Opportunity to overcome, veiled in a cloak of identity politicsTrans Progressive Thursday, July 12th, 2012
Commentary: Trans Progressive
Here we are in San Diego, Calif. a city on the U.S. border with Mexico. We live within a nation of immigrants in a state that used to be a part of the country of Mexico.
And here we are, as LGBT Californians – as LGBT Americans – aware of how we aren’t granted the same benefits of citizenship as our straight American brothers and sisters. We only have to look back to when Proposition 8 passed and marriage rights, that had only months earlier been granted by the California state Supreme Court, were taken away by California voters. Barriers to ordinary equality are very visible to us in the LGBT community.
We in the LGBT community share commonalities with other minority groups in our state and country; and those commonalities can be tools to both teach us about minority populations, with which we might not be personally familiar; as well as to form coalitions to push for that ordinary equality we desire to have in common with our peer citizens who aren’t part of our minority populations.
With those thoughts in mind, let me draw attention to commonalities between immigrant populations and the T (trans) subcommunity population of the LGBT community. As members of minority groups, trans and immigrant people have high percentages of economically disadvantaged folk. The whys of that economic disadvantage are rooted in similar issues.
A common root issue, for both trans and immigrant community members, is identity documentation. Whereas immigrant populations may not have documentation that identifies them as citizens or legal residents of the United States, trans people often have identity documentation that doesn’t match their gender. Trans people may have gender markers on their identification cards that identify their names or gender inappropriately, or that bear photographs that don’t match their current appearance.
The impact of these identity documentation issues is similar across both communities. The ability to be gainfully employed and obtain housing is hindered by issues with identity documentation. Access to adequate and appropriate health care is often denied due to issues with identity documentation. And, the lack of proper identification by some members of these minority populations creates a situation where law enforcement officers may inappropriately profile the entirety of the minority populations.
And, then there’s the stigma. There is stigma associated with being visible as an immigrant-community member – or even being perceived a member of the immigrant community. Likewise, there is stigma associated with being a visible trans-community member – or even being perceived as a member of the trans community.
Immigrant and trans-community members are seen as two-dimensional caricatures – cardboard cutouts, instead of three-dimensional human beings.
I ask you; should we in the trans subcommunity of the LGBT community, as well as all of us in the broader LGBT community, look for commonalities with the immigrant community to attempt to make the world better for all of us, by building a coalition rooted in our commonalities?
I think we should. We have the opportunity to overcome; should we decide to embrace the opportunity for community building that lies waiting before us.
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