that we need a law that protects against workplace discrimination based
on sexual orientation and gender identity. While there are many issues that need to be addressed to bring about equality for LGBT people and to protect our rights, ENDA is the bill that is being considered in Congress right now.

If it is to pass, we must speak up, loud and clear.

Contact your Representative and Senators to ask them to take swift action to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Do it today. They need to hear, loud and clear, that this bill is our top priority.

Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: (202) 224-3121. Give the operator your zip code and ask to be connected to your Representative. Then, after leaving your message, hang up and call again to be connected to each of your two Senators.

Suggested voicemail message: My name is _____ and a proud resident of (your city/state). I am calling in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 3017/S. 1584). ENDA protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from job discrimination and it is critically important. Please take swift action to pass ENDA. I can be reached at _______ (provide your phone number). Thank you.

Take a stand today to end employment discrimination against LGBT people! It only takes a few minutes to make the calls, but the impact of your actions will touch lives across the country for many years to come.

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This post has 15 Comments

  1. nome on September 15, 2009 at 11:51 am Reply

    That’s a beautiful letter. Thank you for sharing it with us! I love when gay folks can realize that they need to do more than just throw a T haphazardly onto the end of the ever-growing acronym to really include us in the community. (And the same goes for queers, pansexuals, polysexuals, asexuals, intersexed folks, genderqueers and whoever else we’ve been including these days)

    • p2son on September 15, 2009 at 2:29 pm Reply

      In the past year I have seen serious intentional moves to create actual space and discussion about identities and experiences beyond the L and the G. More stories are emerging and it becomes a test for many gays and lesbians who have experienced oppression who sadly were also taught to oppress. It gives us an opportunity to treat others how we always have wanted to be treated.

  2. Jane on September 15, 2009 at 12:10 pm Reply

    Nothing to say but “may it be so.”

    • p2son on September 15, 2009 at 2:30 pm Reply

      si mi amiga.

  3. Joe G. on September 15, 2009 at 12:28 pm Reply

    This was nicely written.

    My only surprise is that you posted it even though it never mentions you…

    • p2son on September 15, 2009 at 2:26 pm Reply

      I actually wrote my name in the HTML code, so you are actually reading about me throughout, because Joe you know better than most what a media whore you have created. 😛

  4. Sandy on September 15, 2009 at 1:45 pm Reply

    As a woman who was born in a male body, I have had to overcome some serious internal and external issues and images to become myself, my true self.

    ENDA has a direct effect on me and all like me, of course. And I applaud Mr Toscano’s blog for publishing Mr Pritchett’s letter. It says much of what needs to be said about equal opportunity. Dr. Kings statements ring so true even today.

    Also, I wish to stress, that by including transgender rights in the ENDA bill (specifically gender blindness), it prevent *anyone* from being discriminated against because of their gender presentation.

    For example, without gender identity protection, a woman with short hair could be construed as having a too masculine presentation and be fired or refused housing. Regardless of her sexual orientation.

    A man with too much “flair” could be construed as being to feminine and be terminated. It wouldn’t matter if he was gay or straight, though you can surely well bet that it would be the club by which all LGB & T could be hit with.

    So you see, this protects ALL of us. And that was why I and so many of our lesbian and gay friends were so disappointed when transgender specifications were removed from the last attempt for ENDA.

    I pray that is not the case this time and that Mr Obama will stand by his pledge to sign this legislation when it gets to his desk.

    -Sandy

    • p2son on September 15, 2009 at 2:27 pm Reply

      Sandy, thank you for saying that. I know as a male bodied gay man, I was picked on first for being a sissy before they or even I know like other guys. The gender portion of ENDA protects all of us.

  5. catkisser on September 16, 2009 at 9:02 am Reply

    ENDA has been gutted to the point of being meaningless.

    Why wasn’t a comprehensive bill introduced this time since “the time is supposedly right”? As a woman of transsexed/intersexed history who ran her own business I can tell you it is simple to not hire someone without giving a reason, it is not that hard to fire someone for reasons that pass muster.

    ENDA only will cover larger businesses without religious connections. It doesn’t touch housing discrimination, public accommodation discrimination.

    Kudos to the few gay men who actually are supportive but the reality on the ground is that no groups fails to “get” transsexuality more than gay men. Trans rights have been a bargining chip all along, HRC was selling out trans civil rights back in the 90’s and never stopped. How do I know this? I’m one who was told by aides and Congresscritters themselves that HRC was pre-lobbying all the trans lobby efforts to discredit us before we even arrived all while claiming to help us to our faces.

    In New York, ESPA totally sold out trans civil rights even after gay men leaders of that group told Sylvia Rivera on her deathbed they would finally support it. How do I know?….I knew Sylvia and demonstrated with her against ESPA the last year of her life.

    • nome on September 16, 2009 at 2:29 pm Reply

      Indeed! Although I’d throw in that any cis queers (and gays) can misunderstand the issues as much as cis hets.

  6. Sheria-SA on September 16, 2009 at 11:21 am Reply

    Reading this kind of reminds me of the drama unfolding before our eyes in South Africa concerning olympic gold medalist Caster Semenya, and the humiliation she continues to suffer in the wake of her gender identity. Am just so glad that people like you P, are the voice for people like Caster who did not choose to be born that way, or who happen to look “different’ for that matter..
    I think you are doing a GREAT job and you should be applauded for doing so. It must be hard for trans gender people to have to go through what they go through everyday…Caster and many others in her shoes would certainly appreciate what you do…

  7. ftmichael on September 19, 2009 at 9:04 am Reply

    Beautifully said. Thank you for sharing this with us. The Trans community, GLBQetc. and straight alike, needs its cisgender GLBQetc. allies fighting with us.

    Leslie Feinberg once said that the GLB and T communities are like two rowboats. It is very important that they keep rowing together, and in the same direction; if they don’t, it’s those of us with a foot in each boat who will drown.

  8. ariablue on September 20, 2009 at 3:37 pm Reply

    I’d just like to point out that Caster doesn’t have a “gender identity” problem, it’s society that does. Caster is who she is, and turning it into some silly “gender” issue demeans and stigmatizes her. This sort of gender/queer politicking is toxic to intersex lives.

    Sophia has more to say about it on her blog.

    http://sophiaofthescythes.wordpress.com/2009/09/17/caster-in-not-transgender/

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