I quote the word representatives, because I am a Progressive Democrat trapped in Texas, in a highly Republican district. These people don’t represent me or my beliefs. Nonetheless, I still take the occasional opportunity to present the minority opinion.
Lately, I’ve been working on a letter in preparation for March 7, designated Lobby Day by Equality Texas (and no doubt other organizations around the country). I’m sending a letter via my pastor, rather than going in person. The reasons are explained in the letter, but likely already self-evident. So, to the letter:
Sadly, I must begin this letter by informing you that you will not find my name on any list of registered voters. This is not because I don’t vote, nor is it because I am not in your district. Indeed, I do vote, and I am your constituent. Why then won’t you find my name? Because I am forced to use a pseudonym in order to protect myself from the rampant discrimination people like myself encounter every day.
I am a trans woman. This means that I was assigned the gender of male at birth, though I am indeed a woman in every other way. Men and women such as myself, whose internal sense of our gender differs from our bodies, face discrimination at every turn. Just this past month,
February 4, 2011 – The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) today released a comprehensive new report, “Injustice at Every Turn,” revealing the depth of discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people in a wide range of areas, including education, health care, employment, and housing. The NTDS is the first large-scale national study of discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming Americans, and paints a more complete picture than any prior research to date.
This report (executive summary [PDF] attached) indicates in sheer numbers what I and others have experienced our entire lives. I am 52 years old, legally and gainfully employed (so long as I remain in the closet), and a fully functioning middle class member of society. So many of our friends and neighbors, though, are being lost to society due to unfair mistreatment. All we ask is the ability to live our lives in peace, to change our names and legal gender markers in conformance with our true gender, and to marry who we love. Is that really so much to ask?
I beg of you, take the few minutes required to read the Executive Summary of this very timely study. Then take a few more minutes to consider what you could do to make life better for those of us who, through no fault of our own, are marginalized by society.
Our lot does not end with just discrimination. There is another reason I choose to deliver this letter under a pseudonym and without my complete home address. Transgender people are very likely to be murdered simply because of who we are. When such murders do occur, they are seldom solved. We are often assumed to be sex workers, and as such second class citizens. Our cases get back-burnered, if worked at all, in many parts of the world.
On November 20th every year, we come together to remember those of our brothers and sisters who have been slain in hate crimes in the previous year. Every year, as I listen to the names of the victims recited, I feel my heart being wrenched from my chest. I experience anger, yes, but also fear. Fear for myself, and fear for those like myself, many of whom will not live to half my age. I know that I cannot give in to the fear, so instead I come to you, and ask for your help. It is only through sharing ourselves, and our unique experience, that we can ever hope to overcome fear and hatred.
So I ask you, am I truly less your constituent than the straight man who lives next door to me, with his wife and children? I can tell you that they don’t think so. They are your constituents as well, and highly religious. Yet they are capable of accepting me for who I am, and letting me live my life as I choose. All I ask of you is that my government give me the same consideration.
What do you think? I’ve got an advocacy training this Saturday. Among other things, I’ll ask what specific legislative items I should touch on, and probably add a couple of paragraphs based on that.