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Archive for January, 2009

UPDATE: Once more, it is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the day on which we honor the memory of a great man who has proved so inspiring to so many of us.  I, too, have a dream and I pray each day for the day we can each can celebrate our diversity and our equality throughout this country and the world.

I originally posted this one year ago today [i.e., January 2008] on my old Yahoo 360 blog, while the wound from transgender people being excluded from ENDA by HRC and Barney Frank was very raw (it still is).

Today is the day in the United States that we celebrate the dream of equality and freedom that the Rev. Martin Luther, Jr. inspired in this country and, I hope, in the world. There is not much that any of us can add to his inspiring words, so I simply invite all of you to take 17 1/2 minutes of your day to listen to his words and to share his dream. (The video and the direct link to YouTube are below.) As you do so, you might want to note as I did, the following words, which seem so appropriate today as we struggle for recognition of equal rights for all transgender people against the argument that we need to wait our turn, that incrementalism is the path to freedom and justice for us:

“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.” (Beginning @ 5:15 on the video below)

I followed up the next day with another post on Martin Luther King’s opposition to incrementalism and how he convinced LBJ that that was not the right approach:

As I noted yesterday, in his “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King, Jr. opposed applying “the tranquilizing drug of gradualism” to the civil rights struggle of that time.

More information about Dr. King’s opposition to that strategy came out last night on Bill Moyers’ Journal on PBS. During that program, Moyers recounted a previously unrevealed conversation between Dr. King and Lyndon Johnson that Moyers was privy to as a young presidential aide. (You can watch or read the transcript of this program here: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/01182008/watch4.html.) Initially, LBJ tried to convince Dr. King to quell the demonstrations and other unrest that he and others were encouraging, in order to help Johnson convince the white supremacists in Congress to approve the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In keeping with his words at the Lincoln Memorial, King refused, saying that “his people had already waited too long. He talked about the murders and lynchings, the churches set on fire, children brutalized, the law defied, men and women humiliated, their lives exhausted, their hearts broken.” After listening to King, Johnson changed his mind and told King to “keep doing what you’re doing, and make it possible for me to do the right thing.” King did as asked, LBJ used his legendary arm-twisting skills in the Senate and one of the most important pieces of legislation of the last century, and one that today provides the only glimmer of hope for protection against employment discrimination for most trans women and men in the U.S., was passed.

So, Lyndon Johnson insisted on doing what was right at the time, rather than what he thought was practical or pragmatic given the resistance he faced. As civil rights pioneer and U.S. House of Representatives member John Lewis said on the floor of the House during the ENDA debate last November [2007], “It is always the right time to do the right thing.” Johnson, King and many others knew this in 1963 and 1964. Why is it that today so many people believe that this principle doesn’t apply to our own struggle for equal rights?

Today is still the time to do the right thing!  Perhaps, with Barack Obama’s inauguration tomorrow as our next President, we will finally begin to achieve the civil rights, the human rights, that we all deserve.

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You may have noticed that almost all of my posts are prompted by other people’s blogs. Oh, well, I’ll take my inspiration where I can get it.

This morning, I read Sonora Sage’s description of her recent roadside encounter with Mr. and Mrs. All-American while changing a flat tire. Although she appreciated Mr. All-American’s help loosening the lugnuts (once he figured out the “righty tighty, lefty loosey” part, that is), she didn’t appreciate his obvious belief that she could never have managed the job on her own, and Mrs. All-American’s simultaneous performance as the clueless female.  Nonetheless, Mr. All-American insisted on doing the job himself.  (Hmmm, where have I heard that before?  Oh, yeah, now, I remember.  That was the way I lived most of my life, having learned at my daddy’s knee — he never really sat me on his knee, but I wish he had  — that “if you want the job done right, do it yourself.”)  Anyway, Sonora’s story prompted memories of a somewhat similar experience of my own, which I left as a comment on her post and which I am sharing here (with a couple of minor edits) for those who might not find their way to her blog.

I encountered some of the same attitude myself awhile back, although, in my case, the roles were reversed: I was the (would-be) rescuer, Mr. and Mrs. All-American, and their All-American son, were the ones in need of help.

