Why you should support Trans Rights and what you can do to help

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June 2, 2011
By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist
Q: Hey Lorelei,

Why should I support Trans Rights and what can I do to help?

Sincerely,
Joe and Janey McEveryone

A: There are lots of good reasons to support Trans Rights J&J! We are people just like everyone else. We have the same needs for food, shelter, employment and the whole Maslow’s hierarchy of needs thing that everyone else requires. But I’ve got an argument to make here, so I’ll try to be more specific.

As it is, in most of the country, we have very few rights and protections. Why just here in Massachusetts, an otherwise pretty liberal state, transgender and transsexual people have very few protections. In a state where Same-Sex Marriage has been legal for a couple of years now; I can still be fired from my job and/or simply refused employment because of my gender identity/presentation. Or, if I do find a decent enough job and someone willing to hire me simply on the strength of my qualifications, it’s easy to become stuck-afraid to ask for raises or promotions or even to seek better employment. The danger can be too great.

I can also be refused housing. Again, for very little reason other than a landlord not approving of who and what I am. Some of you may know that I live in a building in Holyoke that is regarded as being pretty dangerous. It’s kind of an impoverished neighborhood with a pretty high level of crime. There was actually a double, gang-related shooting in the alley outside my kitchen door the first month I moved in.
But I live there because the landlord was willing to rent me an apartment simply because my money was green.

There are certainly other reasons why I have chosen to live there. Like protection and community. For all the dangerous appearances, I found that once they grew to accept my presence, my mostly Puerto Rican neighbors actually watch out for me. Though they know I’m trans, they seem to have little trouble accepting me as a woman.

I do a lot of activism work in some very LGBTQ friendly places. Nice places, but kind of a bubble where it’s easy to forget how hard we have to fight. My neighbors, however, have a pretty tough lot themselves. Going home and greeting them as I climb the four flights of stairs to my apartment reminds me that it’s not just Trans Rights or Queer Rights that I fight for, it’s Human Rights.

So why should you support Trans Rights?
You should do it because we are your neighbors, your co-workers, your family members. You may not realize that you know a trans person yet, but dollars to donuts you do. For years we have been an often-invisible minority. No longer.

We are coming Out in ever greater numbers every day. It’s not that there are more of us, it’s that we refuse to hide in the shadows any longer. It won’t be long before you meet that trans person you already knew and what will you say? Will you already be an ally?

Still, maybe you need more convincing. Perhaps you consider yourself a “Conservative” or you’re one of those “Tea Party” folks who have found yourself stuck on the john with only this copy of TRT in the bathroom with you. I’ve got an argument for you too!

You should support Trans Rights because it’s good for the economy! So many of us are unemployed or under-employed due simply to our gender identities, despite often-excellent educational backgrounds, stellar qualifications and highly motivated work ethics. How ludicrous when instead of putting a drag on the economy, we could be helping to rescue the economy. I’ve got a word-count to consider, but trust me, the research and the numbers are there to support this assertion.

Okay, maybe I’ve got you convinced now. At least I hope I have.

So what can you do to help? For one thing you can find out what Trans Rights advocacy groups are operating in your area and contact them, offer your support. By the time you read this, Connecticut may already have passed its own Trans Rights Bill. As of this writing, HB 6599 passed the House by 77-62. Now we need to get it through the Senate before the end of the legislative session on June 8th.

If you’re in Massachusetts, you should go now and contact The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition! We’ve just reintroduced our own Trans Civil Rights Bill, “An Act Relative to Transgender Equal Rights” (H502, S764) and we need to make this year, the year it finally becomes law.

We’ve gotten more support every time we’ve tried to get this bill passed, but we still need more. And the people we need that support from are you!

Please, it’s imperative that you contact your representatives now and tell them in no uncertain terms how important it is for them to support the Trans Civil Rights Bill! Call, write and if you’re able to, visit them in person, at their district offices. Or even come to the Trans Equal Rights Lobby Day on June, 23rd up on Beacon Hill!

If your state legislators already support it, thank them and urge their continued support. If they don’t support it, or they are undecided, remind them that you live in their district and you vote. Tell them you expect that the people you vote for will be the kind of folks who support Trans Rights.

If you believe in Human Rights, believe in Trans Rights. And if you believe in Trans Rights, stand up and say it loud! The time is NOW.

Slainte!

*Lorelei Erisis, former Miss Trans New England, can be contacted at: loreleierisis@therainbowtimesmass.com.