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Posts Tagged ‘justice’

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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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.

* * *

[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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