As the days of September dwindle down, the transgender community will assemble a week from tomorrow in Washington, DC, for a historic National Visibility March, the first such gathering ever carried out on a nationwide level. Its participants will have much to raise awareness about, from President Trump’s summary ban on trans troops in the military to the horrifying upswing in murders of trans and GNC people this year alone. From every quarter, the trans/non-binary/gender non-conforming (GNC) community faces threats, some from our society at large, others from its institutions. An organized demonstration on Capitol Hill was long in coming, but absolute in its necessity. It’s also a warning; what happens to trans people today, is but a harbinger of what will befall the larger LGBTQ community tomorrow.
Consider the three three pending Supreme Court cases set to be heard in just a couple of weeks. All of them are concerned with whether it should be legal (in all fifty states, presently it is in 28 states) to fire a person merely for being gay, lesbian, or trans. In each of these cases, the US government — read: the Trump administration — has argued that sexual orientation and gender identity are not covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and therefore being LGBTQ can legally be a fireable offense. This is significant not just for its unashamed bigotry, but because it, too, like the trans troop ban, is a trial balloon for Trump and his lieutenants. They’re trying to determine how much they can attack a group of vulnerable, marginalized Americans, and, apropos of nothing, plan for the next step. This makes visibility even more imperative.
The March’s organizers put it very succinctly: “With the Equality Act of 2019 being threatened by the Senate and the trans military ban implementation, there is a need to mobilize America to recognize and fight for the rights of TGNC/NB people.” When any part of the LGBTQ community finds itself in peril, all are endangered, but for our willingness to make ourselves seen and heard. We are already visible to those that wish to do us harm, whether by the blade of a knife, or the stroke of a pen. All sexual and gender minorities face the same obstacles in our country, whether these are social, economic, or medical. To say, as some do, that “this is just a trans issue” is a statement that degrades and diminishes both the severity of the problem, and the scope with which it touches us all.
The discussion among us cannot continue to be fractured. We dare not draw back from our trans, NB, and GNC siblings, because should we adopt such a course, night will descend upon us next. Think that can’t happen here? Anti-LGBT purges are going on right now, in places like Chechnya, where officials say the atrocities are an “internal matter of the Chechen government”. Our own government has already made manifestly clear that LGBTQ people are unworthy of being anything but second-class citizens, and by their actions they have shown their extreme intent. Making us — whether gay, lesbian, bi, trans/NB — invisible is their goal, and they are well advanced toward its achievement. This is why solidarity, not separation, should be our agenda.
Although the National Trans Visibility March is ostensibly one of those struggling to live in their authentic gender identity, it is in truth a march of us all. That sentiment must extend to our dialogue as well, what we say to each other. There is too much exclusion against our trans siblings by the cis gay and lesbian communities, and this will only help the opposition. If gays and lesbians seek straight allies to help us gain equality, so, too, must we be allies to those seeking not just equality, but life; the right to live as they are and should be, without fear. If we are to live out the Four Freedoms bequeathed to us by Franklin Roosevelt, we must begin with amity. We are linked more closely than many of us would dare admit but know in our hearts anyway. When our trans neighbors march in DC next week, the rest of us should be right in step with them. “Solidarity” is a powerful word, and never has it been so appropriate for a time as this. We ignore the opportunity at our own risk.