The Proposed Arizona “Papers Please” Law For Trans Women

Update: From Arizona attorney Abby Jensen:

Latest word is that SB1432 was controlled by another committee whose chair would not give it up for Kavanagh to use for his “papers to pee” striker amendment. So, now, he’s looking for another bill to use. As a result, tracking that bill number won’t help us. Instead, we have to just go to this page & check every striker in the House Appropriations Committee for his bill: http://www.azleg.gov/StrikeEverything.asp.


We’re a long way from Arizona’s Forty-ninth Legislature’s 2009 bill HB 2455, submitted by Arizona Representatives Campbell CL, Heinz, Patterson. That bill proposed housing, employment, and public accommodation antidiscrimination protections based on gender identity.

Arizona State Rep. John Kavanagh (R-8th District) has submitted an amendment to a State Senate bill: SB 1432. The amendment appears to be in response to Phoenix passing an ordinance — Phoenix City Ordinance No. G-5780 — granting housing, employment, and public accommodation antidiscrimination protections based on gender identity. When social conservatives use the term “bathroom bill,” what they object to is trans women using women’s restrooms. The presumption is that trans women, or men posing as trans women, at worst will be predators in women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, and at best make cisgender women “uncomfortable.”

So, what Rep. Kavanagh has proposed is a transgender “Paper’s Please” amendment to a Arizona Senate bill. It would require that people using public restrooms use the one associated with their birth certificate. The net effect would be that all transgender, as well as gender expression nonconforming people, would have to carry their birth certificates with them to prove they were using the restroom associated with the gender marker on their birth certificates.

Here is the relevant amendment text for SB 1432 so that you can read it yourself:

PROPOSED HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AMENDMENTS TO SB 1432

13-2904. Disorderly conduct; classification

A. A person commits disorderly conduct if, with intent to disturb the peace or quiet of a neighborhood, family or person, or with knowledge of doing so, such person:

6. Recklessly handles, displays or discharges a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.

B. A PERSON COMMITS DISORDERLY CONDUCT IF THE PERSON INTENTIONALLY ENTERS A PUBLIC RESTROOM, BATHROOM, SHOWER, BATH, DRESSING ROOM OR LOCKER ROOM AND A SIGN INDICATES THAT THE ROOM IS FOR THE EXCLUSIVE USE OF PERSONS OF ONE SEX AND THE PERSON IS NOT LEGALLY CLASSIFIED ON THE PERSON’S BIRTH CERTIFICATE AS A MEMBER OF THAT SEX.

C. SUBSECTION B OF THIS SECTION DOES NOT APPLY TO A PERSON WHO ENTERS A PUBLIC RESTROOM, BATHROOM, SHOWER, BATH, DRESSING ROOM OR LOCKER ROOM AND WHO IS OF A DIFFERENT SEX THAN THAT INDICATED ON THE SIGN IF THE PERSON IS ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:

1. ENTERING AS PART OF THE PERSON’S JOB RESPONSIBILITIES.

2. ENTERING TO GIVE AID OR ASSISTANCE TO ANOTHER PERSON.

3. A CHILD WHO NEEDS ASSISTANCE.

4. PHYSICALLY DISABLED.

D. Disorderly conduct under subsection A, paragraph 6 is a class felony. Disorderly conduct under subsection A, paragraph 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 OR SUBSECTION B is a class 1 misdemeanor.

Sec. 2. Emergency

This act is an emergency measure that is necessary to preserve the public peace, health or safety and is operative immediately as provided by law.”

The relevant statute on on amending birth certificates is A.R.S. 36-337, and it states the following:

A. The state registrar shall amend the birth certificate for a person born in this state when the state registrar receives any of the following:. Except as provided in subsection D of this section, an adoption certificate or a court order for adoption required pursuant to section 36-336.

3. For a person who has undergone a sex change operation or has a chromosomal count that establishes the sex of the person as different than in the registered birth certificate, both of the following:

(a) A written request for an amended birth certificate from the person or, if the person is a child, from the child’s parent or legal guardian.

