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Transgender Visibility, and hope

May 16, 2016

NYC:  Mother holding a sign with her child at the 2014 Gay Pride Parade on Fifth Avenue (stock pic)

NYC: Mother holding a sign with her child at the 2014 Gay Pride Parade on Fifth Avenue (stock pic)

This is the decade in which, for many Americans, transgender people are moving from an unknown “T” in an alphabet-label, to real faces, real names, and real stories. As that happens, opinions, hearts, minds, and laws are changing. Visibility matters, just as it has for all of LGBTQ.

Consider Ireland in the spring of 2015, in the months before the vote on equal marriage for same-sex couples. Sure, there were many good public information campaigns. But in the end, it was everyone who came out, to family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, who made the difference. It was “my son who’s gay”, “my lesbian auntie”, “my bisexual cousin”, “my gay dentist” who turned the tide. Personal familiarity and family feeling brought victory to the Yes campaign.

Coming out as transgender can carry physical and emotional risks, and may bring fewer new freedoms than coming out as LGB. And even so, we’re seeing more and more openly personal stories from people across the gender spectrum. As a parent of LGBTQ kids (and my extended family can identify with every one of those letters), and in supporting the teens on my YA Books group, I’m grateful to every single person who steps into the light to say, “Me too. When you speak of LGBTQ, you’re talking about me.”

Isolated heart with a transgender pride flag

Transgender rights are the most intense current LGBTQ battlefield for American opinion, although equal marriage opponents are still fighting a rearguard action. When it comes to the right of a teen trans girl not to be forced into the boys’ bathroom at her high school… there we find the new height of conservative fear-mongering. (Being used as a wedge against other LGBTQ rights, of course.)

Once more, I believe it will be visibility that wins this war. People keep talking about what a tiny group trans people are, how they’ve never met anyone transgender, as if that makes their lives not count. I believe that will change when they know trans people personally, when their image of a trans woman or girl is more Jazz Jennings or Corey Maison or retired Navy SEAL Kristin Beck or 12-year-old Tru Wilson and 95-year-old Robina Asti than some stereotype of cross-dressing.

I am grateful to so many people who are sharing their stories, to help others understand what it means to be transgender. To Jennifer Firth and her wife, Elizabeth . The “To Survive on this Shore” project highlighting older trans folk. Hannah Winterbourne of the British Army. To Matt Kailey who wrote in 2005 about transitioning at the age of 42. To the heirs of Angela Morley, a transgender pioneer who faced the incomprehension of the music industry when she transitioned in the 1970s, and of gospel singer , Willmer “Little Axe” Broadnax. And so many more.

Not to mention all those who don’t fit into the binary – a host of people who are coming out to say things like “My Gender is an Everything Bagel”. I have dozens of links to the stories of people who are stepping into the light, to challenge how we’ve thought about gender. To broaden our understanding beyond stereotypical male and female.

I think one of the best things I can do as an ally is to amplify their voices. Share their stories. Stand behind them, by linking their own words to inform and enlighten us. And to thank them, every day, from the bottom of a parent’s heart, for making a difference in the world. They make the future brighter for all the kids, cis, trans, and gender-nonconforming, who will grow up knowing that gender is in the mind, not dictated by chromosomes and anatomy, and that a person’s worth has nothing to do with their gender identity.

(Many additional links are available on the “Transgender and gender-spectrum narratives” thread on my YA LGBT Books group. It’s a public group. Feel free to check them out at https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2275320-transgender-and-gender-spectrum-narratives .)

HopAwarenessUmbrellaBadge To read others of the 65 posts along this Blog Hop for Visibility, Awareness and Equality, each also with a chance to win prizes, follow this link: http://hopforvisibilityawarenessandequality.blogspot.com/

Commenters below will be entered into a drawing for three winners, each to receive one of my backlist ebooks of their choice. (Check my “Books” blog page for possibilities.) Drawing will close Midnight Central time, May 25th, and winners will be chosen at random. (You do NOT need to put your email into the comment to win.)

48 Comments leave one →
  1. May 16, 2016 11:08 pm

    Reblogged this on Kylia… and commented:
    I agree, again (you say things so much more eloquently than I ever could). Visibility is important.🙂

    • May 18, 2016 11:33 am

      Thanks so much for amplifying these stories, and the real faces behind the labels.

