All the trans news that fits! (and some that never will)
Recent events in Michigan have reminded me of a steamy hot August afternoon in 2014, when leaders of the Transgender community from across Michigan gathered in an impromptu meeting on the sidewalk outside Affirmations in Ferndale. The Transgender community in Michigan was in crisis and emotions ran high. After more than two hours, we agreed that our guiding principle is “Trans people speak for Trans people.” Our common goal was to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include language that would ban discrimination based on Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sexual Orientation.
Since then, many Trans people and allies have put in countless hours of their own time, as well as money they didn’t have to raise awareness, advocate for local ordinances, and cultivate alliances along the way. But the truth is, too many Transgender people are still threatened with violence and indifference every day. In Michigan we continue to live without the full complement of civil rights that most Michiganders take for granted. In our residences and local communities, our public and private institutions, and in the workplace for those of us fortunate enough to have jobs, we are at risk of having our fundamental rights and liberties violated or denied.
This culture of inequity simply cannot continue.
Thanks in large part to the ACLU’s Transgender Advocacy Project (TAP) and the vision of its founder, Amy Hunter, Transgender rights advocates have gained the skills and are equipped with the resources they need to create new coalitions and strengthen existing partnerships that are so necessary to our future.
As TAP Coordinator Amy Hunter writes in her blog, published February 1 on the ACLU Michigan website: “There was an implicit admission that went along with the creation of the Transgender Advocacy Project: Institutional and established organizational players, both statewide and nationally had not yet done the inclusion work necessary to empower the transgender community to speak on their own behalf.”
She is absolutely correct in her assessment. While I haven’t been on the advocacy scene nearly as long as others in Michigan, everything suggests that the Trans community is on the verge of making real progress in our effort to achieve equality.
Michigan is not alone in this. We are one of thirty states that does not offer civil rights and workplace protections for Transgender people. We want to change that statistic, and the work we have done with the ACLU of Michigan will serve as a model for other statewide efforts. One of the lessons drawn from the national discussion is that Transgender rights are the pivot point upon which the rights of the entire LGBT community rests.
In Michigan and elsewhere, Trans people speak for Trans people. It is up to us to make sure our voices are never silenced again.