During most of my years growing up, my dad owned a Jeep (then virtually the only 4WD vehicles available in the States) and we spent many hours bouncing down back roads, climbing hills and getting stuck (and, eventually, unstuck). And I’ve owned my own 4WD vehicles for 15+ years just so I can go where other people aren’t, primarily at the ends of northern and central Arizona’s many rocky roads. Although I haven’t done as much of that since my transition, I still enjoy it when I get the chance.

A little over a year ago, I was in Tucson for a workshop. I’ve been down there for these workshops before and on my way back I like to find a different way home that inevitably involves some amount of “4-wheeling.” This time I decided to drive to the top of Mt. Lemmon and down the other side to Oracle. My friend Alison in Tucson warned me that the road was really rough, but I found it not particularly challenging. (In fact, it can probably be done without 4WD as long as you have decent ground clearance and know how to negotiate your way around the high spots.)

I had gone perhaps 5 miles down the dirt road on the back (north) side of Mt. Lemmon, when I came upon an SUV (i.e., one of those vehicles that have 4WD but are clearly not made to drive off the pavement) stopped by the side of the road. Mr. All-American appeared to be about to start changing a tire, while Mrs. All-American and young All-American son watched. Growing up, I learned that you never pass by someone in possible need of help in the backcountry without stopping and doing what you can to help, since you never know when you’ll be the one in need of rescue. Feeling quite smug in both my driving skills and my ability to change a tire, I stopped, rolled down my window and asked Mr. All-American if he needed any help. The look on his face in response clearly said that he had no idea what a woman could possibly do to help him and wondered what in the hell a woman was doing driving down this remote road all by herself anyway? (I suspect there was also a bit of hurt male pride to see me safely negotiating the road, when he couldn’t, a feeling I had no interest in alleviating.) In any case, he said, no thanks, and I went on.

As your Mr. All-American told you, I’ve changed my share of flat tires, as I’m sure you have too. So, my Mr. All-American got to save face in front of his wife and son, but was left on the narrow roadside to fend for himself. Oh, well, his loss.

BTW, if you ever get a chance to take that drive, please do. It’s beautiful, especially as you get lower down above Oracle where there are fields of bear grass waving in the wind.

Thanks for the memory, Sonora. I hope you get those new tires soon, that is, unless you want to repeat your fake “damsel in distress” scenario to see who stops the next time. :-)

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My friend Michael is one of the organizers of, and the webmaster for, the Central Arizona Gender Alliance.  Recently, he asked me to write a profile of myself to be posted as the feature story on the CAGA website for January 2009.  Rather than start from scratch, I adapted my “Who I Am and Why I Do What I Do” post.  Since I wrote that post, however, my involvement in the issues affecting our community has increased.  That led to the following comments that I added to the story that will appear on the CAGA site, which I wanted to share here.

While I have this chance, I also want to say some things about activism. The trans community in this country is small, and the number of those willing to speak out on the issues that affect us is even smaller. That means that each one of us is vital if we ever want the public’s attitude toward us, and the discrimination, hate and bigotry that we face, to change. It also means that one person can have a significant impact on the direction that our community takes in addressing the issues that we face.

It sounds clichéd, but I have learned through experience the truth of the statement that if I don’t do it, if I don’t step forward and say “this is wrong and must change,” if I don’t propose solutions and work to make them a reality, then who will? The answer is no one. It happens every day. We see or hear about something that we know is wrong – another trans woman shot in Memphis, another trans woman homeless because she can’t get a job – and we stand by in silence and do nothing. Those things will never change if you don’t work to change them, even if all you can do is to say “this is wrong.” Keep in mind too that, although it is important that we in the trans community know about these injustices, it is our families and friends, our lesbian, gay and bisexual sisters and brothers, and the general public that need to hear our voices. So many people truly have no idea about the mistreatment that we suffer, how widespread it is and how few protections exist to ensure that most basic of human rights: the right to live lives of peace and dignity. Those are the people we need to speak to, because it is their sense of justice and morality that we need to invoke if we ever want things to change.

Is it scary to step forward and say, “I am trans, this is wrong and it must stop”? Of course, it is. But there are also rich rewards in showing the world that we are proud of who we are, that we refuse to cower in the darkness of ignorance and hate any longer, and in knowing that we are helping to change the world, not just for ourselves, but for people everywhere. Join me! Today do just one thing to make the world a better place to live, whether that’s giving a hug to a friend you know is having a hard time, writing a letter to the editor or simply telling your story. But, most of all, Be Who You Are!!

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