  2. Bronwyn Heeley permalink
    May 17, 2016 5:41 am

    I’m with you. Def need to be visible, allow the world to see so they can’t push anyone under the rug

    • May 18, 2016 11:39 am

      Yes – we need people to see trans girls as girls. And as much as I understand the desire to be invisible and pass, I am so grateful to those whose faces shown in public will help others understand.

  3. Alexa Milne permalink
    May 17, 2016 6:49 am

    I really don’t understand how worked up people have become about using toilets in the US. Great post.

    • May 18, 2016 11:37 am

      It’s fear-mongering. When desegregation was happening in the South, those against claimed that letting black women into regular bathrooms would provide cover for black men to come in and rape little white girls. There’s this puritanical bigotry that is easy to stir up with “someone wants to rape your child” although ironically harder when you point out the actual culprits are friends, family, clergy…

      The same bill in NC bans raising the minimum wage, takes away employment protection from everyone (not just LGBT but pregnant women, veterans etc) and takes away employee rights, including some rights to sue your employer. Guess what the real reason the GOP is behind the bill might be…

      • May 18, 2016 1:32 pm

        Wow. That’s a great way to put it into perspective. I kept wondering who in the heck starts looking around at anyone when they go in the bathroom? After all, I am in there because I can’t wait until I get home to my comfy and familiar bathroom, lol, so I take care of my business, wash my hands and get out!

        • May 21, 2016 3:36 pm

          It is curious, how these conservative straight people somehow immediately think about sex and voyeurism when you mention bathrooms…

  4. Trix permalink
    May 17, 2016 12:09 pm

    I think it’s putting faces to labels–learning stories so we can see individuals–that will change things for the better!

    • May 18, 2016 11:41 am

      This, for sure. I keep posting pictures and links. Are they really saying this 95 year old woman should now, after 40 years, be forced to use the men’s room? Hoping for opinion to shift (and when the President of the US and the Prime Minister of Canada speak for trans rights, we know progress has been made.)

  5. Cornelia permalink
    May 17, 2016 1:31 pm

    Thank you for informative post, agree visibility and realizing a family member, friend or just someone you know helps in promoting equality for all.

    • May 18, 2016 11:42 am

      Yeah, even a simple comment to a friend about the safety of trans girls mattering… every word may help.

  6. ajpeters100 permalink
    May 17, 2016 7:59 pm

    Hi Kaje – Thanks for this and all you do at Goodreads 🙂

  7. JenCW permalink
    May 18, 2016 2:08 am

    Fantastic post! I agree thst visibility makes a huge difference. I wish that people could be more compassionate and understanding instead of fear mongering when they don’t understand something or someone.

    • May 18, 2016 11:43 am

      Fear is such a useful tool to politicians and religious leaders – all you can do is keep talking, explaining, making it simple, personal.

  8. Shorty Chelle permalink
    May 18, 2016 9:10 am

    Wish people would just be happy and stop making a fuss about things that usually have no bearing on them at all. The world would be a much better place if people focused on their own lives instead of trying to make others miserable for whatever reason.

    • May 18, 2016 11:44 am

      We’re raised on the competitive ethos here – to win, someone must lose. To rise, you must push someone down. Someday I hope the idea of a rising tide and cooperative wins may take stronger hold.

  9. May 18, 2016 10:54 am

    You’re absolutely right. It’s so easy to demonize a group of people when you don’t understand them, but when you know someone personally, suddenly that group of people becomes human to you, and it’s harder to be cruel to them.

    • May 18, 2016 11:46 am

      I hope so – I think we’re at critical mass for LGB – almost everyone now can name someone they know personally or admire as a celebrity who is LGB. Trans will be slower because smaller numbers, but I believe seeing them as people like anyone else will come (never everyone, because we haven’t even managed that with race, but enough to drive laws and protections.)

  10. May 18, 2016 12:31 pm

    Thank you for joining the hop!
    Chris (from the Blog Hop Team)

  11. jenf27 permalink
    May 18, 2016 3:20 pm

    Thanks for the wonderful, spot on post (as usual). I totally agree that all of us pushing visibility, awareness and equality is what has moved us forward and what it will take to move us even closer to where we want to be.

  12. May 18, 2016 3:56 pm

    Thank you for the great post! Showing support really goes a long way.

