I Am … Was … Speechless

For the first time in a long time, I am speechless. I have been for awhile, that’s why I haven’t written anything here since March 29th. I have been absolutely drained, indignant, and exhausted. I was feeling like my work as an advocate was irrelevant and ineffective. It’s not that I became weary of writing, I still love it very much, but I was torn that there was so much going on in my own movement that I disagree with, and I was particularly torn over what I will discuss in a moment. It’s hard to criticize both sides, it makes you feel alone. Then last week, I received a message from a former schoolmate and friend who reminded me that what I’m doing as an advocate is important. With that being said, let’s talk about the more troubling reason I have been speechless … the mind-numbing absurdity of the religious right.

It’s very easy for those of us who engage in pop culture, as progressives, to become blind to the dirty religious underbelly that still permeates our culture. We see progress, laws passed to protect us, backlash and swift consequences for laws that harm us, and our world continues to get better. But behind it all, behind every “religious freedom” bill, and in response to every celebrity who speaks out for us (thank you Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, and others), there sits the brooding and plotting bitterness of the religious right. Every day, the most outspoken evangelicals take to their radio and television shows, their websites, and the publications who print their material, to spew more misinformation and hatred about us … and they have become so comical, so cartoonish, yet so dangerous, that I was left speechless.

By now, everybody knows about North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” HB2. For those who don’t you can Google it, I will not give it anymore credence by posting a link. In a nutshell, this bill keeps all counties and cities in North Carolina from enacting anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ+ people. It actually prohibits municipal governments from extending non-discrimination ordinances to LGBTQ+ people! HB2 is the result of the irrational fears and panicked reactions of those furious over their loss of privilege, as they take to the streets screaming about “religious freedom.” Arguments for the bill were (are) few, focusing mainly on the debunked “allowing Trans people to use the restroom that best matches their gender identity will make way for pedophiles and other perverts to just say ‘I’m a woman;’ and get access to our wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters.” Never mind the fact that sex crimes have not gone up in places where Trans people are protected while they pee. Never mind the fact that nearly everybody in North America who goes out in public regularly, has most likely shared a restroom with a Trans person and didn’t know it. Never mind the fact that most in favour of the legislation are getting their information from a book that is very obviously not an authority on LGBTQ+ issues, and its evangelical messengers who are just as ignorant as their congregants.

As soon as there were consequences from companies like PayPal … as soon as celebrities like Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr started cancelling shows in North Carolina … as soon as politicians decided to veto discriminatory legislation in their own states … the loud and proud religious opponents of equality absolutely lost it. And they continue to lose it! Their anger is manifesting in more and more outrageous claims. Some of these claims are getting so outrageous that I have personally spoken with fans of these people who are starting to raise their eyebrows and question what is being said. This is unprecedented. In my experience, it’s very rare for a follower of any popular evangelist to question what that evangelist has to say. This is a good thing, but at the same time, we have to stay on guard. There are, after all, still many who believe it, and more fear means more risk of violence.

I wonder what it’s like. What is it like to live everyday in fear of what you have never encountered, a fear that only exists because of what a minister told you, or what you think you read in the Bible? Even when I was an evangelical Christian, I wasn’t as out of touch and afraid as these people are. It has really begun to reach a different level. America is boiling over, and it’s causing turmoil beyond her borders as well. Angry evangelicals, the ones who seem to have forgotten how to form a coherent thought or argument, are influencing the impressionable, and violence toward gay, lesbian, and transgender people the world over is going up at the very time it was starting to go down. This is a particularly scary time for Transgender people, who are being subjected to such an obscene level of misinformation that walking out the door can cause an anxiety attack. And all of this is happening because extreme conservatism is in its death throes, and Christian extremists are scrambling to ruin as many lives as they can before the ship goes down.

