The History Of Transgender Rights

Fri Aug 14, 2020 09:07:51AM

So, a brief history here on transgender rights, at least back to the early 1990's - the part of which I personally participated in.

There has been, for much of the history of the movement, a lot of friction between the LGB and T elements of our LGBTQ community. A lot of this has to do with the lack of support for the trans community from the LGB's.

I came out in 1993, as a 23 year old. I presented as female everywhere except work...and, at the time, I had a different last name for my female persona, owing to the fact that my legal last name is very uncommon, especially with the Welsh spelling, as my last name is. I transitioned fully in 1997, at the age of 26, and was promptly fired from my job for this...after the employer in question had said I could transition on the job.

So, naturally, employment has been a huge issue for me...and for the transgender community in general. After all, without economic justice, there is no justice. It does not do us a hill of beans worth of good to finally be allowed to use the bathroom most comfortable for us...if you can fire us for being who we are, or refuse to hire us. If you can refuse to rent to us, or extend us credit to purchase a home. If you can deny us access to healthcare.

In the early and mid 1990's then, HRC (The Human Rights Campaign, who to this day I refer to as the Homosexual Rights Campaign, owing to their lack of support for the transgender community) was headed by Elizabeth Birch, whom I nicknamed Lizzy Bitch. The name went viral in my community...and for good reason.

At the time, there was not even an LGBTQ community. It was the GLB community, in that order. There was no T. And I fought for the T inclusion...the one and only fight of my activism career of decades, that I honestly regret. Because we never have been on equal footing with the LGB's on a political activism/rights perspective.

Back then, in the 1990's it was popular for the LGB's to offer up "the queens" as sacrificial lambs on the altar of gay-only rights, e.g. "Mr. Legislator...if you will just give US our rights, we'll drop the creepy queens..." And then they would arrogantly demand that we support gay-only rights legislation with the promise that after they got theirs, they would "send the boat back for us." Some trans played along, I never did...and I was proved correct to not play along, because time and again, the boat did not come back...until someone from our community got a tugboat and dragged the boat back.

Examples of this include Austin, Texas, which banned discrimination based on sexual orientation in 1974...yet did not add gender identity to it's protected classes until I lit a fire under some city councilmembers butts in 2004. Thirty years later...we got rights, and not because the LGB's did anything to advance that. Similarly, in New York State, sexual orientation discrimination was banned in 2003...and it was not until just last year that gender identity protections were added...sixteen years later. Ironically, Governor Cuomo was banning travel to North Carolina during HB-2...yet would not protect his own transgender citizens!

So....back to Elizabeth Birch, and HRC. In the late 1990's, Birch was quoted in Bay Windows magazine "Trans will be included in ENDA over my dead body." ENDA, you may recall, was the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. I was part of a lobbying effort in 1997, organized by Riki Anne Wilchins, of GenderPAC. We were told we were lobbying for ENDA...and when we got there, we were given the bait-and-switch, and told to lobby for hate crimes legislation instead!

Myself, and my delegation from Kentucky refused to play along, and we lobbied for ENDA...only to find out, from Sen. Tom Harkin...that HRC had backlobbied us two weeks previous. This led to the disappearance of GenderPAC, and I and other core members from Kentucky, Texas and a few other places joined to form NTAC, the National Transgender Action Coalition. HRC refused to deal with us, because we would not play ball with HRC.

This came to a head in 1997, in Louisville, Kentucky, where I developed what later became known in my community as "The Louisville Option." I had moved to Louisville, in 1997 from Pennsylvania...and, as I was new to town, I sought to get involved with the local activists. Because I was an unknown, I became privy to information the GLB's were deliberately hiding from known trans activists...namely, that in the pending Fairness Ordinance, trans was quietly excluded. I found out, and alerted the local trans activists. Twelve of us descended on the next meeting of no avail. We were not to be included.

Fairness' strategy at the time, was the famous "we'll cut the creepy queens for you if you give us OUR rights" - trying to flip one vote...Aldermanic President Steve Magre. The vote was expected to go down 7-5 against, and Fairness was trying to flip Magre, making a 6-6 vote, sending it to then-Mayor Jerry Abramson, who was expected to sign it...with or without trans inclusion.

