I love all of my friends, old and new, who I’ve met through this blog. 2015 was an eventful year for me and for LGBTQIA communities. Some of the news was great like marriage equality coming to every state in the United States thanks to a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court and to Ireland thanks to the votes of Irish citizens. Ireland has continued to advance LGBTQIA rights by advancing transgender rights and making it easier to officially change your gender. Sadly, over in the United Kingdom it remains very difficult to officially change your gender which caused serious problems when trans women were sent to men’s prisons because they didn’t have the hard to get documentation of their authentic gender identity. In the UK the government refused to respond to a petition requesting official recognition of non-binary gender identities. Worldwide there continue to be serious issues facing LGBTQIA communities in Africa, Asia and Russia and elsewhere.
Meanwhile over here in the United States it’s been a challenging year for the trans community. Most tragic was a rash of murders of transgender women, most of them trans women of color. These tragic deaths highlighted the difficult lives many poor, trans women of color have in many places in the United States. The plight of trans youth was highlighted by the tragic suicide of Leelah Alcorn at the end of 2014. Her note, which included the fact that she was subjected to conversion therapy to attempt to alter her gender identity. This is turn led to petitions including one to The President who responded by calling for an end to conversion therapy. This led to some restrictions on the discretited practice in some state and local jurisdictions.
This year also had the high profile coming out of Olympic athlete, reality television star and an actor in the campy Village People movie, Can’t Stop The Music, Caitlyn Jenner. Her coming out was recorded in a new reality television show entitled, I Am Cait. In the show Cait shared her experiences and with the help of other trans women tried to shine a lite on the problems facing trans communities and individuals. As the year 2015 drew to a close some unfortunate comments showed that, like all of us, Caitlyn has room to grow in understanding the diversity of the trans community and the problematic focus on “passing” as a goal. Her seeming support of Republican presidential candidates also raised many eyebrows.
Most of the Republican candidates seemed to give explicit or tacit support of the transphobic lies about restroom use that were/are being used to prevent passage of LGBT anti-discrimination laws and ordinances. Most notable was the viciously transphobic and transmisogynistic campaign targeting Houston, Texas’ Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination Ordinance. The campaign promoted the fiction that the law would allow “men” to use the women’s restroom to “assault” women. This fiction, which began by opponents of protection for trans youth in schools. This tactic has spread despite the fact that there have been no recorded evidence of assaults by trans people, (or for that matter a cis man masquerading as a trans woman), in any restroom in the US. Despite plenty of evidence that this tactic continued to be used by right wing troublemakers, mainstream LGBTQ rights groups have not developed an effective campaign to counter this spread of misinformation.
2015 was also the year I came out as agender/genderqueer. The year also saw some non-binary activists speak out and share their stories. These activists include Tyler Ford and Alok Vaid-Menon who shared their stories and through essays, videos and social media. Outside of some progressive and youth-oriented media outlets their is still precious little positive information about non-binary gender identities in the mainstream media. This has allowed some right wing zealots, along with some unlikely allies amongst transmedicalists to paint us as “trans trenders,” “special snowflakes,” and other derogatory terms. That’s why I decided it was important for me to come out and share my story. The fact that I am in my late 50s and searched for an identity that resonated with me for several decades before finally discovering that there was a name for my gender identity demonstrates that this is not some passing fad. I am determined to step up my activism in 2016. I would live to see a much more vocal non-binary community this coming year. I also think we need to work hand in hand with trans men and trans women to present a united trans front.