Late last week HRC President Chad Griffin offered a keynote speech at the Southern Comfort transgender conference acknowledging his organization’s failure to support the transgender community and its history of obstructionism (see here, here, and here) against trans civil rights. I and others called it a problematic apology, because he seemed to couch his understanding of HRC’s mistakes as one of simply not knowing enough about us (which has not always been the issue), and he framed his new approach in a paternalistic way, instead of asking us what HRC should be working on or how they can help.
People in the LGBT movement have for years been wondering amongst themselves just what will happen when the infrastructure that has been set up (to funnel money into the same-sex marriage movement) doesn’t need the same focus anymore. Will the donors move their money to a new issue? Buy yachts and celebrate the institution of marriage? Fund political campaigns?
I’m not here to argue about whether HRC is anti-trans or not (I’ve certainly made my views clear), not in this post, anyway. Instead I’d like to point out that Mr. Griffin’s idea that HRC will include trans-specific protections in the next anti-discrimination omnibus bill is far, far from what transgender and transsexual and gender non-conoforming people need, as civil rights movements go. Nobody is against anti-discrimination bills, especially if they include “gender identity or expression” as part of their protected classes, but it’s too easy for LGB activists to throw that clause in there without a real understanding of what protections for trans folk would look like. Well, let me ask us to reframe these considerations, in this way:
Let’s look at the trans person’s life cycle, from cradle to grave. What might we need to support our lives and experience that cisgender people would never need?
1: Childhood—In part because trans people have been more visible in the last generation, today’s children more often understand themselves as trans and ask the people nearest them (read: their parents and teachers) for support. A public policy for supporting trans kids would do some or all of the following:
- Offer trans-supportive mental health/social work services for trans kids so they have objective partners in their process
- Offer family support through identification of a trans identity (because you know, parents don’t automatically support their trans kids or know how to) into and through transition (if that is what the youth wants)
- Educate school systems, administrations, and teachers to provide a hostility-free learning environment for trans children, including using a child’s chosen name even if that name is not their legal name
- Readily identify trans-related bullying and help trans youth find alternative paths toward a high school degree if their primary school becomes an untenable place to learn
- Ensure that after-school and extracurricular activities are trans-friendly and accessible to trans youth
- Change rules around school sports to ensure than trans children can participate in a way that comports with their gender identity or expression
- Modify existing law around custodian care so that if only one parent is supportive of a trans child, they can still help direct their care and services
- Relax rules around emancipated minor laws for older trans teenagers who may need to leave their parents’ home
- Train crisis care counselors, suicide hotline managers/call centers, and any local government-run mental health care workers in trans issues so that they are culturally competent
- Educate physicians on hormone blockers, hormone therapy for adolescents, and the medical needs of trans youth
- Change laws so that trans-related care is included in health insurance policies
- Train youth homeless shelter staff in trans issues so that they are culturally competent
- Enforce rules changes with a resource/response board to hear complaints and advocate for trans youth