I have had two reactions to the comical, yet dangerous behaviour of these people over the past few weeks. The first is to laugh. When I hear a full grown adult crying about how they can no longer exercise their religious freedom to oppress others, I find that so pathetic that it’s funny. The second is to become altogether angry and sad. Their rhetoric, as cartoonish and silly as it is, is doing real damage. My fellow Trans people are being killed in droves, my fellow LGBTQ+ people hunted down and murdered all over the world, and all because of the lies of people who use religion to gain dominance. That’s what this is all about, after all. Christians in the west have had the upper hand for so long, that the thought of losing it scares the hell out of them (pardon the pun). So many of them say “I do not condone violence. I am not a hater. I do this out of love.” These are the same people who support Uganda’s laws that punish homosexuality with jail time, and Russia’s reluctance to act in any way respectable. They say nothing of the “corrective rape” of lesbian women going on in so many countries, and some have even gone so far as to praise the actions of ISIS when they throw gay men from rooftops. At the very least, they stay silent on all of the harm, preferring instead to use their voices to say we’re wrong. If this is love, I don’t want it.

If you think you don’t support violence, think long and hard about what initiatives you do support. Learn about the beliefs of those who do support direct violence against me and people like me. Anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs and rhetoric is standard everywhere. It’s all in the same pot, and if you go around condemning me, I am going to see you as just as dangerous as the gun-wielding psycho hunting people like me in Russia. My desire to live, my instinct toward self-preservation, keeps me from differentiating between you and the predator in Africa waiting for the opportune moment to rape an LGBTQ+ person. I know you don’t want to be lumped in with those people, but your rhetoric is the same. And I know it’s the same, I have spent the last three years learning that it’s the same. I know very well the minds of those who wish me harm, either directly or indirectly. Don’t you dare tell me this is out of love.

So I was speechless, I have been speechless, but I guess I’m not anymore. As a matter of fact, I’m more pissed off now. It’s still not safe for me to be myself in some places, and that is unacceptable.

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Who Is Declaring This “War On Gender?”

What’s with this trend on the right of fighting against the wars we’re supposedly waging on the left? Every year, the viewers of Fox News are treated to Bill O’Reilly’s insane antics over his made up “war on Christmas.” Those of us who want equal protection under the law are constantly accused of waging a “war on religious freedom.” Now, in the midst of the raging debate over Trans people using the washroom, a bunch of very vocal people are fear-mongering over a supposed “war on gender.” A war on gender? What?

It’s pretty easy to tell who knows what they are talking about and who doesn’t when it comes to gender issues. For example, if you think we are all born as one gender or another, you are confused about the difference and relationship between gender and sex. If you think that all Trans people identify as the gender opposite their assigned sex and seek physical transition, you have obviously never bothered to learn anything about Trans identity; and if you think there is a war on gender, you have failed to listen to those of us who have been trying to explain this to you ad nauseum.

I’m going to take a different approach to this today, by saying that the acceptance of Trans identities, and the openness with which we listen and understand, reveals a beautiful truth about humanity. What the right has failed to realize, perhaps what many of us on the left don’t even realize, is that our movement is changing conventional wisdom on the human condition. What we have always thought, or known, about ourselves is not diminished by this, rather it is enhanced by the realization that we are much more complex than we ever imagined. As LGBTQ+ people become more emboldened, more confident in coming out and living their authentic selves, we learn more about our species. The movement sweeping our world is not a war on gender, it’s a revolution of discovery!

The bible, used by the right to justify opposition to progress, is not a textbook. It does not speak truth to the human condition, and the view(s) of humanity contained within its pages is simple and rudimentary, with little nuance. We are more complicated than that, and to embrace humanity is to try to understand that complexity. Passing judgment is something we do naturally, but when we depend on an ancient text to pass judgment in the ‘now,’ we do ourselves, and those we are judging, a terrible disservice. To insist upon this method, and to ‘double down’ on what we know, or even suspect, to be insufficient, is the very embodiment of willful ignorance. This is the problem in the church today. Too many people just don’t care enough. Too many people prefer to cast aspersions instead of seeking truth, because seeking truth, and attempting to understand it, is hard. It’s much easier to take what they have believed for so long and cling to that as infallible. What a horrible injustice it is to reject the fulfillment of discovering more about the world around us.

