Finally, we're in.
The body of federal law of the United States of America now formally recognizes and protects its citizens from violence driven by hate based on sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time in American history. While both of these steps are critically important ones in our ongoing fight for equality, I'd like to suggest that the inclusion of gender identity, and therefore the formal acknowledgment of Transgender-Americans in federal law, is even more important than the inclusion of sexual orientation. For the first time ever, we exist in federal law now, and that's going to make things a lot easier down the road.
For one thing, as I and many others have noted in the past, the days of feigned ignorance about trans people and issues by politicians are over. Support us or don't support us, but the politicians can't claim they don't get it anymore, at least not the ones who want to appear informed and therefore credible.
For another thing, Congress isn't stupid either, especially not those on the left. They remember what happened in 2007 and they don't want another revolt on their hands, particularly because they know we don't stand alone anymore. Not only do we have staunch friends and allies in Congress, but we've also become allied with the greater grassroots progressive movement. Transpeople and others who believe that social and political progress in this country must be inclusive are now connecting with the grassroots left in this country in a way that the wealthy elites of the Human Rights Campaign crowd have never been able to do.
Many in Congress do see what's happening, how our movement is evolving, even if the White House is clearly still pretty slow on the uptake. I suspect that as time goes on, the Obama Administration will come to understand that if the President wants to speak to the true heart of the American LGBT community (and the bulk of its voter base), a speech at an HRC dinner or in front of a roomful of handpicked queer elites at the White House just isn't going to cut it anymore.
The passage of the Matthew Shepard Act changes everything. There's proof now: Transpeople are not political pariahs. Legislation that protects transgender people CAN be passed in this Congress IF members of Congress, President Obama, and our activists put enough effort into making it happen.
And while I'm someone who's rarely hesitant to bash any politician who deserves it, regardless of party, I will say this: At this exact moment, right now, today, I'm proud to be a Democrat. I just hope I'm able to continue feeling this way for a long time to come.
The old excuses are no longer valid. It's a new day. Now that our government has acknowledged that murdering us because we're gender-different is wrong, we must demand that they also understand that we have a right to make a living and provide for ourselves and our families free from unjust bigotry and discrimination. Not ask, not encourage, not hope, not educate, demand. Because if it is truly now accepted as a given in our country's laws that we have the right to live, it must also follow that we have the right to survive. It is therefore self-evident that if we have the right to live and the right to survive, then we must also have the right to work and provide the basic necessities of life for ourselves and our families.
So often, I find myself at this keyboard complaining about politicians, and more often than not, Democrats. Yesterday, we got a small taste, just a whiff, of what true equality in America might be like someday. Yesterday, I was reminded of how truly amazing it can be when government really works for the people. We can rightfully complain that this bill should never have taken a decade to pass into law, but we also should not forget that this Congress (as well as the last one) did pass it and what really made all the difference in the end was that Barack Obama, a Democrat, is our President.
As Rachel Maddow said on her show last night, it just goes to show that elections really do have consequences.