By Gwendolyn Ann Smith
Our President-elect is stacking the deck against us. This in spite of his claims that he would be a supporter of LGBTQ rights, and a past history of the same.
But it is more likely that the vice president-elect is the power behind this throne, and he has a long history of anti-LGBTQ actions, including taking money earmarked for HIV treatment and using it instead to fund life-destroying “conversion therapies.”
The new cabinet includes Sen. Jeff Sessions, who wanted to see same-sex marriage barred under the Constitution and preferred that hate crime bills not include LGBTQ people.
In the Department of Education, it’s GOP donor Betsy DeVos, who like Pence is an advocate for conversion therapy. I doubt we’ll see the DoE do much to support trans students from here on out.
And, a possibility in the Department of Homeland Security is Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke. There is plenty one can say about him, but I’ll just leave this one quote from Clarke on his podcast “The People’s Sheriff” in June to make his views on people like me as clear as the finest crystal:
“Folks, more evidence that transgender persons suffer from mental disorders more than physiological disorders. Too often in this assault on the First Amendment, and this very totalitarian attitude from the left that any freakish lifestyle, any marginal lifestyle, is now considered part of the norm, and they’re shoving it down our throats. So if you’re not careful when you engage in this conversation, they’ll look for the trap, and they’ll catch you saying something that’s clumsy or not well articulated, and then they’ll just attack you — they’ll attack you with it. ‘Transgender phobic’ and all this other nonsense.”
I don’t consider myself a pessimist, but I cannot feel a sense of creeping dread from these and other cabinet choices. That dread, I should note, goes far beyond just things transgender, as I look at some of the most virulent racism, xenophobia and outright fascism that I’ve seen in all my years now moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. I truly worry just how bad things will get, and if we’ll survive long enough to steer this ship to calmer waters.
What’s more, I’ve had to hear my so-called allies on the left hand-wringing about trans rights, and trying to pin their failure to beat Donald J. Trump on myself and other transgender people. I refuse to be their scapegoat, but I know they’ll nevertheless be lukewarm at best when it comes to defending trans rights over the next few years.
So I’m sure you can understand that I cannot help but envision all or most of the trans rights gains we have seen over the last eight years crushed by this incoming administration in one way or another.
With this is mind, I am now in the midst of getting my paperwork together for my passport. While I’ve been perfectly willing to skate along with little more than a driver’s license and Social Security card declaring my correct gender — and only the former being fully updated with the correct gender marker — this administration has forced my hand to get my paperwork in order as soon as I can.
Passports are one of many things that were improved during the Obama Administration, making it far easier to update the gender marker. As it stands now, one can get a full 10-year passport with appropriate certification from a physician stating that one has had appropriate treatment for a gender transition. And while I am not planning any big trips in the immediate future, a passport still stands as a valuable identity document, and proof of your citizenship.
It’s plenty possible that these rules will be wiped away once the president-elect and his cabinet begin their reign.
I mentioned that I am not a pessimist, even though I am rushing around to get a passport in order and secure myself against some potentially dark years ahead. I’ll tell you why, too: even though we face some difficult times, I am seeing our community step up.
Not only our various trans and LGBT organizations seemingly coming out of an eight-year hibernation — or at least a two-year hiatus since the Obergefell v. Hodges decision that legalized same-sex marriage — but a generation of activists are stepping back up to the plate, joined by more than a few new faces. We see the dangers and are preparing to push back as much as we can. As a generation before me said: we’re not going back into the closet.
What’s more, there has been a new movement that has formed just days after the election, and it is where I turned for advice on securing my passport. Started as a hashtag on Twitter, #translawhelp has since evolved into translawhelp.org, and serves as an online database of legal resources for the United States trans community. More than this, they have been helping transgender people in need to cover the costs of these documents, and have worked to put trans people in touch with lawyers and others willing to help out on an urgent basis.
I hope that this is the start of something bigger, and we see a future of solid advocacy for the trans community. I also would like to think that the spirit of community Trans Law Help and others are engendering will help the trans community become stronger, and more resilient, during the years to come.
Perhaps, if we cannot look to the Trump administration or a wishy-washy Democratic party, we shall be able to help ourselves.