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Trans-activism for the closeted November 13, 2008

Posted by Tina Simmons in transgender.
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There are many closeted trans-people out there – the majority, according to most “knowledgeable” sources.  Let’s take that as a given.  Now consider this – those of us who are closeted are closeted out of fear.  It could be fear of losing your job, or your family, or whatever, but it’s fear, and, unfortunately, it is a reasonable fear.

So here’s a question for all you closeted (or semi-closeted) people out there – what can YOU do to help the cause?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Do not “go along” with jokes that put down transgendered people (or gay or lesbian, or any other group).  There is acceptable humor, but you know when something is mean-spirited.  If you do not want to speak out to the person, leave.
  • Find a way to contribute time or money to an organization that helps transgendered people, like a local transgender shelter or support group, or a national group, such as the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) or PFLAG: Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (a very transgender friendly organization) (and I bet there’s a PFLAG chapter in your area).
  • Does your employer have an LGBT diversity organization?  Join it as an ally, and let them know that you have transgendered friends who’ve filled you in on the issues.
  • Know the issues that transgender people are dealing with.  Read up on the employment discrimination issues, on the violence issues, etc.
  • Whenever a transgender character is on a television show or in a movie, don’t be afraid to discuss it with whoever you are with.  Don’t be afraid to call out stereotypes, and praise things that you feel they got right.

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, We must all hang together, else we shall most assuredly hang separately.

Little acts of activism April 8, 2008

Posted by Tina Simmons in transgender.
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I had an experience where I was listening to a podcast and I heard a joking comment that was at the expense of transgender people like myself.  The speaker was trying to describe something that was an unpleasant change that was a side-effect of some software, and he likened it to “a child coming home and finding his father in women’s clothing.”  He then went on to describe this in greater detail in case the audience lost the point.

I’ve listened to this person enough to know that he didn’t understand what he was saying was hurtful, but I found his email address and sent him a note asking him to please consider this.  I gave him a brief description of my situation (being transgendered, out to my wife and kids, and trying to make my family work) and that I really didn’t appreciate the comment, but that I would still be a listener to the podcast that he was on.

What I didn’t expect was a fairly quick reply (at most a couple of hours) in which he apologized and thanked me for voicing my displeasure to him in a very clear and honest manner, and that he would be careful not to do this again.  I was happy about this.

What it made me think about, though, is that this is not the first time that I’ve heard trans-people being used as a description of something that’s bad (such as the winner of this year’s Project Runway, Christian, and his use of the phrase “tranny mess” to describe something he thinks is horrible, among others).  I’ve sat on the sidelines while this kind of thing goes on and suffered it in silence.  I think, now that I’ve had a small success, that I am going to look for other opportunities to try to change the way we are perceived in society.

So here is my call to arms: when you hear something like I did, or see something, find some way to let the perpetrator know that you don’t think it’s appropriate.  Be respectful of the person, be understanding that they do not know they are doing wrong, but make it clear that it is wrong to use transpeople or trans situations as a negative description of something they don’t like.

Little acts of activism like this can make a big difference to people.  Remember, if you can change the behavior of one person, you might actually be causing it to ripple out to others.