A Look at the Evolution of Trans Rights and Support.
By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/ TRT Columnist—
I recently attended a presentation on terminology related to the trans community and what allies can do to support trans people. This presentation was at a local church and the majority of attendees were cisgender people. In the early days there would never be a presentation such as this offered outside of the LGBTQ community and most certainly not ever in a church. Times sure have changed!
The presentation discussed terms such as “non-binary,” “genderqueer,” “agender,” and other aspects of gender identity. The cis audience was struggling a little to understand the differences between the terms, but they were earnestly trying to understand. It was a bit of a culture shock for me as I am not a churchgoer and I was pleasantly surprised. These cis church folks were on our side!
There were also a few young trans people there and one of them politely corrected the presenter that one should never ask for “your preferred pronouns.” The young trans person pointed out that the word “preferred” implies that there is a choice. Instead, one should ask, “What are your pronouns?” leaving the word “preferred” completely out of the question. It was great to hear the voice of a young trans person providing input to the presentation. Yes, times change, terms change, and what you ask one day might not be okay to ask the next day. It was great that the young trans person brought us up to date with the current thinking.
Another thought I’ve been hearing lately from the younger trans crowd is that they will not let anyone erase their identity. They are who they are and they demand that people acknowledge that fact. Back in my day, it seemed like everyone was trying to erase my identity. It was so bad that I expected everyone I met to try to erase my identity. Back then, trans people had very little, if any, support from family and friends and forget about looking to churches for support. We, trans people, were often thought of as sick, weird, and disgusting individuals who needed help to straighten out. Nowadays, many families and friends support and even champion our struggle to be who we are. Times have greatly changed!
What brought about this change? I would say that it began with the American Psychiatric Association (APA), publisher of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), stating in a 2012 report that trans people are not mentally ill and that transition can greatly help the individual. In 2013, the DSM was changed because of that report. From that point on, many therapists changed their views of trans people and helped them if they were ready to transition. Soon afterwards, parents became involved and the support grew. After family, friends got on board, and now even church groups are among our strongest allies! It’s incredible the amount of support that has grown since 2012. Where there once was very little to no support and now, in many cases, there is tremendous support for trans people. I am very happy that we have this support these days, but it is such a huge change from how it used to be that I’m still in a bit of culture shock!
We still have a long way to go to get everyone on board with us, but we do now have such a wonderful base of allies. I am so grateful for these allies and I am so happy that they are supporting us. Looking back to the days when we had little support and with all the support we now have, I want to give a shoutout to all those family members, friends, and church groups that are now in our corner and have our backs. They are making our lives much easier than they ever were and I thank them for it!
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is retired from 3M and has three children and two grandchildren.