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By Gwendolyn Ann Smith
This is the time of year when newspaper columnists want to just phone their column in. It’s the holiday season, and you might rather have just one more amaretto sour than focus on the keyboard long enough to out your thoughts into your word processor of choice. This may be why one sees so many “year in review” columns at the end of a year.
I am not above this temptation – but I think I just might be able to give you more than just a simple review of the last twelve months. You the reader have gone though the same year I have, after all, and I feel the compulsion to at least give you a little hope as we turn our calendars yet again to a fresh, new year.
2004 had plenty of rough spots that affect us all. The Bush victory and eleven states writing discrimination into their constitutions is likely the biggest dark spot on 2004. I hasten to add, of course, that the issue of marriage rights affects transgender people just as it affects the rest of the LGBT community. It may even affect us a bit more, given how quickly these DOMA laws have invalidated the marriage rights of transgender people who may have felt they had been in the clear.
There’s been plenty more of note in the last year. Aside from having to watch the media yet again foist movies like “White Chicks” or reality programs like “He’s A Lady,” ’04 was the year when the Gwen Araujo murder trial ended up with a jury unable to determine the guilt of her killers thanks largely to a defense claiming that Gwen Araujo’s murder was more her fault than that of the men who beat, hit, and strangled her to death.
Things have not even been rosy for transgender folks within the larger LGBT community. It was only a few months ago that the Lambda Literary Foundation included a transphobic (and homo- and biphobic) book – “The Man Who Would Be Queen” – as a nominee in their “Transgender/Genderqueer” category. The LLF finally did drop the book, but only after initially trying to defend their position by saying that the author likely did not “set out to intentionally do harm to gay men and transsexuals.”
Not everything has been bad. This 2004 Summer Olympics was the first such event to have a policy allowing for the participation of transsexual athletes. This was a move that surprised many, including yours truly. 2004 also saw the premiere of the first all-transgender cast production of the Vagina Monologues, a production that included a new piece by playwright Eve Ensler.
In 2004 we saw yet more locations approve transgender anti-discrimination protects, or pass transgender-inclusive hate crimes ordinances. The biggest of these was easily Great Britain, which finally begun to assure the rights of their transgender residents.
But what of 2005?
Naturally, we will need to face the second term of a president who has actively sought to deny equal rights, and who has included such as part of his agenda in the next four years. We will still face a long, uphill battle for marriage equality in a country that is still more than a bit resistant to the concept.
There will still be another Gwen Araujo trial to face, with the same defenses planned. If history is any indication, we will likely see many more transgender people lost due to hate violence, and many others will face discrimination in all its forms.
We will still have many things to face, and I doubt many of them will be exactly pleasant. Why, we could even see more bad trans-themed comedies come out of Hollywood.
The thing is, I’m always hopeful. I think back to where gay issues were when I was a child, or where trans issues have been in the last several years. If something isn’t yet right, one can always fight to change it. As we’ve seen over the decades, more rights tend to be gained than lost – over time.
So I’m willing to give this bright, shiny new year a chance, and see what’s around the bend for us. I hope you’ll join me.