By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist—
As Bob Dylan sings, “The times, they are a-changin.’” They certainly are changing for LGBT people, especially for the transgender segment of that acronym, and the changes are for the better. For a long time it seemed like it would never get better, but it has.
I think the turning point for us transgender folk was a couple of years ago, when Chaz Bono appeared on Dancing with the Stars. With Chaz being on television, the whole country—no, make that the whole world—saw a transgender person. If they never saw a transgender person before, well, now there was Chaz right in front of their eyes, right there in their living room on their televisions.
Last year, Laverne COX appeared as one of the stars on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, and once again a transgender person was in the spotlight. Just a few weeks ago Laverne graced the cover of TIME Magazine. This was the biggest publicity yet for us transgender folk, as it gave us the visibility of finally being acknowledged and accepted as a legitimate part of society. When I was a teenager, TIME used to be a staunch Republican-slanted magazine and there was no way that they would ever feature a transgender person on their cover. Surprise! My, how times have changed.
Sure, there was some backlash when CHAZ appeared on television a few years ago and sure, there was some backlash recently when Laverne was on the cover of TIME, but the backlash was beaten back by the media and by countless people who came to Chaz and Laverne’s defense. The tide has finally turned, and it’s getting to the point where the majority of people are beginning to acknowledge and accept transgender people as their equals. This was not so even just a few years ago, when we were either unheard of or ridiculed and shamed, so much that our only choice was to try to go stealth and blend into society as our true gender. It was not an easy road. We were most definitely a marginalized group. We lost our jobs, our friends, our families, and too often even our lives. When you came out as transgender back in those days, you were in for some pretty awful circumstances and situations. Back then, in transgender support groups everyone’s news was very often bad and sometimes even devastating. Those were sad and seemingly hopeless times. [pullquote]Last year, Laverne Cox appeared as one of the stars on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, and once again a transgender person was in the spotlight. Just a few weeks ago Laverne graced the cover of TIME Magazine. This was the biggest publicity yet for us transgender folk, as it gave us the visibility of finally being acknowledged and accepted as a legitimate part of society. [/pullquote]
Today’s transgender support groups are different. The news is often very good, as positive breakthroughs are constantly reported, including acceptance from co-workers, friends and family members. Not everyone is on board with us, but many are.
I was born in the early 1950s. In my life, I have seen vast changes in gender and gender roles. When I was a young child, mothers would wear dresses and stay home with their children while fathers were the sole providers of the family. Most jobs were for men and not for women. Back then a woman could be a nurse, a secretary, a school teacher, a librarian, or a stay-at-home mom. That was just about it. The doors were shut tight. Then came the late 60s, when things began to change for many groups of people, and at the forefront was the option for women to pursue whatever career they wanted to pursue. There was still some backlash, but it was changing for the better. In the 70s and 80s, suddenly some men began staying home with the children as many wives became the sole providers. In these cases, the roles were completely reversed. Women were breaking through glass ceilings in the 90s and 2000s, and today men and women across every socioeconomic background continue to strive towards full equality.
ENTER us transgender folk in the 2010s. We are now gaining acknowledgment and acceptance. We are now gaining equality. Ask yourself: does it really matter if you are male or female? No, it doesn’t. Ask yourself: does it really matter if you were born physically into one gender but live in the other gender? No, it doesn’t. We are all equal in this world, and more and more people are starting to agree.
Yes, Mr. Dylan, “The times they are a-changin!’”
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a local transwoman who has three grown children and works at 3M. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.