There have been a number of different events that have occurred within the trans community recently, and these point to the difficult position that the community is in. While these events may seem unrelated, they demonstrate that the community is in the process of beginning to form a unified opposition to the oppression that we face on a daily basis.
Here are some of the news items that I think are significant. The first two items demonstrate the one-step-forward, two-steps-back nature of what's happening with the community.
In D.C., where a large number of assaults on trans people have taken place within the past few months, community advocates have charged that the DC police is "completely filled with bias," and that the provision of sensitivity training to only 124 officers of a 4,000 person force is inadequate to provide appropriate police protection. The mayor's office has indicated that it will take steps to address these problems, although, troublingly, police management has suggested that no steps are necessary.
The D.C. municipal government has funded a jobs training program for trans people, and is set to produce its first 17 graduates.
Thus, in our nation's capital, one part of the government is completely insensitive to the security needs of trans residents, and another part of that same government is training us to get jobs. What's the message here?
Philadelphia, which has excluded trans people from its homeless shelters, is building a separate shelter for transgender people experiencing homelessness. It sounds as if Philly's government has given up on trying to get its homeless shelter administration to provide services to trans people, and is going to segregate them all in one shelter.
Discrimination continues against trans service members in the military, and the President of Brown University, Ruth Simmons, has stated that ROTC will not be permitted to resume its activities on campus. Aside from Brown, I have not heard of any other campuses who have wanted to address the issue of trans service members. My sense is that they just want to make up with the military and end the conflict, with no regard for trans service members. Although most colleges and universities have various academic programs that study discrimination, including discrimination based on gender and gender identity or expression, and LGBT service centers, which is a good thing, when it comes to putting their principles on the line, they have caved, which is a bad thing.
After parents discussed the medical treatment of their child, Tammy, diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, on CNN, Fox News has featured accusations from a psychiatrist that the treatment constitutes "child abuse." This follows another recent incident in which Fox News featured another psychiatrist stating that Chaz Bono was mentally ill and should not be allowed on television. While it is a big plus that people are coming out in the media, showing that trans people are real people, there is always going to be a backlash.
The University of Illinois held a reception for the Transgender Oral History Project, a collective of transgender, gender variant, and allied people who work with folks around the country in order to collect, collaborate on, and share stories from within the transgender and gender non-conforming community. Here's another example of trans people coming out, showing ourselves to be important members of the wider community.
Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed The Gender Nondiscrimination Act and the Vital Statistics Modernization Act after a months-long campaign to recognize the basic rights of transgender people. This is another major victory, although the existence of "rights" alone cannot address the social prejudice we face on so many levels.
A panel advising Gov. Andrew Cuomo on ways to revamp Medicaid has proposed that the program that pays for low-income residents' health care cover surgery and therapy for transgender New Yorkers. Transgender health care has taken some important steps forward for those working for large corporations, as HRC's Corporate Equality Index tightens requirements on trans health, but low-income people are often left out in the cold, despite the fact that medical experts agree that such treatments are medically necessary. It is time to remedy this lopsided system. Adquate health care should not be limited to the wealthiest individuals.
To my mind, these developments show that we are moving forward, as a community, showing that we are important members of the wider community, that we will address prejudice and discrimination directly and forthrightly, and that we will not permit ourselves to continue to be oppressed without speaking up and fighting that oppression.