In May of 2016, then US Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, uttered these words during a speech, “…let me speak directly to the transgender community itself…we see you…”. These words brought me to tears then and I just pulled a tissue from my bag now. Why would these three simple words aligned side-by-side-by-side mean so much?
For almost 2/3 of my life I lived an invisible life. I had something that I was unwilling to let anyone see. Granted, for most of that time I didn’t even have a word to describe it but, nevertheless, I hid my uniqueness. The burden of living with a secret is heavy. It can consume a person and alter one’s reality. I did an excellent job of hiding my secret from everyone. I had perfected the covert operation to such a level that maybe a job with the NSA or FBI might have been successful. However, the burden usually always wins out, at least in my experience it does. And, for me, it did.
In 1998, I came out for the first time. It was a terrifying yet exhilarating experience. It was the first time I was visible to another. It was the first time I felt vulnerable. It was the first time I was uncloaked. I was naked, emotionally speaking. This is a common place to be in for transgender folks like me. We have to take this leap of faith in order for others to see us. It is an important first step toward our future.
On March 31 of each year, the transgender community stands and is visible. This is the International Transgender Day of Visibility. For me, everyday is my day of visibility. I live an out and proud life as a transgender woman. For many transgender people this is not the case. I am visible everyday for them. I want them to know that every effort by some to keep us invisible through “bathroom bills” and anti-trans legislation will not erase my existence. It will not erase their existence. I will not let that happen. Because I see you. WE SEE YOU.
I grew up in a small Midwestern town. I had a pretty standard childhood growing up in a family where my dad was an educator, my mom a homemaker and having to share a single bathroom with 2 brothers and sisters. On the outside it would appear that all was well. However, this was far from the truth.
How a person chooses to live their life is just that, living a life. It may, or may not, match how they feel about themselves inside. I’m not talking about whether they secretly dream of being a movie star but work in a corporate office. I’m talking about their internal sense of identity. This was my existence. What people saw on the outside wasn’t what was on the inside. What am I talking about?
A person’s internal sense of gender is known as their gender identity. Every human being has this. For a great majority their gender identity matches their physical body. The term for this is cisgender. Having your internal sense of gender match your physical characteristics causes no strife or emotional reaction. But for other their gender identity doesn’t match their physical body. This is the most common condition for transgender or gender nonbinary identifying people. There is a disconnect which causes varying levels of discomfort. This is the actual struggle that most trans/nonbinary face on a daily basis.
So what does this all mean? For me this meant living a life for 30+ years that fit more into the expectations of my surroundings such as family, friends, community and work. It meant suppressing feelings and aspects of my identity in order to not exist on the periphery of society. It meant carrying a heaping load of guilt and secrets with me everywhere I went. I always thought I could run away from this thing. No matter how fast or how far I went it never was enough to make the separation. So, one day, I stopped and finally faced it head on. It was the day when I first heard the term transgender and said “ok, whatcha got for me?” It was at this point that my life changed. It was the day I stood up and said “I am transgender hear me roar”.
The moral of the story is that people are always striving to create a place where they feel they fit in so give them a chance and a place to be themselves.
WASHINGTON-In a move that surprises almost no one the Trump adminastration rolled back former President Obama’s executive orders allowing transgender students to use the restroom or locker room that coincides with their gender identity. A statement from the White House released today reaffirms the administrations policy on the issue, “As President Trump has clearly stated, he believes policy regarding transgender bathrooms should be decided at the state level. The joint decision made today by the Department of Justice and the Department of Education returning power to the states paves the way for an open and inclusive process to take place at the local level with input from parents, students, teachers and administrators.” Last April when on the campaign trail President Trump made his feelings clear on the issue of transgender rights by supporting an individuals right to “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.”
To resend former President Obama’s executive orders both the Justice Department and the Department of Education had to agree and work together, which pitted Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions ideologies against each other. Secretary DeVos has been a quiet supporter of LGBT rights issues for years. Ms. DeVos went ‘against the grain’ of her conservative rich and influential family in support of LGBT rights. The families of Ms. DeVos and her husband have donated millions of dollars to anti-LGBT groups such as Focus on the Family. Attorney General Sessions has strong record of opposing not only LGBT rights but voters rights and immigration rights. When secretary DeVos would not endorse the rolling back of the executive orders President Trump was brought in as a ‘tie breaker’ of sorts ordering DeVos to comply. Ms. DeVos released a statement saying it’s a “moral obligation for every school in America to protect all students from discrimination, bullying and harassment.”
The move outraged and saddened LGBT rights advocates both on a national and local levels. Meghan Buell, from South Bend, IN and the founder of the Transgender Resource, Education & Enrichment Services, (TREES Inc.) said in a statement to The Beacon, “Schools can only be effective agents of learning when all students feel safe and included. Rescinding this order leaves schools without clear direction thus leaving open the opportunity for disparities. This could lead to an increase in alienation, bullying and harassment of the trans and gender non-binary students. I fear we may see an uptick in lives lost due to this reversal. This scares and saddens me.” Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council applauds the President’s decision, “President Trump is keeping the shredders busy with his predecessor’s radical policies and orders.”
President Trump is the only Republican President to give at the very least a minicam of support to the LGBT Community by waving the Gay Pride Flag on the campaign trail but has gone on record saying that he believes in traditional marriage, yet feels the issue is settled law. More and more counties, cities and towns not only in Indiana but over the nation are enacting local ordinances to protect their LGBT citizens. With the rollback of Mr. Obama’s executive orders protecting transgendered students gay rights activists are hoping that those local ordinances will be enough.