The Bigots Are Winning

I know there’s a space between us, sometimes in the realm of sliver, and other times a reaching chasm, but it persists no matter its degree in any one moment. You have questions for me, even if you read my memoir which attempted to answer most of them. Or maybe it feels like fascination because changing your gender is “just” something you can’t get your head around.

I admit it: on a day like today, I don’t care if you can’t find a way to understand my identity, or life, or choices. On a day like today I’m enraged.

Forget rose-colored glasses. I’m wearing goggles of red, and I’ve glued them to my face.

CeCe McDonald took a plea today–41 months in prison for stabbing a drugged up, Neo-Nazi with a documented history of violence, who was chasing her down the street after she’d been assaulted by him and several of his friends. During her statement to change her plea, in which she had to recount the events of that night in June, the judge explained condescendingly how it was unlawful of her to endanger the life of her attacker.

Now there’s a concept I have trouble understanding. I fail to comprehend what the legal course of action would have been.

Bumbling into Body Hair is dedicated to two people–a young trans man I’ve mentored and Tyra Hunter, a trans woman of color who was hit by a car in DC in 1995. When the EMTs arrived on the scene, they tended to her until they realized she was a preoperative transsexual. And then they laughed at her and made jokes instead of delivering care. She died at the scene.

What has society learned since Tyra’s death? What do we do differently?

Just this week a trans woman was cited and fined for using the women’s room. Certainly peeing in the street would have also been illegal. What are her options? I have been chased out of rest rooms (men’s and women’s), yelled at, and instructed not to use them. How? I can’t will away my bladder.

Why are we okay with making transsexual people illegal? Why is this so-called Christian nation so at ease with its incessant judgment about so many people? Do I blame the Puritans? Fox News? Grover Norquist? Planned Parenthood’s eugenics roots? I can’t shake my fists in enough places.

I’m tired of being agreeable, of playing the diplomat. I’m on my reserve tank of patience for this completely unhelpful argument between transsexual separatists and people who use “transgender” as an umbrella term for all gender non-conforming people. While we squabble with each other, CeCe sits in jail for defending her very existence. Does it matter to her trial or sentence how she personally identifies? Is the injustice she faces any more palatable if she calls herself one label or another?

The bigots are winning. Our representatives argue on Capitol Hill about who should receive tax cuts and which programs for poor people they should eliminate next. And our progressive front in those hallowed halls lets those conversations continue. When Republicans take to the opinion pages to say that they themselves are the problem for the bad sentiment and gridlock in Congress, I take notice.

Billionaires feel entitled to expand their already overwhelming fortunes, in the nastiest ways possible, to boot–Koch brothers destroy unions, multi-state lobbying groups like ALEC (funded in large part from those brothers) go after voting rights and public safety regulations; rich people behind NOM spend money across the country to fuel homophobia in the guise of “protecting” marriage. And the conversation about reproductive rights has spiraled down into anger at any woman who for any reason even wants to take the Pill.

It’s not surprising to me that such rampant misogyny against nontrans women includes more misogyny against trans women. But there are other intersections of hate at play that we haven’t even begun to unpack, and judging from the Tyra Hunter and CeCe McDonald cases (not to mention the scores of other people I could mention), those intersections have dire, disastrous consequences. We are so far past the point where we need to be pushing back against these hate mongers.

I do not believe that all conversations are equal. The pro-choice and anti-choice sides are not equal. The pro-gay marriage and anti-gay marriage sides are not equal. Pushing to extend civil rights and pushing to withhold them are not equal and opposing standards. Positions have substance, and substantively, positions have material effects. We can downplay them all we want, but they persist and contribute to a national mean-spiritedness, even within our own LGBT ranks.

I do not believe that Dan Savage should have a soap box he can stand on where he gets to call Bible-thumpers “pansy asses,” and tells people that it’s the blacks who brought about Prop 8 in California when he knows it not to be true, and tells people that the very conservative Attorney General in Washington State is really a female-to-male transsexual, and OMG that’s a reason for removing him from office. We must demand principled leadership of a civil rights agenda that is not geared for assimilating us into the institutions that hate us. We must look for coalitions with our sisters and brothers in other marginalized communities—for they also have queer and trans individuals, and we as LGBT people are diverse in every way possible.

I want to ask where we go from here, how we can best help CeCe, how we respond to the death upon death of trans women and men across America, and how we can work against the stereotypes that plague us (of men in dresses and girls pretending to be men, and all the confused people “in between”). When do we get our non-discrimination act? When do we get appropriate health care and insurance? When do we get more than lip service that we are deserving of civil rights?

When do we get enough respect from society that people will stop asking us invasive questions?

When do we get to just live our lives?

All my best thoughts to you, CeCe.

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Categories: LGBT Civil Rights


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