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South of the border

By | 2007-02-01T09:00:00-05:00 February 1st, 2007|Opinions|

By Gwendolyn Ann Smith

It was recently announced that David Sanchez Camacho, a congressperson in Mexico, intends to submit a bill allowing for constitutional protections for transgender people. His bill would add gender identity and gender expression to their constitutions’ Article Four. This article currently covers equal fights of men and women, as well as the rights of families and children within Mexico.
This is a dramatic moment, one where I find myself having a hard time holding back on cliche-laden words like “historic.” This is a politician representing a party controlling one quarter of the seats in the Mexican congress actually championing the struggle to get constitutional protections for transgender people. A man who is not shying away from clear, concise language designed specifically to protect transgender rights.
I’m happy and hopeful for those transfolks living in Mexico who may indeed find themselves enjoying full rights thanks to the work of Congressperson Sanchez Camacho. At the same time, this highlights just how far behind those of us in the United States of America are when it comes to transgender rights.
Imagine a member of the U.S. congress actually announcing such a bold move. It is impossible, even laughable, to imagine such. It seems like so much folly.
We’ve lived in an era of hard-line, religious-conservative-dominated politics. Like them or not, that has been the only game in D.C. for some time, and either you are with it, or you are having to fight a largely losing battle against it. It is hard to push for any sort of progressive legislation when you are continually having to look for the next leak to plug. Marriage rights, AIDS funding, abortion rights, free speech and scores of other issues have faced attack after attack, allowing little chance of forward momentum.
That a transgender-inclusive hate crimes bill ever made it through one branch of the U.S. congress was a near-miracle, that it never made it out of congress and to a presidential veto, however, is no surprise.
Now, of course, some of that dominance is on the wane. A presidency and congress which has long claimed divine right and moral right has been found wanting, and the Democratic party has taken control in Washington.
Will we see a change? I suspect not: even in the supposedly radical 100 hours that dominated the young 110th congress, we saw largely safe, even obvious issues tackled – and even these have had their stumbles. Raising minimum wage from a level allowing a Top Ramen meal to a Kraft dinner is a no-brainer, yet still will unlikely make it through congress without tax brakes tacked on – and even then, who knows what will happen when and if it actually reaches the president’s desk? If we cannot accomplish this, then how far down the list are transgender rights?
If anything, the party of power in congress is simply too timid to tackle such head on. Maybe it is all the years of being the minority party, or maybe it is all the year-early presidential posturing that are preventing an active move into progressive territory.
Or, of course, they really don’t care about a truly radical agenda, and simply want to walk to safe paths.
So what is to be done? Are we doomed to see other countries pass us by in terms of rights, while we debate stop gap laws that provide nothing substantive for transgender citizens – or can we do something about it?
If there is one thing I have learned, it’s this: change doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is up to us to continue to push forward. Ask for those rights. Call or write you congressman. Travel to Washington, D.C., and ask your representative for equal protection under the law – or simply make an appointment to meet your representative in his or her local office. If you cannot lobby yourself, consider donating to those organizations that are working on such efforts, and let them know what you want them to do for you. In short, fight for your rights, and some day you too can see our representatives push for true equal rights for transgender people.
Educate, agitate and, eventually, legislate.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.