(b) A written statement by a physician that verifies the sex change operation or chromosomal count.

4. A court order ordering an amendment to a birth certificate.

If the language of this amendment becomes law, then using a public restroom that didn’t match the gender marker on one’s birth certificate could land one in jail for up to six months.

Usually, it’s important to counter opponents’ inaccurate “bathroom bill” claims, but not too frequently. Something many trans activists and advocates are aware of is that discussions about public restrooms don’t help legislators and voters remember why they should support nondiscrimination legislation based on gender identity. If one needs to counter opponents’ false “bathroom bill” and “bathroom predator” claims, then one needs to quickly by point out that there are many antidiscrimination laws based on gender identity in place in 14 states, the District of Colombia, as well as in many cities, and one just needs to look at reports from those cities to see what the results having those laws on the books means..

So, legislators and voters should be told that where antidiscrimination laws based on gender idenity in other jurisdiction there hasn’t been any reported increase in public restroom predation. After pointing this out, activists and advocates can return to messaging that highlights the many good reasons that outline why nondiscrimination protections based on gender identity are needed.

But, this amendment put forward by Rep. Kavanagh isn’t legislation where civil rights activists can argue for antidiscrimination protections, but instead is an amendment codifying a fear of and discrimination against trans women — a fear that isn’t supported by any documentation that might indicate trans women, or men pretending to be trans women, are frequent bathroom predators. That’s a horse of a different color, eh? The amendment is the negative in and of itself, and isn’t just an argument against granting antidiscrimination protections based on gender identity.

There is something about the proposed amendment that Rep. Kavanagh didn’t think quite through though: he based his amendment language on the false assumption that all trans people are trans women. The reality is that there are trans men too. The amendment language that Rep. Kavanagh has put forward might keep many trans women out of women’s restrooms, but as a secondary effect of his bill is that he’d put many trans men in women’s restrooms.

So, which would be scarier to social conservatives such as Rep. Kavanagh: trans women in women’s restrooms, or bearded, balding trans men in women’s restrooms? If cisgender women aren’t comfortable with trans women in women’s restrooms, I believe the alternative would cause them to be even more uncomfortable.

Ordinary equality should be just that: ordinary. So, we in LGBT community should continue to argue the merits of antidiscrimination protections based on gender identity, and point out the “bathroom bill” arguments of increased predation by trans women in public restrooms are fear based, and not reality based.

President Obama Didn’t Fold Trans People Into The American Family

Image: Autumn Sandeen

If we are honest with ourselves we’ll admit that there are too many who do not yet know in their lives or feel in their hearts the urgency of this struggle. That’s why I continue to speak about the importance of equality for LGBT families — and not just in front of gay audiences. That’s why Michelle and I have invited LGBT families to the White House to participate in events like the Easter Egg Roll — because we want to send a message. And that’s why it’s so important that you continue to speak out, that you continue to set an example, that you continue to pressure leaders — including me — and to make the case all across America.

~President Barak Obama, Remarks by the President at Human Rights Campaign Dinner, October 11, 2009 (emphasis added)

President Obama doesn’t speak about equality for transgender people in front of LGBT audiences; it follows then that he doesn’t speak about equality for transgender in front of audiences that are not primarily LGBT. President Obama certainly didn’t mention trans people in his second inaugural speech in the way he mentioned gay people and Stonewall in that speech:

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

These statements in the President’s second inaugural speech comes months after Vice President Biden (who famously was three days ahead of President Obama in coming out in support of marriage equality) stated during the campaign that transgender discrimination is the “civil rights issue of our time.”