So I ask those who say we have declared war on gender: who is declaring this war on gender? I am what many of you would mistakenly call a “gay activist,” am I declaring war on gender? The only war on gender is the one you have made up. Just like Bill O’Reilly and his war on Christmas, you are fighting a figment of your imagination. There is no war on gender, we are merely learning. We are embracing new knowledge, preferring not to sit stagnant with ancient beliefs. Refusing to accept the ever-expanding library of knowledge about who and what we are, in favour of a belief that diminishes our complexity is, quite frankly, insulting. Why are you so threatened by the rejection of gender roles? Why are you so threatened by the notion that a person can be born in the wrong body? Why are you so threatened by a person who is biologically one sex, but whose brain is organized as both male and female? Why do you refuse to even try to learn about the reality of a gender identity that doesn’t fit the male-female binary at all?

Do you know how much we suffer? We live on edge, constantly having to check our words for fear of what we might let slip, and to whom. At 34 years old, nobody should be afraid to come out to their parents … but I was. Do you know how demeaning it is, how utterly dehumanizing, to be afraid to show your true colours, to be afraid of physical attack that too often ends in the deaths of our peers, and do you know that the suffering we endure is entirely your fault? Ideas based on religious beliefs and convictions, picked like low-hanging fruit from the pages of scripture, have been applied to social conventions with devastating effects. Those who hold these are to blame for the pain we endure. If those ideas were not pushed and insisted upon, if everybody embraced the beautiful diversity of the human condition, we wouldn’t have these problems. The issues we face are not internal, they are brought about by the exclusionary and restrictive norms and practices of tradition. My struggle, for example, is not with myself; it’s with the consequences of living openly as myself.

Think about that last statement for a minute. If you still can’t imagine any reality other than the make-believe one where me and my cohorts have declared war on gender, you’re not worth wasting any more time on.

It’s Not “Gender Confusion”

When talking about Trans issues, despite having no knowledge of Trans issues, many evangelical activists like to use the term “Gender Confusion” (or “Gender Confused”). It’s time this was confronted. When people like my favourite evangelical Dr. Michael Brown use this term, it feels like nails on a chalkboard to me. Now, for the record, the reason he is my favourite evangelical is because he is so adamantly outspoken about LGBTQ+ issues, even having written several books on us, but has so little knowledge it’s actually comical. As laughable as his work may be, however, he wields a certain amount of influence, and so do his colleagues. People need to know that Trans identity is not a matter of confusion.

Terms that minimize the validity of LGBTQ+ identities always tend to stem from the same premise – “It’s wrong because God.” The term “Gender Confusion” is inextricably linked to the idea that “God doesn’t make mistakes.” Indeed, “man and woman he created them” is right there in the Bible, and it makes sense that a believing Christian would take that to mean we are all born as one or the other. The obvious problem with this is that people are trying to pin down God’s plan … a plan that is supposed to be unknowable.

So how are we to know what God’s plan is? While it’s true that Genesis lays out the plan for procreation, how do you make sense of people who are born infertile, or those who are intersex? Did God make mistakes with those people? You wouldn’t say so, would you? You would say that they were born that way on purpose, a part of God’s plan, the reason for which we cannot know; and the reason you would say that is because you can’t deny physical evidence … but it’s easy to deny what you can’t see. Gender identity is invisible, and when it enters the discussion, God’s plan is no longer a mystery. All of a sudden, the plan is known, God doesn’t make mistakes, and Trans people are merely “confused.”

Does this not look like faulty logic to you? Is it not the height of arrogance to claim a faith in an unknowable God, and have the convenience of changing the narrative to claim to know exactly what he wants when it suits you? Is this not exactly what we mean when we talk about religion being used to justify hatred or dislike? Gender variance is unseen, it has an element of mystery, and instead of trying learn about it, how cowardly it is to grab your holy book and impose your own biases upon it.

