We’re here

After 10 years on the books, Washington State’s law protecting transgender people from discrimination is under attack. And we’re not alone. Similar fights are playing out across the country over the recent wave of anti-trans legislation. Why now? It seems that for all these years, Americans were okay with trans people in public bathrooms, but only so long as they remained on the margins, in a legal limbo, with no rules laid down to clarify their right to be there.

These so-called “bathroom bills” won’t keep transgender people out of public spaces. They simply shore up the status quo that makes trans lives illicit or invisible. Despite the ugly rhetoric, most of their supporters acknowledge that a trans person using the bathroom is not a threat to the person in the stall next to them. The only real threat is to the authority of the (previously unwritten) rules that force all of us to fit into rigid gender roles and punish us if we don’t.

The current backlash is a signal that the transgender movement has achieved a profound cultural shift. Social acceptance of trans people has made room to acknowledge all kinds of gender expression and identities that don’t fit neatly into the categories defined by standard bathroom signs.  The “bathroom bills” re-assert a clear dividing line between men and women. They lay down rules for which is which, and penalties for crossing that line.

If you have been watching television for the past 20 years, you have witnessed the progression of cultural attitudes toward trans people, from freaky (trans people on Jerry Springer) to respectable (trans people on Oprah). And if you have not been watching, now is a good time to start. Trans people are asserting the right to be respected and freaky at the same time (and we have our own shows!).

It’s not just state legislators anxious about this development. The trans community itself is grappling with the tension between “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!” and “We’re here, we’re totally normal, so nothing to worry about!” The trans women of I Am Cait represent the whole range. As Caitlyn Jenner is thrust into the role of transgender celebrity, Professor Jenny Boylan leads a crash course on everything she needs to know to represent the diverse community. Jenner sees no contradiction between her goals of winning broad acceptance for transgender rights and protecting her own substantial privilege through electing right wing conservatives. And then there’s gender outlaw Kate Bornstein, whose version of liberation is making the world safe for everyone living outside the lines.

The conflict may be predictable, but the solidarity and commitment to hearing each other steals the show. Who would have thought reality television would bring us an exquisite model for approaching this essential conversation with realness, courage, and love?

Ultimately, I have faith in people

Photo by Dread Scott
Photo by Dread Scott

During a week of searing sadness, tiredness, and anger, I am looking for a way to move forward. I find myself thinking about the people around me in the grocery store, standing on the bus, sitting on blankets at the farmer’s market, the faces of my children. These are the people I am with in my ordinary day … this is the “American public.” I wonder about what it takes to move public opinion. This week, I have read brilliant, challenging, and inspirational writing about the racist murders in Charleston. I believe that we are all grappling with the failure to openly dialogue about racism, acknowledge historic symbols of racism, and dismantle systems that perpetuate racism. What makes individuals risk offending those dear to them, speak up, do something different, make a change?

For me, learning from others shapes my thinking and moves me to act. I am not talking about grand gestures, but educating myself so I can figure out what to talk about with my children, neighbors, family members, and elected representatives. These are a few of the posts that have taught me this week:

On Faith, Forgiveness and Flags

Why I Can’t Forgive Dylann Roof

Confederate Flags and Institutional Racism

Reading these helped me grasp the enormity of what is ahead and reminded me of the decency in people. Ultimately, I do have faith that we will make change. This is the way forward for me.

¡Hagámos la diferencia! (Let’s make a difference!)

immigration-protestSabemos por nuestro Domestic Violence Fatality Review que las víctimas de violencia doméstica y sexual que están indocumentadas muchas veces no reportan los crímenes de abuso por miedo a ser deportadas. Si un crimen no se reporta no hay manera de apoyar a la victima ni de prevenir otros crimenes. Esta falta de un estatus migratorio mantiene las victimas vulnerables al abuso en su diario vivir.

¿Qué tan enterado estas de lo que está pasando con reforma migratoria? ¿Sabes cómo es el proceso para que una ley pase? ¿Te has preguntado cual podría ser tu papel en éste proceso? Si no sabes estas respuestas, es momento de que te pongas las pilas y te informes. La reforma migratoria puede llegar a ser algo que ofrecerá la posibilidad de legalizar a millones de personas indocumentadas, incluyendo muchas víctimas de violencia domestica y sexual, que viven, trabajan y aportan para que este país sea mejor cada día

Tú y yo podemos involucrarnos, informarnos, y participar de una manera más activa para que esta reforma se haga realidad. Nuestro papel es tan importante como el de los legisladores. Si nos informamos podemos informar a más personas y entre más seamos el mensaje a nuestros legisladores será más fuerte y claro. Una reforma migratoria es indispensable en nuestro trabajo apoyando a víctimas de violencia doméstica y sexual.

Tener la oportunidad de alcanzar un estatus migratorio legal en este país debe ser un derecho humano. Y hoy en día y con plena conciencia de prevenir abuso, tanto tú como yo tenemos que hacer la diferencia.

VOTA! INFORMATE! ACTIVATE! Se parte de este cambio que nos beneficiará a todos pues al final todos somos parte de ésta nuestra comunidad.

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We know based on our findings from the Domestic Violence Fatality Review that undocumented immigrant victims of domestic and sexual violence often don’t report abuse because they fear being deported. If a crime is not reported there is no way to support the victim or prevent future crimes. This lack of immigration status keeps victims vulnerable to abuse in their daily lives.

How informed are you with regards to immigration reform? Do you know how a proposal becomes law? Have you asked yourself, what your role could be in this process? If you do not know the answers, it is time to get informed and proactive. Immigration reform could offer the possibility to legalize millions of undocumented people—including many victims of domestic and sexual violence—that live, work, and contribute to make this country better every day.

You and I can engage, inform, and participate more actively to make this reform a reality. Our role is as important as legislators. If we educate ourselves, we can inform more people and the more of us that there are, the stronger and clearer the message to our legislators will be. Comprehensive immigration reform is essential in our work supporting victims of domestic and sexual violence.

The opportunity to attain legal immigration status in this country should be a human right. Today, with full awareness of how it could prevent abuse, you and I must try to make a difference.

VOTE! EDUCATE YOURSELF! BE PROACTIVE! And be a part of this change that in the end will benefit us all, because we are all part of this community, our beloved community.