It’s not that the Obama Administration hasn’t been trans supportive. As Trans United For Obama documented during the 2012 campaign, the administration has accomplished a great deal, including:

  • President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, making it a federal crime to assault another individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. This is the first time gender identity has been protected by federal law.
  • Obama Administration Officials have collaborated with transgender advocates to discuss strategies to prevent bullying and end gender-based violence.
  • The State Department now includes an evaluation of the state of LGBT citizens in its annual country reports, in order to better identify abuses, state-sanctioned homophobia and transphobia overseas
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission clarified that Title VII sex discrimination law covers transgender work
  • The Obama Administration ended the Social Security Administration’s gender “no-match” letters, helping to protect the privacy of transgender workers
  • President Obama banned employment discrimination based on gender identity in the federal government.
  • The Department Of Health and Human Services confirmed that federal health care programs and those receiving federal funds are barred from discriminating against transgender people.
  • Under President Obama’s leadership, the Veterans Health Administration established policy to ensure comprehensive and respectful health care to the transgender and intersex Veterans enrolled in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system or who are otherwise eligible for VA care.
  • The Veterans Health Administration now allows transgender veterans to update their medical records according to their gender identity.
  • The Affordable Care Act bans discrimination on the basis of gender identity in operating insurance exchanges.
  • The State Department now allows transgender Americans to update their passport gender markers without requiring invasive medical procedures.
  • President Obama appointed three openly transgender people to serve in his administration, making him the first president ever to do so.

But words matter. By using the term “gay rights” instead of “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights,” he did not take the opportunity to talk about LGBT civil rights to a national audience. President Obama — unlike with gay civil rights issues — only speaks the terms “bisexual” and “transgender” to LGBT audiences, and doesn’t even mention his administration’s trans specific accomplishments to LGBT audiences.

Adele M. Stan wrote in his AlterNet article 12 Ways Obama Smacked Down the Tea Party and the Right in Inauguration Speech about the importance of President Obama’s inclusion of “Stonewall” and “gay” in his speech (emphasis added):

Asserting the moral imperative of gay rights. Although the right has succeeded in suppressing the rights of women and people of color, it’s widely acknowledged that in this regard, the right is on the wrong side of history. So when, in a line of great rhetorical flourish, Obama equated a famous gay rebellion against New York City police at a Greenwich Village bar with an iconic civil rights march and a catalyzing moment in the quest for women’s suffrage, he essentially said to his opponents: Your campaign against LGBT people is immoral. Here’s the line from the second inaugural address that’s destined for immortality:

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall… Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.

Alas, transgender people, it seems, will continue to wait for their day.

The lack of rhetorical inclusion of trans people in the second inaugural speech means that President Obama isn’t including the vision of equality for trans people in the national civil rights dialogue in the same way he’s included the vision of equality for gay people in that dialogue.

