All the trans news that fits! (and some that never will)
By Charin Hudson Davenport
July 4, 2014
Today, tens of millions of people will celebrate the birth of our nation, the United States of America. But, the American Revolution didn’t end with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I would argue that no birth is complete until the baby is viable and cradled with the same big love.
What do I mean? Let me start with this.
As a veteran (USN 1974-1981), I am reminded of the awful price paid by our military personnel each and every time I hear the pop and crackle of nearby fireworks, and the dull concussive thuds of explosions off in the distance. Though I am able to enjoy the fireworks, it saddens me to know that thousands of veterans seek the shelter of their basements and remote areas to avoid them. There is a reason for this, and I wonder why we celebrate our birth with symbols of war and not peace, not unity and diversity, knowledge and love.
As a trans veteran, I choose to be mindful of the deep wounds incurred by those who are trans and served honorably, but were either discharged for being trans or were subjected to incredible humiliation from those who should have been their fiercest allies. I am here to tell you that before, during and after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, no one has endured harsher treatment than those who are trans.
True, I will watch the fireworks because I like them, but they don’t replace the strength and the power of a hug and a comforting smile that honors and recognizes the reasons for our cautious approach to visibility. The U.S. flag is everywhere these days, but for me, I will fly my freak flag inside my chest at half mast and in distress. Why? Not because I am put off by anyone’s patriotism, but rather it is to recognize the stress that the trans community as a whole, but especially trans veterans and those still serving, feel every day. Those trans who answered the call to duty and put their lives on the line deserve to be protected in the workplace, in their housing, in public accommodations, homes for the elderly, health care facilities, and public events and so on. In Michigan we are not, or at least, not yet. This is why we practically gush whenever someone treats us with kindness and respect.
Go ahead and accuse me of using today as an excuse to bore you with my politics, and I will tell you that I and my fellow trans can take the criticism because we hear it every time we dare to be visible and speak in defense of our civil rights and human rights. This is not about politics. This is about inclusion, respect, and dignity. This is about living a full life.
We must convince the U.S. Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Student Non-Discrimination Act. They are two big pieces in our struggle toward equality and justice, our civil rights and our human rights. Our full life. We also need to amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and in Michigan the Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act of 1976, so that people are not protected in their public and private lives from discrimination based just on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status, but also on the basis of sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression, as well.
That is what I mean when I say that the birth of our nation is not completed until it is viable and each child is cradled with the same big love. Through our struggles, we have proven our viability through our increasingly fearless visibility. Our allies can and must bear witness to that! What we in the trans community need, especially those who are veterans and still serving, is a hug and a smile. What we need is someone to look into our eyes and say, “Hello in there. I see you.” That is the visibility we need and deserve and have risked our lives to know.