It would be troubling indeed if Trans identity was a product of confusion. To come out and live openly despite the dangers of doing so, to struggle through the rift between social ideals and self, to live in constant fear, to fight for proper healthcare … all due to confusion? We don’t attribute women’s issues to confusion when many women face similar struggles, so why do it with gender identity? Granted, the doctrine of original sin allows for such confusion, attributing it to our fallen nature, but once again we have the application of personal bias to reach a desired conclusion.

Take a moment to consider these questions. Could Trans identity be part of God’s plan? What if the struggles faced by Trans people are due to human social bias, a bias that God did not ordain? All Christian denominations teach that humans are flawed and fallen, what if our dislike of difference is the flaw? Maybe Trans identity isn’t the problem. Maybe the problem is the use of the Bible to justify condemnation. Maybe … just maybe … you’re wrong.

At the end of the day, we are here, we are very real, and many people are going to have to learn to deal with that. Trans identity is broad, it is many things to many people, and if you are not willing to ask questions and accept that diversity is a wonderful thing, I feel sorry for you. You may be confused, but we are not. Trans identity is not “Gender Confusion.” Ask and learn, or bask in your own ignorance. Either way, we know who we are.

 

The Significance Of Justice Scalia’s Death

If you haven’t already heard, United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia peacefully died in his sleep on February 13, 2016 at the age of 79. Appointed to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan in 1986, Justice Scalia was a longstanding opponent of virtually every old school value that seeks to discriminate, deny freedoms, or otherwise oppress. He was anti-marriage equality, anti-choice, and pro-death penalty; a position in direct conflict with his ‘pro-life’ views. He consistently disagreed with progressive decisions on gender and racial equality, as well as protections based on sexual orientation. He was a massive hypocrite, having no problem when rulings went his way, but claiming the Supreme Court had overstepped its bounds when they ruled against him. In the 2004 Elk Grove Unified School District v Newdow case, as well as in a later 2013 interview, he demonstrated a belief that Christian values should be allowed to influence certain policy decisions. In short, and contrary to what some have written already, Justice Scalia conducted himself in the legal arena in accordance with his personal religious beliefs – and effectively against the U.S. Constitution that he is said to have loved.

Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, upon hearing of Scalia’s death, tweeted “The totally unexpected loss of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a massive setback for the Conservative movement and our COUNTRY.” This says a lot.

Now, many have written that Scalia will be remembered as a brilliant legal mind, a man to be admired. I respectfully disagree, but before I continue let me be clear that I am in no way celebrating the man’s death. I am merely having one of the many discussions that Antonin Scalia’s judicial legacy demands. That being said, I am a firm believer that although we need not dwell on the deeds of the departed, if a person acted despicably in life, that does not change after their passing; and should not necessarily be kept silent. The passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, a man who left a reprehensible legacy from my point of view, demands discussion. His death carries with it huge implications for the future of America, which brings us back to Donald Trump’s tweet.

“The totally unexpected loss of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is a massive setback for the Conservative movement …” It’s amazing how so much can be said in so few words. At the time this is being written, President Obama has not yet announced whether he will appoint a successor or hold the decision over for the next president, but if I have been reading the cultural and political tide in America correctly, two things are almost certain. (1) the next President of the United States will likely be a Democrat, and possibly one who is not beholden to the traditional establishment (let’s hope), and (2) that will result in the appointing of liberal justices to the Supreme Court. In other words, far-right conservative Justice Scalia will likely be succeeded by someone who holds progressive views. This will bring a breath of fresh air to a seat that has been held by a hateful anti-equality blowhard since 1986. As long as the Supreme Court is responsible for ruling on social issues, a new liberal face will better ensure positive outcomes; and a more solid base in support of the views held by the liberal SCOTUS contingent. Granted, the Republican Senate will do whatever they can to keep this from happening, but even a more grounded conservative would be an improvement.

