Editor’s note: The event promoted at the end of the article has been postponed to June 27 due to forecast of rain.
“TRANS RIGHTS UNDER ATTACK”
“The Discrimination Administration”
“A federal agency says Connecticut must keep trans students from girls’ sports”
“Trump Administration Erases Transgender Civil Rights Protections”
“Idaho governor signs two bills that limit the rights of transgender people”
Yep. Those are real headlines – and as I sat down to write an article on the morning of June 15 – I could not help but think that Pride Month 2020 has been something of a disappointment. After all, we have canceled dozens of Pride activities and festivals due to the COVID-19 epidemic; we are experiencing ongoing violence against people of color. Three trans people of color have been murdered (one by the police) and the Trump administration has issued new rules that would allow flagrant discrimination against LGBTQ people in terms of healthcare, housing and other public accommodations.
My plan was to write an article about the importance of perseverance. That – despite these hardships – our visibility and our voices will ultimately make a difference because as Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
- I was going to write about how there are times when the progress toward social justice is slow.
- I was going to say that there are times when we get pushed-back a step or two.
- I was going to write about how it can feel like we are hanging on by our fingernails.
- I was going to speak about how our voices, our community, our protesting, our lobbying, our noise and, yes, our visibility are the things that make a difference.
- I was going to write about how there are some days that you change just one mind by having a positive interaction with a coworker or a server at a restaurant.
- I was going to speak to how writing “letters to the editor” and speaking to school groups increases the chance that our youth will live in a better world.
- I was going to discuss how our forebears have blazed a path to make our lives better and that we have an obligation to do the same.
- And, I was going to write about how – every so often – the pressure for social change is such that we make a great leap.
Then it happened. At around 10:30 a.m. that morning, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled 6-3 that employers cannot refuse to hire or to discharge any LGBTQ individual or otherwise to discriminate against any LGBTQ individual with respect to their compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment. We made a leap!
To say that this news is big is an understatement.
I know dozens of trans folk who have struggled to land good jobs as medical assistants, teachers and warehouse workers even though they are qualified and these jobs are in high demand. Personally, I delayed my transition for years because of the fear of losing my career (and when I did, I lost clients and business). When you look at the issues LGBTQ people have historically faced in the workforce, it is no wonder that almost one-third of all trans people end up working in the underground economy.
As a result of the Court’s ruling I was tempted to throw away my initial article. Then, the two days later I saw these headlines:
- “Arizona House passes bill banning transgender student athletes from participating in girls’ sports”
- “Man allegedly murdered woman after she told him she was transgender”
- “Coronavirus Economy Especially Harsh for Transgender People”
- “SCOTUS’s Transgender Ruling Firebombs The Constitution”
- “Utah hospital tech charged with sexually assaulting transgender patient”
- “Virginia school board defends transgender bathroom ban”
- “HHS rollback of protections for transgender people could make it harder to provide care”
I also read the Court’s opinions, all 158 pages, words-for-word. Twice. I found that the Court had effectively issued an invitation for individuals and organizations to discriminate against LGBTQ people on the grounds of religious belief.
The fact of the matter is that the original premise of my article still stands. SCOTUS’ ruling bears out the fundamental truth that when oppressed groups become visible…when they make noise…and when they fight for what is right, they make progress.
Trans and Gender Expansive people (and all LGBTQ people) still have a long way to go. We still have to fight. We still have to rally and we still have to do the work. After all, according to the U.S. Transgender Survey, 57% of trans people have been rejected by their family. 29% have been homeless and 21% have experienced housing discrimination. The poverty rate is twice the national average and 50% of trans folk have experienced negative outcomes when accessing healthcare. Sixty-seven percent of all LGBTQ hate crimes are experience by trans women of color and unfortunately most of those crimes don’t get reported because 51% of all trans folk have been harassed by the police.
There is still a lot of work to do and the way we will get it done is by continuing to do the hard work of raising difficult issues and proposing hard solutions. As we move forward, we will have days when we make a visible difference and we will have days when we will have setbacks. But we need to remember that while our national and local communities might be slow in getting to where we need to be… That they might become distracted by other events… Ultimately, our neighbors and our communities will eventually come down on the side of fairness, equality, inclusion and decency.
So, since right is on our side… LGBTQ friends and allies – Stay visible… Stay noisy… Stay perseverant… Empower each other… and keep fighting because every victory, whether small or large gets us closer to the just society we all deserve.
Corinne Goodwin is the Executive Director of the Eastern PA Trans Equity Project and Lehigh Valley Transgender Renaissance. You may learn more about how these organizations empower gender-expansive people and advocate for social justice by visiting www.PATransEquity.org and www.RenaissanceLV.org.
Editor’s note: There will be a peaceful protest at the Bethlehem Area Public Library on Saturday, June 27 at 3 p.m. to stand in solidarity with the Black Trans Lives Matter movement.