At this point, I’m not sure what the full significance of that reality is, but I’m certain that there is significance that trans community will come to better understand in years to come.

~~~~~
Related:
* President Obama Folds Gay People Into The American Family

Marriage, Trans & Lesbian Style

Love. It’s a marvelous thing.

The Melissa Harris Perry Show highlighted the December 6th marriage of Liz Margolies and Scout — a marriage of a lesbian and a trans man.

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If anyone tells you marriage equality isn’t a trans issue, they likely don’t get that marriages like Liz’s and Scout’s would not be recognized as valid in at least four states: Florida, Kansas, Texas, and Tennessee. They have the Loving v. Virginia problem of their marriage likely dissolving when crossing at a handful of state lines.

Many congratulations for Liz and Scout — I wish many happy years together for them both!

Gender Identity Disorder Diagnosis Is Quietly, Without Much MSM Notice, Going Away

The Gender Identity Disorder (GID) diagnosis is still going away, but it hasn’t been reported much in mainstream media (MSM). When the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Version 5 (DSM-V) is printed in 2014, the GID diagnosis for adults and children will be gone, replaced with the Gender Dysphoria diagnosis.

The Guardian mentioned the change this week in their article Asperger’s syndrome dropped from psychiatrists’ handbook the DSM (emphasis added):

In other changes to the DSM, abnormally bad and frequent temper tantrums will be diagnosed as DMDD, meaning disruptive mood dysregulation disorder. Supporters say it will address concerns about too many children being misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder and treated with powerful psychiatric drugs.

The term “gender identity disorder”, for children and adults who strongly believe they were born the wrong gender, is being replaced with “gender dysphoria” to remove the stigma attached to the word “disorder”. Supporters equated the change with removing homosexuality as a mental illness in the diagnostic manual decades ago.

Here’s where the one real thing of note about this DSM change from GID to Gender Dysphoria from that The Guardian article (emphasis added):

The revisions come in the first major rewrite in nearly 20 years of the diagnostic guide used by psychiatrists in the US and other countries. The changes were approved on Saturday.

However, many of us known this about GID to Gender Dysphoria change coming for DSM-V for awhile. There was a July 23, 2012 article by the Associated Press entitled Transgender advocates seek new diagnostic terms which included the following:

The most symbolic change under consideration so far for the manual’s fifth edition, known as the DSM-V for short, is a new name for “Gender Identity Disorder,” the diagnosis now given to adults, adolescents and children with “a strong and persistent cross-gender identification.”

In the manual’s next incarnation, individuals displaying “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender” would be diagnosed instead with “Gender Dysphoria,” a term that comes from the Greek word for emotional distress.

Switching the emphasis from a disorder that by definition all transgender people possess to a temporary mental state that only some might possess marks real progress, according to Dana Beyer, a retired eye surgeon who helped the Washington Psychiatric Society make recommendations for the chapter on “Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders.”

“A right-winger can’t go out and say all trans people are mentally ill because if you are not dysphoric, that can’t be diagnosed from afar,” Beyer said. “It no longer matters what your body looks like, what you want to do to it, all of that is irrelevant as far as the APA goes.”

The was a July 23, 2012 article in The Advocate entitled DSM-V To Rename Gender Identity Disorder ‘Gender Dysphoria’ which stated this:

For years advocates have lobbied the American Psychiatric Association to change or remove categories labeling transgender people in a psychiatric manual, arguing that terms like “Gender Identity Disorder” characterize all trans people as mentally ill. Based on the standards to be set by the DSM-V, individuals will be diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria for displaying “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender.”

Then that The Advocate article adds context to this story of GID being replaced by Gender Dysphoria:

“All psychiatric diagnoses occur within a cultural context,” said Jack Drescher, a member of the APA subcommittee working on the revision. “We know there is a whole community of people out there who are not seeking medical attention and live between the two binary categories. We wanted to send the message that the therapist’s job isn’t to pathologize.”

Homosexuality was diagnosed in the DSM as an illness until 1973, and conditions pertaining to homosexuality were not entirely removed until 1987. According to Dana Beyer, who helped the Washington Psychiatric Society make recommendations on matters of gender and sexuality, the new term implies a temporary mental state rather than an all-encompassing disorder, a change that helps remove the stigma transgender people face by being labeled “disordered.”

Times are changing. With the new law in California where it becomes illegal on January 1st of next year for licensed therapists to practice reparative therapy (therapy meant to convert gays to straight) on minor youth, there is a continuing movement to depathologize lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people’s lives.

