November is Transgender Awareness Month, a month which, in the words of Heckin’ Unicorn (heckinunicorn.com), “is an annual celebration of transgender history and the transgender community. It is celebrated every November to commemorate the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which occurs on Nov. 20. The month is centered around educating people about the transgender community, raising visibility of transgender people, and advocating for their rights.”
This year has been a rough year for trans and non-binary people, both here and abroad. According to Trudy Ring in Advocate.com, as of May 26, “14 trans and non-binary people [were] lost to violence in 2023,” while an untold number died from June to October. The murders of trans and non-binary people did not make them more sympathetic to the bigots who control most of our state legislatures. According to lgbtqnation.com, “so far in 2023, more than 30 anti-trans bills have become law.” Four of those laws were enacted in the “free state” of Florida, under the leadership of our bigot in chief, Gov. Ron DeSantis. Even in the best of times, it is much harder for trans people to transition to their true gender identities than it is for lesbians, gay or bisexual people to accept themselves and come out of their closets, even within the most homophobic environments.
Transphobia is endemic, even within the LGBTQ community. Like many of you, I have had my share of transphobia. What cured me of this mental illness was the friendship of proud and determined trans people, like Gloria Stein and Bishop S.F. Makalani MaHee. They were kind and patient in their friendships, though they were quick to correct me whenever I made a gender faux pas. Today I like to view myself as a cisgender ally, though perhaps not the type of ally that trans people really need in these trying times.
For all of us, supporting the rights of trans and nonbinary people is the right thing to do. But there are other good reasons to be a cisgender ally. As the National LGBTQ Task Force reminded us, “transgender people are and have always been an integral part of our community, and the struggle to establish civil rights protections for transgender people cannot be separated from the struggle to win freedom and equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people.” Homophobia and biphobia are often based on gender role expectations; according to our enemies, lesbian, gay and bisexual people do not act like “real women” or “real men.” LGBTQ people all share the same history of resistance: As transgender scholar Susan Stryker reminded us in glbtq.com, “transgender ‘street queens’ played an instrumental role in sparking the riots at New York’s Stonewall Inn in 1969, which are generally regarded as the origin of the contemporary glbtq rights movement.” And we all share the same enemies.
One of them, Rev. Ron Saunders of Largo’s Lighthouse Baptist Church, joined transphobia and homophobia when a few years ago he infamously said that “there are only a couple of cases that God says is an abomination: homosexuality and dressing as a woman.” Though the Bible lists other “abominations” Saunders, like most of his kind, only quotes Scripture when it is convenient for him. This is just one more reason why those of us who are cisgender should take a firm stand and support the rights of our trans and non-binary community members.