We Cannot Abadon Our Transgender Family

trans-love-indy-pride-2016-by-mark-a-lee

“Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.” – David Ogden Stiers

I remember the days when we were “gay.” Then, in the 80s, the definition of the word began to slant more toward gay men. So, lesbians decided we wanted equal billing, and it became “gay and lesbian.” About a decade later, bisexuals were added to the mix. The term “Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual” was accurate, yet cumbersome. Voila. “LGB” was born. These three letters became a platform for the fight for equality. We were bound together as a family, wanting the same things as everyone else. Nothing more. Nothing less.

A few years ago, “LGBT” emerged as our new acronym. Transgender individuals have always been in our bars, at our parties, and certainly in our hearts. It was right to officially add them to our family. And if they are part of our family, they are part of our fight for equality. Period.

According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 77% of transgender individuals identify as gay. Those who argue that “they’re not one of us” are simply misinformed and miss the point of our efforts. Dropping the “T” and accepting legislation that only protects SOME of us is akin to taking a family member on vacation and leaving him at the hotel in order to get better gas mileage on the way home.

It’s more than equality. It’s safety. Our transgender brothers and sisters deserve safety in the shopping malls, at the grocery store and when renting an apartment. They deserve safety at work—whether it be in the parking lot, in their cubicle, or in the breakroom with the unending rotation of birthday cake. And they deserve to eat that birthday cake as their own gender.

Kit Malone says it best. “As laws stigmatizing and punishing me roll out across the country, I feel more and more unsafe as a trans woman. Now that we are the subject of national debate, I feel all eyes on me in a deeply personal and day-to-day way. Before, people barely recognized that I existed, and there was a kind of safety in that. Today, I feel that the world is populated by people who have been armed with hateful falsehoods about me, and who are even being provoked to commit violence against me. I’ve always feared violence, but today I feel it more than I ever have.”

When a member of our family doesn’t feel safe, we stand beside them and give them strength.

In 31 states, it’s still legal to fire someone for being gay or transgender. The result is not just that some of us are forced to remain closeted to find/keep a job. It’s that the transgender members of our family come to work every day portraying someone they’re not.

They are our family. How can we not protect them from the inequalities they experience? The transgender unemployment rate is double that of the general public, resulting in them being four times more likely to live in poverty. For those that are lucky enough to be employed, 90% experience discrimination and harassment at work. Forty-one percent will attempt suicide. One in five have been denied housing, and one in ten have been evicted due to their gender identity. And every single action is legal, with no repercussions.

For those of us in Indiana, the decision to include everyone in the LGBT family in proposed legislation was not made without care and thought. Indiana Senate bill 100, although it was flawed, gave rights to our entire family including those in the transgender community. As in many states, our politicians were uncomfortable with the transgender portion of the bill, so they drafted bill 344, which did NOT include them. We banded together to try to put the transgender community back into the bill, with no success.

Why not just accept Senate bill 344 and go back and fight for our transgendered community later? We wouldn’t have been successful. This “T” segment of our family would fight an uphill battle alone. We must all stand together. Leaving them behind—this part of our family—is not an option.

Why does the “T” cause such an issue with the legislation? We’ve made great strides over the years in educating the public about gays and lesbians. We’re your brothers, your sisters, your doctors, and your neighbors. It’s time to do the same for the transgender community. They are also our brothers, our sisters, our doctors and our neighbors. We NOW need to provide the same education regarding this segment of our family.

We can’t grab our freedom and walk away without the “T.” Because we ALL deserve the rights that the straight community take for granted every day. Our whole family. As ourselves. Let them eat cake.

Photo: Indy Pride 2016 by Mark A. Lee