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The Visibility We Need and Deserve

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.

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15 comments on “The Visibility We Need and Deserve

  1. Rev. Rebecca Dunn
    July 4, 2014

    I see you.
    Big Love, my friend ~

    Rebecca

    Liked by 1 person

  2. oldvanner
    July 4, 2014

    I have to say the most talented, the bravest trans people I have met have all been United States Military veterans . Thank you first for your service . Thank you too for pioneering transgender people all over the world .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jodianns777
    July 4, 2014

    Just beautifully written, Char. You are a constant source of inspiration, beautiful creature! Love you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. D. Hill
    July 4, 2014

    “Go ahead and accuse me of using today as an excuse to bore you with my politics” – I understand what you mean and know that there are some who may feel this way, but I think you’ve hit it here – that today is a special day, but also just like every other day that you and others must live with this struggle. That today makes every other day no different is all the more the travesty of this issue. And the celebration of big love rather than war and violence should be from the birth to the cradle to the grave. Civil Rights. Elliott-Larson. What will OUR contribution be to improving this “great” nation?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Charin Davenport
      July 4, 2014

      Thanks, Denise! I hope that our contribution is, at least, that we have finally begun to realize what it means to work within each other’s discourse communities with respect. That would be an improvement, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Paul Anderson
    July 4, 2014

    You write very passionately–always have, based on what I’ve read (including your poetry). I’ve always appreciated reading/listening to you. You’re a wise and selfless individual–whether I was calling you Chuck, or Char. What I mean is, you’re still the same person to me, with the same heart, and the same good intentions. So, thank you for the post.

    We’re a feeling species, but we’re also hampered by consciousness. Our consciousnesses and emotions are almost always at war with one another. Somewhere along the way, to make ourselves feel better, we started ignoring and misinterpreting the true definition of the word “human.” To avoid guilt, or to justify our actions, we started treating certain peoples as if they were less than human–and then, later, we started claiming those peoples weren’t human at all. Slaves weren’t human. They were property. What someone did with his or her property was no one else’s concern. The problem is that now, after hundreds of years of evolution and adaptation, this mentality is almost innate. Many people don’t even realize when they’re discriminating, or being openly prejudiced. It’s a hypocrisy that’s been so deeply ingrained in us, as if we’ve grown so used to holding other humans down we can’t imagine it any other way–and that’s both frightening and sad.

    Why are we so obsessed with complicating what it is to be human? Why must we separate peoples into groups at all? I understand there are biological and scientific differences between men and women, or Caucasians and African-Americans, and those differences are worthy of close study. But when it comes down to it, we are human: Woman, man, transgender, black, white, yellow, brown, and even that strange case of blue people from the 1800s or whenever it was. We’re a feeling AND a thinking species. Why should that be a bad thing? Why can’t we feel AND think at the same time?

    It’s time to educate ourselves: To think, “Yes, Char (or whomever) is a human being,” and then to feel empathy for that person because, last time I checked, life is hard for pretty much everyone pretty much all the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. gracebacon
    July 4, 2014

    Thank you for a brilliant and eloquent statement. I hope that we will be able to make the social gains that should follow legal gains. I’m doing my part here in Clinton Township by being visible and approachable.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rachel Izabella
    July 4, 2014

    Reblogged this on The Way of the Transgressor is Hard and commented:
    A beautiful and poignant post by a trans veteran. She’s right — our nation is still on its way to being born and will not be born till all of us, including the most disenfranchized, enjoy equality and the right to pursue happiness.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Connor Bedell
    July 5, 2014

    Char, thank you so much for your service to our country and to the transgendered community. You express so eloquently things that need to be thought about and addressed in our society. People are people, no matter their sex, gender, race, religion, etc. We need to treat each other with respect, care, and love, and most of all as humans. I see you Char, and am grateful for all you have done and all you are doing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. G. B. Marian
    July 5, 2014

    Thank you very much for your service to this country and for putting up with everything you had to endure while doing so. As a born heterosexual white male civilian, I can’t begin to fully comprehend what it must be like for trans people in the armed forces; but I do know enough about human evil in general to imagine that you all probably deserve medals for it. May the Gods bless you and all of your friends and loved ones, and thank you again for your service. You are a true American hero.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. darlingtonwagner
    September 13, 2014

    Hi Charin, I loved your post and I thank you for your service! It’s definitely time to push hard for trans-inclusive legal protections, even in localities where progressives or democrats are not in charge. It’s time to reach out to all cis-gender folks in a spirit of patience and friendliness, i.e., a teacher’s spirit. Best.

    Like

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This entry was posted on July 4, 2014 by in Human Rights and Civil Rights, Viability and Visibility and tagged , , .

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