The news The Guardian reported on GID going away as a diagnosis — with the emphasis from the AP article that the gender dysphoria of trans people isn’t “a temporary mental state” — is an acknowledgement that the American Psychiatric Association believes trans people’s lives and human experiences are within the bounds of human gender diversity, and trans people’s lives and trans people’s human experiences aren’t intrinsically disordered.

And when it comes to marching forward on civil rights based on gender identity and gender expression, as well as just an acknowledgement that trans people live authentic lives, that’s a good thing.

Guest Post: The Beautiful Daughter: How My Korean Mother Gave Me the Courage to Transition

Guest Post By Andy Marra
Public Relations Manager, GLSEN

Image: Andy MarraGrowing up, I remember making a pact with myself. As an adopted child I promised to find my family in Korea, but how exactly that would occur remained a mystery to me. I luckily had the unconditional support of my American family, even if they were stumped by my vague plan.

I later came out as a trans woman in 2003. I was also fortunate enough to receive an outpouring of love, acceptance and support from family and friends.

But there was always one barrier to my life of intersecting identities that I struggled to overcome. I could never find the will to move forward with my transition — taking hormones or surgery — despite the opportunity to do so. And my hesitation was largely due to my unknown family living far away in Korea.

Like me, more than 200,000 Korean babies and children have been sent overseas. But less than 3 percent of us are able to find our families. The odds were clearly not in my favor. But what if I did find my family after all these years? And how would they handle meeting a young woman instead of a baby boy who should have grown into manhood? I was left with few ideas to reconcile my concerns.

In 2010 I had the opportunity to return to Korea for the first time. I was thrilled, nervous and reminded of my childhood pact. My time spent in Korea was life-changing, but the prospects of finding my family were less than promising. I visited my adoption agency seeking information. I was instead greeted with prickly resistance.

[More below the fold.]

(more…)

True The Vote Targets Transgender Voters

The transgender population is a small population, and to my knowledge until this election trans voters haven’t been systematically targeted for voter suppression. Thumbnail link: True The Vote's Antitransgender Image In Their Training MaterialWell, this year trans people are being targeted for voter suppression by True The Vote. A graphic from True The Vote’s Virginia training materials shows what the organization thinks about trans citizens.

The National Center For Transgender Equality’s (NCTE’s) Advancing Transgender Equality blog article Tea Party Group Targets Trans Voters explains it this way:

A right-wing, Tea Party organization called “True the Vote” is training their volunteer poll watchers to target transgender voters. True the Vote’s training manual features a transphobic image that claims transgender people are fraudulent voters and should be denied the right to vote.

NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said, “It is disgraceful that True the Vote would try to thug anyone into not voting. True the Vote’s true agenda is a shameful attempt to scare trans people away from participating in our democracy.”

“Trans people are resilient,” said Keisling. “For trans people, voting is not just a right and a responsibility, for us it is also an important part of how we are winning our equality. Scare tactics like this won’t keep us from that.”

NCTE urges all transgender and gender non-conforming voters, regardless of their party affiliation or political beliefs, to ignore True The Vote’s shameful and unamerican attacks, and vote this Election Day.

The blog article ended with this key point:

In case you are challenged, be prepared by bringing NCTE’s “Voting While Trans Checklist” with you when you vote. The Checklist includes a message from NCTE to poll workers clarifying possible questions they may have about your identification. If a poll worker or poll watcher attempts to deny you a ballot, call the National Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) immediately.

Hey, to learn more about voting while trans, web surf on over to www.votingwhiletrans.org.

What Is The Civil Rights Issue Of Our Time?

Image: Transgender Pride FlagAccording to Vice President Joe Biden, transgender issues are “the civil rights issue of our time.

There is a reason Trans United For Obama exists. The Obama administration has been a pro-trans issue administration.

This is in stark contrast to when Mitt Romney was the governor of Massachusetts when he was notably transphobic and biphobic, as well as not being pro-LGBT regarding school bullying and marriage equality.

When I voted early last week, I voted pro-LGBT…pro-transgender. I refuse to vote against my own self interest in the manner that GOProud and the Log Cabin Republicans recommend LGBT people do.

Trans people have a stark choice. The smart transgender vote is for President Obama.

As voter identification laws create unique problems for transgender voters, trans people need to study up on the National Center for Transgender Equality’s resources for Voting While Trans to make sure their votes are taken and counted.

I’ve Voted Early Too By Absentee Ballot

Pam wrote about voting early recently, and here in California I’ve followed her example by mailing in my absentee ballot today.