    • May 20, 2016 12:56 am

      So many people are stepping forward – unfortunately it’s going to be a long journey, especially worldwide.

  13. May 19, 2016 11:21 am

    We demand to be seen and heard and acknowledged! That’s what I think more and more people marginalized in the past are now standing up to say, and that’s truly a wonderful thing.

    • May 20, 2016 12:58 am

      Yes. I look for the day when we all work on that together. When each marginalized group can see themselves in every other one.

  14. suze294 permalink
    May 19, 2016 12:47 pm

    Kaje, always full of information. I did like the references you posted, especially the older people – Robina especially. Seeing these people having lived full lives must be affirming to younger trans people.

  15. Sarah permalink
    May 19, 2016 8:05 pm

    One of my favorite posts of the Hop!

  16. susana permalink
    May 20, 2016 3:27 pm

    Great post, Kaje! You are right, knowledge and visibility can change things. I was theoretically open minded, but never understood the reality of transgender people till my best friend’s kid came out as trans. Getting to know him and watching his change has been really eye opening. I wish everybody would see him as the beautiful boy I see, and not as an anomaly. Thank you for taking part in the hop

    • May 21, 2016 3:38 pm

      It is different when you actually know a person, when that kid being threatened and shamed and told that they don’t deserve to be able to pee in peace is someone you know. I’m glad he has supportive people like you in his life.

  17. May 20, 2016 11:24 pm

    great post!
    sharing is caring!

  18. May 21, 2016 12:51 pm

    Oh Kaje,
    as always you are thoughtful, thought provoking, encouraging, and one of the best people i know. I’m so proud to be able to claim you as a friend *because I do, even if you didn’t know*. I’m proud to be able to tell people I know this amazing, wonder, smart woman who does so much good in the world.
    It’s an honor to have you be part of this hop.
    Cherie Noel, Hop Admin

    • May 21, 2016 3:39 pm

      Wow. What a lovely thing to say. Thanks for organizing this hop. There are great posts all over it. And I’m glad we’re friends too.

  19. May 21, 2016 8:41 pm

    Thank you for sharing this!! It’s interesting how trans rights are the forefront of conversations right now. Hopefully in another decade, trans people will be as widely accepted as the rest of the LGBT rainbow is starting to be.🙂
    (email! jaylee-at-jayleejames-dot-com)

    • May 23, 2016 8:28 pm

      I hope so – obviously when we still are fighting civil rights battles for minorities, 60 years after Brown vs The Board of Education, we will probably still be fighting this one for a while yet to come. But I hope that it will be as unacceptable to be openly anti-trans in 10 years as it it to be openly racist now.

  20. bn100 permalink
    May 22, 2016 5:35 pm

    nice post
    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  21. Jbst permalink
    May 23, 2016 3:07 pm

    Your story Chasing Death Metal Dreams was so insightful to me concerning a transgender person.

    • May 23, 2016 8:30 pm

      I’m so glad – every personal story tells the view of just one or two individuals (in my case fictional) but I think that each one helps us empathize and understand. I’m really pleased you connected with Carlos😀

  22. May 24, 2016 10:27 pm

    Great post! Thanks for sharing all the links, I’ve been checking them out all throughout the hop. I think My Gender is probably my favorite, since it is just awesome, though Robina Asti is just amazing. What a great way to help spread awareness.

    tiger-chick-1(at)hotmail(dot)com

    • May 25, 2016 9:42 am

      One of the best things lately are the people coming out as being off the binary, the genderfluid and agender and bigender folk. It’s harder for others to grasp, and as such so important to try to express. The idea that gender is a continuum, not a binary, will be a challenge to convey in a world where intersex people have been surgically altered to fit. But I have hope for the upcoming generation.

  23. May 26, 2016 11:01 am

    *** The comments above will be entered in the drawing for the free ebooks – winners to be announced later today ***

    Please feel free to continue to comment, but further comments will not be entered into the drawing. Thank you to everyone who has stopped by to read, and especially those who took the time to comment.

  24. May 26, 2016 5:42 pm

    So the winners, whom I will contact by email are
    comment #9 – Trix
    #19 Sarah Kay Moll
    #33 susana

    I’ll be in touch by email. Thanks again to everyone who stopped by (and if you’re so inclined, go shop at Target stores and thank them for stepping up in support of transgender rights.)

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