It was at that time I developed The Louisville Option. Basically, this was the trans community putting the LGB's on notice..."you can have us inside the tent peeing out....or outside the tent peeing way or another, we are peeing!" To that end, i began to call on supportive Aldermen. They asked if I wanted the to change their vote. I told them no, I had a better idea. I wanted them to abstain. I only needed make sure that even if Magre got flipped, the bill would not move forward, for, if it did, we would have gay-only rights in Louisville for decades. We knew what the stakes were.

In the end, I managed to get two Aldermen to go along with me, Reginald Meeks and Paul Bather. And Bather, in his abstention, stood and spoke to the reason for his abstention. Magre did not flip. The vote, expected to be 7-5 against...became 7-3 against with two abstentions, and Fairness got a very large and public black eye, when Bather (a black man) said that Dr. Martin Luther King did not advocate for rights only for the light-skinned blacks!

For two years, I was a shero in the trans community, and a pariah in the LGB community at the same time. And the Louisville Option began to get exported to other was used successfully in Maryland to kill gay-only rights legislation, and it failed in New York State in 2003. But we had served notice to the GLB's that we would no longer be their willing sacrificial lambs...leading to their refusal to deal with NTAC...and the rise of Mara Kiesling and NCTE - the National Center for Transgender Equality...which still exists today. Mara was more willing than we at NTAC knuckle under to HRC.

By the way, the City of Louisville passed The Fairness Ordinance in 1999 - with trans inclusion. The Ordinance later survived Government Organization, where the City government merged with the government of Jefferson County. What passed in Louisville, in 1999...was employment only. Housing and public accommodations was tabled. That was the new compromise...spearheaded by new Alderman George Unseld. A month later, Jefferson County, with the help of Tom Owens, passed the other two parts, and we had full protection...which remains on the books to this day.

Meanwhile, in 2000, I had moved on to Texas. And in 2004, was instrumental in getting rights for trans people in Austin. I then left Austin in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. I was all but destroyed by Katrina...the storm itself did not affect me, it was the aftermath. I lost about everything but the shirt on my back, and came home to Pennsylvania. I took some time to recover from that, and was absent for a while from the trans activist community while I healed.

In 2007, Joe Solmonese was heading up HRC. The same Joe Solmonese who today is the CEO of the 2020 Democratic National Convention. And in 2007, he came to Southern Comfort, which, at the time, was the largest convention for the transgender community in America, held annually in is now held in Florida.

Joe came to Southern Comfort to apologize to the trans community for the lack of support for the trans community from HRC in particular, and the larger LGB community in general. He promised us that he would not support a non-trans-inclusive ENDA. he left Southern Comfort with $20,000 of transgender money in the form of donations to HRC. And then all but broke his neck to support Barney Franks' non-inclusive ENDA bill!! We in the trans community were LIVID!

Then-Rep and now Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin stood up and had our backs, introducing a competing ENDA bill which was trans inclusive. Everyone knew that neither bill had a chance of passing...and even if they did, they would be DOA on arrival at Dubya's desk. So there was no reason for Solmonese's naked betrayal of our community. But Tammy Baldwin has gotten a campaign contribution from me for every race she has run since...even though I have never lived in Wisconsin and do not plan to.

In 2009, about two dozen activists from the LGB and T communities met in Dallas, and out of that came The Dallas Principles. The Dallas Principles were a set of eight guidelines that were to form the foundation of the modern LGBTQ community, and they stated that no part of our community would ever again be left behind. And these Principles, while intended to smooth relations...and to some degree they have...they also have been several times violated in regards to trans issues.

The problem that the transgender communities have issues that are unique to the trans community...they are vital to us and our lives and our ability to survive...but they don't affect the GLB's. An example of this are bathroom laws...and another example of this is identity documents. These issues have never received adequate attention from GLB' say nothing of the transgender military ban. We got two days worth of politically-correct "outrage" and then crickets...while the injustice was allowed to stand. Had Trump instead reinstated DADT (Don't Ask Don't Tell) I am positive the GLB's would be hollering in the streets today still...but because it is JUST the trans impacted...nothing.