I filled out my ballot last night — of course voting for President Obama’s reelection — and at 10:30 AM this morning the mail carrier took my ballot addressed to the registrar of voters. My votes be tallied on November 6th for the candidates and ballot initiatives I support, as well as for the ballot initiatives I don’t support.

Voting early — have you voted yet?

I wholeheartedly join Pam in recommending voting early.

Thoughts On Personal Purpose

It’s just not enough to know what one’s against. One has to know what one is for, and then work and sacrifice for it.

This point of view — the one in the quote above — I’ve espoused before. It not only applies to those who commit to making the world a better place for social justice, but also applies to so many situations to include faith, career, and family; this point of view defines an approach to life that looks at the human need many of us feel for purpose.

I’m one of those who needs that sense of purpose. I’m one who’s recently lost that sense of purpose in the face of hate from some in LGBT community; from some transsexual women, as well as some who identify themselves as women of transsexual history…as women who associate with the phrase Harry Benjamin Syndrome. I hadn’t lost sense of purpose when social conservatives, such as those on the religious right, attacked transgender identified people — that’s because they are natural enemies of the change trans people are demanding. However, it’s another thing altogether when it comes from people I consider my peers.

Well, I know what I’m against, and I know what I’m for.

I’m against hate; I’m for love, as well as thoughtfulness and kindness…as well as for confronting hate.

I’m against discrimination; I’m for antidiscrimination legislation.

I’m against limiting reproductive choices; I’m for reproductive rights.

I’m against abandoning veterans who have been injured during their service to country; I’m for veterans benefits that more than adequately meet the financial and medical needs of those veterans.

I’m against that which diminishes trans people in a way that fails to recognize their personal gender truths; I’m for recognizing gender as a spectrum, and for having personal gender truths recognized by government.

I’m against military policy that treats all who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria as ineligible for military service; I’m for open service for trans people in similar manner to have lesbian, gay, and bisexual people now can serve openly.

But at the same time, I’m for taking care of myself; I’m for others taking care of themselves.

I spoke a few months ago to a friend of mine who lessened her internet presence because of how it was costing her personally. She commented that she personally wouldn’t be able to bear up under the hate I live with.

So to what level am I willing to process the sheer frequency and quantity of hate — as well as disrespect as a human being I’m experience — from people I consider my peers who don’t consider me their peer?

Recently, not very much.

It’s just not enough to know what one’s against. One has to know what one is for, and then work and sacrifice for it.

When does one say one say that one’s shelf life as a public activist should wind down? When does one say one has worked and sacrificed enough?

I don’t know. So much of the purpose I find in life has been found in service to others, and I’ve made personal decisions regarding the non-public parts of my life that have limited my ability to find purpose in serving others in trans community. I’ve had so much hate directed against me in the last couple of years by those I consider my peers that I don’t find joy in serving community at this point.

A sense of purpose is necessary for me to feel good about my life. Finding other ways to feel that sense of purpose outside of community activism seems necessary for the long term as community activism is no longer enough.

So what is it you work and sacrifice for? Where do you find your personal purpose? Those to me are things many should be asking themselves — especially keeping a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. in mind:

Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?

On This DADT Repeal Anniversary, Let’s Not Forget The T

Today is the one-year anniversary of lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers being able to serve openly. With that in mind, I’m reposting this essay from December 19, 2010 — an essay (entitled Dan Choi: I Am Somebody! Autumn Sandeen: I Am Still Not Recognized As Somebody.) where I highlighted how with repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) doesn’t include trans people.

On this anniversary of the effective date of DADT repeal, let’s not forget the T in LGBT.


I have heard many senators and congresspeople use variants of Admiral Mullen’s pro-Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT)  repeal phrase of relating to how DADT “[f]orces young men and women to lie…to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.” For example, from the floor of the Senate yesterday (December 18, 2010):

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Senator Carl Levin: …A policy, which in Admiral Mullen’s words — memorable words — quote “Forces young men and women to lie to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.”

Young transgender servicemembers, transsexual servicemembers, and servicemembers who identify as both transgender and transsexual still will have to lie to defend their fellow citizens.

Dan Choi tweeted the following yesterday:

