By Kevin Patterson, May 2017 Issue.
The transgender members of our community are underrepresented and underserved. Now that I have your attention, there are a few things Equality Arizona (EQAZ) needs your help on.
You may have heard the phrase “no one is free until we are all free.” At EQAZ, this quote has become the rallying cry for a new direction we are pursuing: Putting the T in equality.
I know this is new territory for many (myself included), but if we continue to shy away from these conversations we’re inevitably hindering the progress we’ve made together and contradicting the campaign for equality, inclusivity and tolerance that we’ve worked so hard to establish.
For many Arizonans, marriage equality created a false sense of safety and comfort. My family, with the help of the Why Marriage Matters Campaign, EQAZ, Lambda Legal, and other organizations, was on the battlefield for these cases. But while this was a major win for our state – one that afforded many in the LGBTQ community well-deserved justice – the truth is that many within our own community are still hurting, are unattended to and are struggling for basic rights both politically and socially.
EQAZ has spent the past eight months digging into the populations within the LGBTQ community that are underrepresented and underserved. Throughout this process, and the recent conversations I’ve had with trans community members, I’ve heard one overwhelming message: How can we ensure that the “LGB” members truly understand what is important to the “T” members and what unique risks and struggles are they facing?
While we can, and should, come together as one community united in solidarity, the truth is that we must first learn how to be good advocates for each other. One of EQAZ’s goals is to share how the “LGB” members can be the best advocates for the “T” members, here are six tips we’ve come up with to get you started:
1. An important distinction is to remember regarding transgender individuals, is that we are speaking about gender identity and not sexual orientation. Trans folks subsequently identify with many other characteristics (gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual), but for the sake of this column, we’re focused only on gender identity.
2. Respecting an individual’s pronouns is quite possibly the most important thing you can do, regardless of what the context of your conversation is. If you’re unsure of which pronoun to use, just ask.
3. While many trans individuals seek to “pass” (be recognized as the gender they identify with) and take various steps to help them achieve “passing” in their transition process, some individuals wish to remain nonbinary, gender fluid or genderqueer, all of which are still part of the “T” and fall under the trans umbrella.
4. If someone identifies as transgender, that alone makes them “trans enough.” Therefore, your urge to label them, ask about their bodies or categorize their transition experiences or journey is offensive and unnecessary.
5. Gender policing, according to Wikipedia, is the imposition or enforcement of normative gender expressions on an individual who is perceived as not adequately performing through appearance or behavior. Gender policing serves to devalue or delegitimize expressions that deviate from normative conceptions of gender, thus reinforcing the gender binary. Be aware of this and please don’t do it.
6. Understand that there are still many inequities that prevent transgender Arizonans from experiencing equality with their “LGB” brothers and sisters (violence, employment discrimination, healthcare and immigration, to name a few). This is why it’s important for trans people to know that EQAZ has committees solely focused on the forward movement of our “T” community, including the nuances of trans people of color. Remember, “no one is free until we are all free.”
To the trans-identified readers out there, I invite you to get in touch with us at
firstname.lastname@example.org to share your stories, create more trans visibility, to help us educate the community and keep the conversation going. Help us, as “LGB” citizens, to be good advocates for those who are underrepresented and underserved.