Around this time [2009, and the passage of The Dallas Principles], the GLB community decided to stop fighting for employment issue that impacts us trans far more than it does the LGB's...partly because of the greater societal acceptance they enjoy versus trans...and partly because they have the ability to get through a job interview while hiding what they are. They should not have to, but they CAN. We trans cannot. The emphasis instead became Marriage issue that most definitely benefited GLB's far more than trans.

We now only have rights to not be fired...or refused hire...because of the recent SCOTUS ruling in the consolidated case that included Aimee Stephens via EEOC vs. Harris Funeral Homes of which case my own experience of employment discrimination was included in an Amici Curiae filed on behalf of Ms Stephens by 46 non-profits.

This is not anywhere near the end of the battle, however, because the SOCTUS ruling involves Title VII...which only applies to employers with fifteen or more employees...and does nothing about our rights under Title VII for housing and other forms of discrimination.

And now, Trump has rewritten Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act...stripping trans people of Title VII protections in healthcare access...ostensibly so that doctors with religious objection would not have to prescribe hormones, perform abortions or sex reassignment surgeries...which is totally bogus.

There are plenty of doctors who will willingly prescribe us our hormones....and to perform an abortion or gender reassignment, one must undergo specialized training. One does not undergo such training if they are morally opposed to the practice. Furthermore, most providers that offer abortions or gender reassignment surgeries usually offer ONLY those services. The real point of Trump's action...was to allow doctors to refuse to treat LGB and especially trans people...for conditions which the same provider WOULD render aid to a cisgender, straight patient. In short, the intent and effect of Trump's literally to allow doctors to murder us with impunity by refusing us life-saving that they would render to a cisgender person.

We continue to wait for the GLB's to notice that one can no longer fire or refuse to hire trans...for being trans...but a doctor can murder a trans in cold refusing treatment because they are trans. I do not care what your view is on transgender people or gender reassignment, but most reasonable people would agree that being trans is not in any way illegal...and should not be a de-facto death warrant. We have as much right to live as everyone else. Yet nobody seems to be noticing or doing demand that trans not be denied healthcare by any provider if that same provider would render the same care to a cisgender person.

I have no interest, as I said, in forcing an unwilling doctor to prescribe hormones, there are plenty of willing doctors to do that...and I certainly have no interest in forcing a possibly-hostile doctor to perform gender reassignment, even if they could (which they can't since they lack the training) - let's face it, I would not want such a doctor coming at ME with a knife while I am unconscious!!

But no doctor should have the right to refuse to treat my broken leg, my diabetes, my heart attack, or Goddess forbid, COVID...just because I am trans....especially if they WOULD treat a cisgender person for these same things. Failure to treat us for those things, just because we are monstrous, and is tantamount to legalized murder of my community.

And still we wait for anyone else to notice.

2 Recommendations

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3.2k 0 7 0 0 Truth or Consequences, NM

57 days ago
Replies (0)
Don't know where you're at or how you're doing Tarheel, but I thought this was worth mentioning,
Prosecute Trump's favorite sheriff friend for abuse of disabled Americans and ADA violations. please share
Dutchworldwide experience
13726 1 45 5 2 Ft.myers, FL

1 yr 210 days ago
Replies (0)
Yes an long and difficult story ;My only comment is live your life as an individual living,breathing person who should have all the same rights as anyone else who lives in this country. Don't consider it an handicap to be able to think and analyse the world around you; lots of voting people have "something" so don't worry you are on this world to live your life as it suits you; your body is your own; it is not the property of any government,religion or even an doctor..Do enjoy life to the fullest, regardless of "gender"
7.3k 32 69 11 4 Colorado Springs, CO

1 yr 209 days ago
Replies (1)
Thank you for sharing your long personal struggle for transgender rights. The American public is largely poorly informed on the issues that confront you daily.
1 yr 210 days ago
Replies (0)
That's what I seek to rectify. You are quite correct that the American public is poorly informed. Additionally, we do not enjoy the level of societal acceptance enjoyed by our LGB sisters and brothers. Because of that, the American body politic is afraid to stand up for us.

This must change. I am still a full American citizen, and should be afforded all the rights that come with that status. I will not stop fighting until I do...or I draw my final breath on this third rock from the sun.