Posted in Equal Rights, Quotations, tagged bisexuals, civil rights struggle, Equal Rights, gays, justice, lesbians, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King_Jr., Michelle Obama, Stonewall, Sylvia Rivera, Transgender, transsexuals on June 27, 2008 |
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Trans people, as well as lesbians, gays and bisexuals, are often criticized for comparing our struggle for equal rights to the Civil Rights Struggle of the ’50′s and ’60′s. I myself did so on this years’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, pointing out Dr. King’s own condemnation of incrementalism as a viable strategy for securing equal rights. I recognize there are many differences between that struggle and our own, but, if nothing else, it provides us with inspiration and the knowledge that, in the end, justice can and does win out. Thus, I was pleased this morning to read that Michelle Obama invoked the Civil Rights Struggle during a speech yesterday before the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council of the Democratic National Committee, just days before the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots between trans people, gays and lesbians and the New York police. Here’s what she had to say:
These anniversaries [of the Stonewall riot and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas] remind us that no matter who we are, or where we come from, or what we look like, we are only here because of the brave efforts of those who came before us. We are all only here because of those who marched and bled and died, from Selma to Stonewall, in the pursuit of a more perfect union.
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[T]he world as it should be rejects discrimination of all kinds.
Indeed, we build on the advances gained by all those who have gone before us, from Martin Luther King to Mahatma Gandhi to Sylvia Rivera. I give my thanks and do my best to honor them and the far too many trans women and men who have been murdered because of who they are by striving every day to advance the cause of justice for all.
UPDATED 6/29/08 to change the link to Michelle Obama’s speech to a report on Bilerico that includes the entire text, added the sentence at the beginning of the first paragraph of the quotation and corrected the last sentence of the quotation.
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Earlier today, my friend Nikki posted a recent letter from her mother on the TranscenderGender group blog and asked for advice on how to respond. A little background is necessary.
In April, Nikki told her family that she plans to transition to living full time as Nikki. Although they have been supportive, her mother wrote Nikki about her efforts to find a way to understand the changes brought on by Nikki’s decision and how to explain them to family members who have not yet heard the news. She told Nikki that the best way she could find to do that “is to consider that there is no more [Nikki's male name] and he is deceased!!!!!!!!,” and to tell family members “that [Nikki's male name] is deceased and that Nikki is now our daughter.” She acknowledged how “unreal” it felt to write that her child is dead and asked Nikki what she thought of this approach. Nikki, in turn, asked the rest of us for our thoughts before she responds. This is my response:
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“Joy is the most infallible indication of the awareness of the presence of God(dess).”
– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
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I am sitting here in tears having just finished watching one of the most moving documentaries I have ever seen. It’s called Anyone and Everyone. It’s the story of a variety of families – Jewish, Catholic and Mormon; white, black, Hispanic and Asian – and how the parents came to understand and support their lesbian and gay daughters and sons, despite the teachings of their churches, despite all they had been told about homosexuality being a choice, despite their own bigotry and prejudice. I have to admit that I’m sucker for love stories and this is the best type of love story – one where love triumphs over all obstacles, the greatest of which are the barriers we create in our own hearts that keep us separate from each other and separate from the truth that we all are divine beings created out of love and created to share that love with others. I suppose that’s what I find hardest about those who seek to attack and shame lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people into denying themselves and returning to the closet. I simply don’t understand how people can hate when it is so very painful for me to experience being judged and rejected by others and for me to do the same to others, knowing the awful pain that it causes.
I don’t know how many people will understand any of this or really care, but it’s what I believe and why I do the things I do to spread love in this world and help other people to find peace with who they are and whatever circumstances life brings them. Tonight, I feel sad and lonely, and so I reach out to you because I need your love and want to do all I can to make sure that none of us has to go through these times – the good and the bad – alone.
P.S. You can watch the trailer and find out about show times in your area, how to purchase copies and the story behind the film by clicking on either of the links above.
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Beginning in the fall of 2006, as I began to plan for my transition and think about what the future as Abby would be like, I always felt fear when I thought of those moments in public when people would realize that I am transgender or transsexual (I use both terms depending on the situation). I felt that same fear when I went out in public as Abby, watching carefully for disapproving glances and listening for rude remarks everywhere I went. As time passed and I didn’t see those glances or hear those remarks, I began to believe that I could live in this world as Abby without “being detected,” in other words, I thought I could “pass” without notice. As that belief grew, I became more and more confident in myself and more and more comfortable with my decision to transition. When I finally transitioned, my fear of being “clocked” as transgender was as great as ever, but, based on my experience, I believed that the risks of that actually happening were tiny, if not nonexistent. Without that belief and the concomitant belief that I could escape the shaming, harassment and even violence that is often the experience of my trans sisters and brothers, I doubt I would have transitioned.
A very curious thing has happened since then, however. Beginning only two or three months after my transition (on May 14, 2007), I began to realize that I am proud of who I am and of the many challenges and the tremendous pain that I overcame to learn the truth about myself and have the courage to live that truth as I do today. Today, I don’t bring up the fact that I am trans with most people. However, when it’s relevant or the moment can be used to teach about trans people, especially that we’re not freaks or perverts but people not so different than most, simply striving to live in peace and with a modicum of happiness, I am willing, and I do, tell people about my past. Yes, I still feel a tinge of fear each time I tell someone for the first time but I have never yet allowed that fear to stop me from revealing the truth of who I am, and I hope I never do. Considering the fear with which I began this journey, I am constantly amazed at the comfort that I feel with the knowledge that I am trans and my willingness to share that information with others whenever and wherever it might help to create greater understanding and acceptance of trans people.
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