Twitter Image of Dan Choi's Tweet: Today we stand taller declaring: 'I am somebody.'

I learned the equality chant from Robin McGehee of GetEQUAL where that “I am somebody” line of Dan Choi’s tweet. Here is the equality chant:

I am somebody!

I deserve full equality!

Right here!

Right now!

I am somebody!

Indeed, Dan Choi had much reason to state “I am somebody” yesterday…much reason to celebrate. He even received a tweet from Senator Harry Reid, about an hour prior to the final vote:

Twitter Image of Sen. Harry Reid's Tweet: One hour away from fulfilling my promise to you to kill #DADT

My friend, Dan Choi, is closer to being a somebody who likely will be able to resume his military career as an out, gay, U.S. Army Officer. I’m very, very happy to have participated in direct action on the White House Fence with Lt. Choi in standing up for liberty, equality, and justice. I’m incredibly happy he may be able to serve his country in military uniform again.

That said, if anyone noticed back in April and November, I never led the “I am somebody” chant from the White House fence. Repeal of DADT was not going to result in my peer transgender community members and me being closer to being somebodies, able too to serve our country in uniform without having to lie about who we are.

Many of us transgender veterans had made a conscious decision to not tie the future transgender people’s open military service to the lesbian, gay, and bisexual people’s open service. Allowing transgender people to serve in the military openly will require much more accommodation than allowing lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to serve in the military openly requires. We also know America isn’t Great Brittan, Canada, or Australia — the more conservative American people aren’t as ready and prepared for the open service of trans servicemembers as they are prepared for the open service of lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers — and even most of those countries didn’t tie the service of LGB servicemembers to T servicemembers.

So, many of us T veterans took the position of supporting our LGB servicemembers and veterans, and waiting.

So while passage of even this watered down version of DADT repeal is a big win for LGBT community, it’s not a direct win for the T subcommunity. Passage of a fully-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act  (ENDA) — one that includes employment protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and expression was a higher priority for most in the T-subcommunity, but for some reason the Democratic 111th Congress seemed only to be able to pass one piece of LGBT legislation a year, and even the repeal of DADT seemed incredibly iffy right until the end.

In other words, for me, passage of DADT repeal doesn’t leave me able to shout “I am somebody!” with the same sense of community achievement that Dan Choi had the pleasure to shout “I am somebody!” yesterday. I’m glad he could, I’m a little meloncholy I couldn’t.

Frankly, I am still not any more of a somebody in the legal sense than I was the day before yesterday. Clearly, my transgender peers and my personal freedom, equality, and justice weren’t improved with repeal of DADT. Many of we trans people are very, very happy for our LGBT community’s win, but it does come with a sense of melancholy, in that the passage of DADT repeal doesn’t improve life for transgender Americans.

Freedom, equality, and justice isn’t about me or you, or your subcommunity of the LGBT community or mine, or about any other demographic group we may belong to. Freedom, equality, and justice is about us. If an issue is an issue for even one subcommunity of the LGBT community, it’s my issue. I fought for repeal of DADT because our fight is about us, and not about me.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel a bit meloncholy because yesterday’s DADT win wasn’t about me or my subcommunity of the LGBT community.

For the next two years, we won’t see movement on repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), nor will we see movement on ENDA because of the incoming Republican Congress and their “culture war.”

DADT was prioritized over ENDA in this congress in all likelihood in large part because there was a clearer way forward, and our DADT repeal “lunch counters” were easier to identify, and the discrimination easier to articulate in simple terms, so the targets were easier to identify and target.

Thumbnail Link to GetEQUAL e-blast: We're one step closer!But if…but if…But if we see return of Democratic Party control of the House and Senate in 2012, will we see a higher priority put on repeal of DOMA, or a higher priority placed on the promise of ENDA? I can tell you what most in the transgender subcommunity of the LGBT community would prefer to see happen first, and that would passage of ENDA.

As the GetEQUAL e-blast pointed out regarding the passage of this DADT repeal bill (emphasis added):

Make no mistake — DADT is not yet repealed. There is still work to do. There is still a long process ahead, but we vow to keep the pressure up until the policy is fully and completely repealed. There are still people — especially our transgender sisters and brothers — who are unjustly left behind by this legislation.

I fought to see DADT legislatively repealed, and I took to the White House Fence twice over DADT; I went to jail twice over DADT. The legislative win on DADT yesterday is a win for LGBT community that I’m incredibly glad to have played a small part in, but my joy is somewhat tinged with melancholy. [T]ransgender sisters and brothers…are unjustly left behind…