So let’s discuss the root issue with the ‘Conservative movement.’ To be absolutely blunt, the Conservative movement is one that seeks to deny equal rights and protections to all who are not cis white male. For those who aren’t familiar with this term, a cis white male is a person who is caucasian, has a penis, and identifies as a man (cisgender). I realize that your knee-jerk reaction may be to dismiss this statement as a conspiracy theory, but this is all well documented and researched. As a matter of fact, modern Feminism and the LGBTQ+ rights movement is about this very thing – our patriarchal system run primarily by white men – and if you want a current reference point, I encourage you to start following the U.S. Republican primaries. The comments being made about social issues and policy by Trump and company show us exactly what the Conservative movement is … and it’s not pretty. Justice Scalia was a part of that movement, and every time one of their members passes away, our potential for good grows just a little bit more.

Society is becoming increasingly secular. Humanist values continue to permeate our social consciousness, and as that happens, we reject and push back against outdated ideas that hold us down and deny us our full humanity. The politicians who are already liberal-minded begin to come around and follow suit. As the cis white male Conservative movement ages and loses members, those voices are not being replaced. Instead, liberal progressive voices are rising to fill the void. The time will come that the patriarchy will have lost all relevance, and that time is closer than many of us think. This is why Justice Scalia’s death is so significant. One of the most influential voices in the American patriarchy, a voice that held a position of great power, has been lost. That voice will not be replaced. Instead the position will be filled by a progressive, and those who enjoy cis white male privilege … people like Donald Trump … are right to view this as a big loss for them. It is, and that’s exactly what equality looks like. You see, contrary to what many claim, this isn’t about the proletariat overthrowing the bourgeoisie. It’s about equal footing, equal opportunity, equal dignity, respect, and freedom. Equality requires privilege be lost. Cis white males need not be cast asunder as inferior to anyone else, at least I don’t want to see that, but the privilege they enjoy by virtue of an uncontrollable condition of birth has to disappear.

I am not cisgender, but I am white, and I do have male genitalia. Although I don’t identify entirely as male, I look the part. As a result I have cis white male privilege, and that has kept me from experiencing many terrifying things that are everyday concerns for members of other minorities. Since coming out as gender variant, I have struggled with fears that were foreign to me, and that has given me a small sense of just how powerful cis privilege is. White privilege is more powerful still, and it is so vital that we tear down those walls. It’s too easy for those of us with white privilege, for those with cis privilege, to condemn and marginalize without even realizing it. We have to keep ourselves, and each other, in check. Privilege has to be done away with. Each and every loss for the Conservative movement is a step closer to that goal. The loss of Justice Antonin Scalia is a potentially huge win for progressivism, liberalism, and equality.

 

Trans People Are Just Using The Washroom. That’s It!

Ever since the issue of Trans people using the public washrooms best aligned with their gender identity entered the public sphere, opponents have been saying the same thing over and over again. “This is going to result in perverts using the ladies room to gain access to vulnerable women and girls.” Now, in many school districts across North America, policies have been in place for awhile, long enough to assess the impact, that allow Trans people to use the washroom of their choice. The result? Nothing. No reported attacks. Just people using the washroom. That’s it. (read about it here)

It’s time for opponents in the washroom ‘debate’ to stop talking. I understand that a cis woman may be uncomfortable when a person she perceives as a man walks into the ladies room at the local shopping mall, but her discomfort is her problem. The Trans woman who looks to some like a “man” is uncomfortable every time she steps out in public. She knows people stare, point, and judge her for who she is, and keeping her from using the appropriate washroom is just another form of oppression. How do you think she feels being forced into the mens room, much less being the subject of the assumption that she is a pervert looking for access to young girls? 

I’m not going to go on too long here, it’s really not necessary. In the places where Trans people are allowed to use the appropriate restrooms, the result has been that everybody is going to the washroom they are most comfortable using. There have been no reported rapes, no reported molestations, no reported sexual harassment of any kind, and believe me if these things were happening, they would be reported immediately. If Trans people were preying on innocent washroom goers, we would know about it. The absence of incidents speaks volumes, and those who insist that this will happen have to accept that the facts disagree with them.

