Every Winter I am prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder, the blahs and depression brought on by extended hours of darkness. This year a number of issues, both personal and in the trans and LGBTQIA communities conspired, (metaphorically), to make this years Winter blahs worse than usual. I guess I should start by describing/redescribing my personal situation.
I live alone in a fairly nice 2 bedroom apartment in a 55+ housing complex here in Santa Fe. I am retired on disability for a number of physically disabling conditions including, psoriatic arthritis with finger deformity, degenerative disk disease in my lower back and polyneuopathy (nerve damage) in my hands, legs and feet. These are all painful conditions for which I am on a variety of medications, each with their own side effects. In addition I have anxiety/panic attack disorder and occasional depression. I walk with a cane and don’t drive because I have very little sensation in my feet which makes it difficult to locate the peddles in a car or my feet on unfamiliar terrain.
I have found a purpose in my life as a result of this blog and my Tumblr as well as other social media. As time went on, this blog evolved from news and opinion focused posts with personal posts sprinkled in to more personal, trans and queer movements focused. These past two months have been a time of contemplation and depression for me. Let me first describe what I was preoccupied with in LGBTQIA politics in general and trans politics in particular than move to my personal issues.
As all of you know last year was a dreadful year for many trans feminine people, particularly trans women of color. There were nearly 30 murders of trans women and untold other incidents of harassment and violence. This was occurring at a time when there was more visibility for trans people which led to both more allies and, sadly, many more transphobes and individuals with transmisogynistic views. Opponents of LGBTQIA rights, having suffered a defeat when marriage equality became legal in all 50 states, pivoted to other issues and created a largely fictional narrative that imagined trans rights leading to “cross dressing men” infiltrating women’s restrooms where they could harass or assault women and girls. This was a “problem” that only existed in the warped imaginations of the minds of the religious and political right. In states, cities and schools where trans people were protected by non-discrimination laws, ordinances and regulations for many years there have been no incidents reported of trans women harassing cis women and no incidents of cis men cross dressing to harass women in public restrooms (which is still illegal when there are LGBTQ non-discrimination protections).
Trans rights opponents have used this myth to roll back laws and ordinances protecting LGBTQ people and to defeat new LGBTQ protections. There are even attempts to legislate that only people who are identified as female on their birth certificates can use women’s restrooms and vise verse for ‘men.” It is unbelievably frustrating to have rights threatened based on a fictional issue. It shows how depraved opponents of equality can be. The real reason they oppose trans rights is because of their personal and religious views about LGBTQ people in general and trans people in particular. As a non-binary gender identified person I want to see more widespread access to gender neutral restrooms because people like me are not welcome in either male or female restrooms. Thankfully we have an ordinance mandating all single-stall restrooms be designated gender neutral here in Santa Fe, (we are still working on compliance).
The trans bathroom predator myth was successful in rolling back LGBTQ non-discrimination protections in Houston. This, in turn, led to a movement by some cis gay men to separate Trans rights from LGB rights. Thankfully a petition that demanded LGBTQ media outlets and LGBTQ political organizations drop trans people was completely rejected. Nonetheless this and a more recent opinion piece by a conservative cis gay man in USA Today, have exposed an ugly prejudice against trans people by some cis gay men. This is closely related to a wide spread prejudice, known as effeminaphobia, against any feminine behavior or presentation exhibited by any person designated male at birth.
Then there was another incident of infighting within the LGBTQ community. This occurred at the Creating Change Conference sponsored by the LGBTQ Taskforce earlier this year. The controversy started when a Jewish organization with some ties to Israel wanted to sponsor a religious service for LGBTQ members of the Jewish community and their allies. The proposed inclusion of this event was criticized by pro-Palestinian LGBTQ activists which led, at first to a removal of the event. This decision was overturned when Jewish LGBTQ community members protested. This, in turn, resulted in a noisy demonstration in the hallway next to the room where the religious event was being held. The aftermath of this event was sad to see. Jewish groups and individuals were very offended and complained about tactics and slogans used in the protest. The pro-Palestinian protesters in turn pointed to the Israeli government using their support for LGBT people to cover up their treatment of Palestinians, a tactic they call pink-washing. Each side was absolutely certain their view was correct. Some LGBTQ Jews were further offended by some anti-Israel and anti-Semitic chants. The other side claimed the protest was not anti-Semitic by anti pink-washing. There were people I respect on both sides and the escalation of tensions greatly distressed me. I have always believed that our community should seek to resolve disagreements with dialogue not confrontation. In my view, it would have been better to have facilitated a community discussion prior to the Jewish religious event. Then a skilled facilitator, following mutually agreed upon guidelines, could have allowed all points of view to be heard. This would not have resulted in complete agreement but could have come closer to a more complete understanding of the issues and the emotions they exposed.
All of these events left me feeling frustrated. From my perspective there are real threats to LGBTQIA individuals and the rights I, and many others, have fought for and secured through the political process. There is a need to seriously address the violence directed at trans women of color. There is a need to counteract the anti-trans political rhetoric with real stories about the lives of trans people and their desire to be accepted and welcomed into society. There is a need to address the very real threats to LGBTQIA rights and individuals not just in our own countries and regions but across the globe. Finally, non-binary people like me want our voices heard and want our rights respected.
I have always been an activist and want to continue to be one. The frustration I feel about the incidents and issues I just described have temporarily weighed me down. At the same time I faced some controversy of a personal nature. A childhood friend lashed out at me and others like me because we were confusing people and damaging the LGBT movement and the rights won. This back and forth then segued into an attack on how I present myself and the danger I faced. I tried to explain my situation and my community but after awhile I had to shut down the conversation for my own sanity. This was a friend from my youth who considers herself an LGBT-supporting liberal. I tried to shrug this off but it did impact me more than it should have.
I have a more realistic view of the struggle our community faces. I have begun to shrug off my depression and ready myself for the struggles ahead. I know we have hills and mountains to climb but I am convinced that this is a struggle we and our allies need to work together to win. As always, we are better together than we are divided!