Transgender thanksgivingsTrans Progressive Thursday, November 24th, 2011
Commentary: Trans Progressive
Between Nov. 11 and Nov. 25 this year are many days that leave me between feeling sorrowful and thankful. Owning it all is a difficult thing, but owning it all is important.
Nov. 11 this year, as it is every year, was Veterans Day. I’m very well known these days as a transgender military veteran because of work I did on behalf of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). “Thank for your service” was something I heard more this year than any previous years. Even the radio station I listen to the most tweeted me a thank you for my service. All I could say in return to all those who thanked me was, thank you – their sentiments were very appreciated.
Thanksgiving this year falls Nov. 24, and beyond being thankful for turkey dinner feasts I’m reminded that I have many other things in my life. I have an adult son I’m helping through school; and I am grateful each time I hear him say, “I love you.” I have wonderful friends, both transgender and not, that I’m so grateful for, and value so much. I have two cats that I not only have the joy of loving, but have the joy of being on the receiving end of their affection.
I have many material things I’m thankful for, but these are small things compared to life’s less tangible blessings.
Between Nov.14 and 16, Massachusetts saw passage through two legislative bodies a civil rights bill with employment antidiscrimination protections based on gender identity. With these employment protections came housing, education and credit protections, as well as adding gender identity as a protected class for that state’s hate crimes statute.
The Massachusetts civil rights legislation was less than perfect; prior to the bill being reported out of committee, language that would have given public accommodation protections to the 33,000 transgender people living in the state was stripped from the bill. That language in the bill was subject to a $150,000 ad campaign by Focus On The Family’s political arm, CitizenLink, claiming that the antidiscrimination bill was a “bathroom bill.”
But, I’m still thankful because equality legislation isn’t a zero sum game. Employment antidiscrimination protections are extremely significant considering that, prior to this bill becoming law, firing someone because he or she tells his or her employer about a planned transition at work had left trans people subject to firing without recourse.
And, I’m thankful that in 2013, the transgender community and their allies can submit a bill for public accommodation antidiscrimination protections. Trans people and their allies have the awesome opportunity to work and sacrifice in our continuing struggle for freedom, equality and justice.
Lastly, Nov. 20 was the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s a day when trans people, their significant others, families and allies remember those who are killed each year due to antitransgender violence. This day was especially significant to me as I covered the Angie Zapata hate crime murder trial from the Greeley, Colo. courtroom.
I listened to Angie’s killer, Allen Ray Andrade, refer to her in recorded jailhouse telephone calls to his then girlfriend as “it” and “thing,” and say of his killing her, “It’s not like I went up to a schoolteacher and shot her in the head or … killed a law-abiding straight citizen.”
I’m thankful that here in my home state of California, transgender people are included in the protected class in the hate crimes statute. I’m also grateful that Massachusetts just added transgender people to their list of protected classes in their hate crimes statute. I’m grateful too, that trans people are included as a protected class in the federal hate crimes statute. Hate crime statutes don’t make transgender people bulletproof when they are targeted because of gender identity or expression, but they do recognize that targeting a trans person in whole or in part because he or she is transgender isn’t just a crime against the victim, but is an act of terrorism against the whole trans community.
It’s difficult to feel thankful when listening to the list of those killed due to antitransgender violence each Nov. 20, as antitransgender killings aren’t anything to be thankful for. It’s especially difficult when I realize that the vast majority of transgender people killed in the United States are Latino and African American trans women, and have taken to earning income in the underground economy because there is no opportunity for gainful employment available to them.
But, I’m thankful this year, because one more state has added hate crimes and employment antidiscrimination protections to their statutes. I’m hopeful that added hate crimes antidiscrimination protections will, in future years, contribute to fewer trans people being targeted for violence, specifically because they are transgender.
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