Is it possible that a bad person will eventually abuse these washroom policies to prey on young women? Of course. But bad people have been doing bad things for centuries. Many right-wingers suggest that the policy is wrong because somebody may use it for criminal intent, but when this logic is turned back on them, they become outraged. Suppose I were to say something really controversial about guns. Suppose I said that all guns should be banned because some people use them to commit murder. This argument has been used by others, and every time these same people … who use this same logic against Trans people using the washroom … suddenly disagree with themselves. The difference is that there is actually evidence for the gun argument. Otherwise law abiding citizens DO commit murder with legal firearms. We know that because it happens every day. Trans people are NOT raping innocent women in washrooms.

The point is, the anti-Trans “washroom argument” has no evidence behind it. On the contrary, the opposite appears to be true. Trans people are using the washrooms they are most comfortable in, nobody is getting hurt by this, and it’s time for you opponents to stop arguing otherwise.

 

Pick Your Battles

When I began writing as Outspoken Ally, I was a new advocate. Like many new advocates, I was eager to loudly proclaim the message of equality and speak out against bigotry at every opportunity. I wrote about it, and I did it. Every chance I got, I did it, and what I found over time was that I was wasting a lot of unnecessary energy. Many people are up for the discussion in some form or another, but some either don’t get it or don’t want to. You have to pick your battles, because some just aren’t worth having.

Yesterday, I was speaking with an acquaintance who I have known since High School. The conversation was fine, until he unexpectedly launched into a string of very hurtful insults toward gay men; his comments littered with the word “faggot.” It took every bit of strength I had, but I immediately decided to let it go. Why? Because I would have voiced my discomfort with what he said, and then been dragged into a long, drawn out shouting match that would have left me exhausted, angry, and stressed; having made zero progress. Sometimes a hateful person is just a hateful person, and clashing with them isn’t worth the energy.

Let me assure you that I am still wholly committed to this work. What has happened over the past couple of years is that I have calmed down a little bit. My anger with inequality and those who uphold it, though still there, has given way to a more measured approach. Rather than fight every battle, I prefer to fight those battles that are worth fighting. I can argue with a person who just doesn’t care, and wind up feeling like I wasted precious time, or I can sit down with a person who wants to have the debate, and walk away with a sense of validation. If my opponent is unswayed but was receptive, it was worth the time.

A case in point is Dr. Michael Brown. I find Dr. Brown misinformed to say the least, and have written about him before. In my latest post (Trans Rights In 2016), I said that he decries Trans people as freaks, perverts, and liars. It is true that on his radio show he calls them broken and unnatural, frames the public washroom debate as an opportunity for dangerous men to gain legal access to young women, and blames people like me for perpetuating the “lie” that your gender can be different from your physical sex. Although not using the words “freaks, perverts, and liars,” his message is exactly that, and he took offence to my saying so. It is unlikely that I or anybody else will sway Dr. Brown … but engaging with him IS worth it. As wrong and misleading as I feel he is, he is still capable of intelligent debate. He is a smart man who believes he is doing good, and with people like him, the argument is almost always worth having. That’s why I then encouraged you all to voice your opposition to his misinformation on his Facebook page. (Taking my entire message into account, however – my numerous blog posts speaking out against vitriolic attacks, cursing at those we disagree with, and threats of violence – anybody who reads me regularly knows that I endorse civil opposition only)

If you feel the need to take every opportunity to fight, go for it. As long as you approach it with civility, you have my support. What I am encouraging you to consider here, is to save your energy for fights that are worth having. Before engaging, ask yourself one question. Is it worth my time and energy to confront this person? If you’re anything like me, you might find it less stressful, and more effective for your advocacy, to pick your battles.

Trans Rights In 2016

2016 has to be the year of Trans rights. On November 13, 2015, an article appeared on theguardian.com, outlining the very pressing dangers facing Transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States today. It was devastating to say the least, and it serves to warn us all that the struggles of Trans people deserve more attention in the year to come.

