Arts & Entertainment
Transgender Day of Empowerment features resources, allies
By Crystal A. Proxmire
Originally printed 4/7/2011 (Issue 1914 - Between The Lines News)
The transgender community came out in force on April 2 for the third annual Transgender Day of Empowerment, held at Affirmations Community Center and organized by Transgender Detroit and Transgender Michigan.
The event featured presentations by representatives from the Department of Justice, a panel of transgender allies, and a transgender town hall meeting.
More than 75 people attended. Vanessa Emma Goldman of Ferndale said she was "amazed" at the number of transpeople in the room. "I'm so glad that we are able to come together like this. It makes me feel like I'm not alone."
Transgender Michigan founder Rachel Crandall echoed Goldman. "I talk to a lot of transgender people who feel really lonely," she said as she introduced the panel of allies to the audience. "They feel like they don't have any allies, and I want you to know that I've been blessed to know many allies," she said.
During a question and answer session, Don Sidelinker, a counselor who specializes in LGBT and couples counseling, asked representatives from the DOJ if more could be done to give transgender individuals more legal protection from discrimination and bullying. "I have a client now who cannot join choir because she is transgender," he said. "Routinely she gets beat up and the school won't do anything about it."
Diane Mitchum, who works for the DOJ, explained that the federal government learned lessons from their attempt to force integration in the schools. "We find it's better to guide them and let them make decisions for themselves. We encourage the unification of communities and to build out the allies," she said. Mitchum also said that when the federal government imposes a mandate, it usurps the power of the states, and resistance - and lawsuits - are likely.
Sidelinker responded: "If we left it up to the states though, there would still be places that are segregated."
The DOJ also gave a presentation explaining the 2009 Matthew Sheppard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which made gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation protected classes. The law also gives the federal government the right to step in when states or local jurisdictions refuse to prosecute a crime.