As a part of a fairly impressive and definitely exciting discussion of transgender issues on the Newsweek website there is a story about Pam Bennett. Pam is a transgender woman who is running for a city council seat in Aurora, Colorado. The article is solid and discusses her personal views about her life, transgender experiences and her campaign as an openly transgender candidate. Overall I really appreciate her courage and the straightforward way she is tackling these issues. A few quotes from the story that illustrate what I think is so courageous about Pam and her views are below,
I'm running on Aurora issues, but equal rights are a basic fundamental of society and government. My city is a wonderfully diverse city; in our school system, there are 86 languages spoken. To say I'm going to run on a specific little issue--you can't. Equality is a basic fundamental right that everybody has.
The local paper, The Aurora Sentinel, did an online poll to gauge the feeling around someone like me running for city council. Roughly 60 percent of the people said it didn't matter as long as the candidate could do the job. It became apparent that I was not just running for election, but also representing a group of people who are really a minority among all groups.
I did not consider running for office, but I did get involved in local and state races--knocking on doors for candidates, and explaining what his or her city issues were. I had a passionate interest in the same issues: development, water rates, jobs, creating a world-class city. After a while, various people said, "Why don't you run for office?" And I did.
However, in the article she also says,
Trans people living their lives pre-transition are living as someone they aren't.
While I don't disagree with her statement in a blanket fashion I worry about any absolute statements from someone speaking for an entire group. Although the article is not explicit when I first read it - I read the above quote as referring to surgical transition. After going back to look at the article more closely there is really no reason to read it that particular way, but it seemed to still be an okay point to make around her discussion of her experiences that transition for transfolks isn't only or always surgical. Social transition also plays a vital role in the experiences of transgender men, women and genderqueers. There is also the idea that some transfolks hold that transition is an ongoing and constant process not a movement from one gender marker box to another.
I think it is unique and insightful that she acknowledges that when a transgender person begins to transition their family and friends transition with them. About this Pam says about her own experience and her families,
Going into this you better know that everybody else you know has to transition too, but they don't have the luxury of having spent years--decades--preparing for it. It's very hard for family and friends. The emotions are very, very deep. I cried for a week when I told my wife. The boys were in there 20s, and it affected them very, very deeply. I was still their father, but repackaged.
Ultimately, Pam comes out of the article sounding like someone that our collective queer community is lucky to have as a member. Her thoughts about living an openly transgender life and refusing to go stealth are inspiring. She says,
I decided I wasn't going stealth after my transition. You know, where you do the surgery and all the work on your face, then slip into a different life and not let anybody know? I was never going to be able to do that. I realized it's a new era, we're in a new world now, and I'm going to be me. It's probably the best thing I've ever done.
Her courage not to live a stealth life should be applauded. The necessity or choice of living a stealth life often limits the ability of the transgender community to mobilize for social justice or to produce a substantial showing when one is needed such as at legislative hearing or rallies.
I hope you will check out the article and let me know what you think about it.