2015 saw the landmark SCOTUS ruling legalizing marriage equality throughout America, and that was just one of many victories won this year. Despite the fact that LGB people are still facing discrimination, harassment, and the ever-present fear of violence, things have gotten better overall. 2015 has been a great year for equality! We must keep this momentum going in 2016, and at the same time prioritize our push for the same progress in Trans visibility and understanding.

As of Nov 13 (the publication date of the article above), there had been 21 Trans homicides in 2015; almost all of whom were Transgender women of colour. Of the 53 Trans murders between 2013 and 2015, NOT ONE had been reported or prosecuted as a hate crime. Due to social pressures, stigmas, and threats of further violence, we know that most violent crimes against Trans people go unreported, leading to the safe assumption that these numbers are not even close to revealing the reality of the situation. It should be noted here that these are U.S. statistics, but that the struggle for Trans people across the world, including my country of Canada, is just as real.

A Congressional group dedicated to the rights and equalities of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. has taken the step of putting together a Transgender Equality Task Force, and we have to put our passions into this as well. Governmental and grass roots groups have to both work hard for this, a combined effort that has seen success for decades now. We have to fight just as hard, though hopefully not as long, as we have for the rights and equalities of LGB people.

Note what was just said about the victims of these crimes – in 2015, most were Trans women of colour. It is rightly pointed out in the article that the issue here goes much deeper than mere Transphobia; a definite issue to be addressed, but it only scratches the surface. The deeper issue lies at the intersection of racism, sexism, and transphobia. Immediately clear, and again rightly pointed out in the article, we can no longer afford to address these issues separately. Where do we begin? By listening to the people already talking about it, and asking questions to gain a better understanding.

The push against traditional gender roles, against sexism and for Feminism, against transphobia and for equal rights and dignity, against continuing systemic racism, and many more problems, are here all wrapped up into one. Trans people have become the most at-risk group among the LGBTQ+ community, Trans women of colour especially. Their voices are not being heard loud enough. Their struggles are not being addressed to the proper extent. They are being decried as freaks, perverts, and liars by evangelical activists like Dr. Michael Brown (you can find him, and object to his misinformation, at askdrbrown.org, and ‘Ask Dr. Brown’ on Facebook). Most importantly, the realities they face are not understood. We have to correct that in 2016, before more lives are taken.

I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions, preferring instead to make lifestyle changes when the time is right. This time, though, right now, is the right time for all of us to make a change toward asking, listening, empathizing, and acting to make things better. Countless LGB people died while we sat and passively argued against inequality. It was only when things reached a tipping point that the push got real and things started to change, and they still have a long way to go. That tipping point came too late for people who never should have suffered the way they did, people who could have been effective voices fighting for their own lives. Are we going to continue to repeat that history?

In every single state but California, “Trans Panic” is currently considered a valid legal defence. For those of you unfamiliar with what that is, “Trans Panic” is the argument that upon learning that the person they were involved with was Transgender, the murderer panicked, lashed out in an uncontrollable rage, and cannot be held responsible for their actions. Since Trans people are seen as such a shockingly disturbing bunch to an aging white cis-male legal establishment, “Trans Panic” can be used for nearly any situation – from brief social interactions to a romantic relationship. After all, who’s to say that panic and murder aren’t warranted when you buy someone a drink at a bar and find out they have unexpected genitalia, right? “Trans Panic” frees the guilty and blames the victim. It says the victim deserved to die, and this somehow makes sense to the legal establishment in every American state but one. This has to change in 2016.

The good news is that there are people already talking about this. What we have to do is start listening to them. It took a long time, but many people have come around and taken the time to understand what it means to be gay and/or lesbian. It was once thought that bisexuality wasn’t a real thing, but people know differently now; and bisexuality is better understood. Two-spirited people are beginning to be celebrated in some communities, Queer people are entering the discussion and we’re telling our stories, and asexuality is beginning to be talked about as well. The challenges and dangers facing these groups are still there, but things have improved greatly. Let’s make 2016 the year we give Trans issues the attention they deserve. Let’s make 2016 the year we force the discussion about the intersectionality of racism, sexism, and transphobia. Let’s make 2016 the year we tell our legal representatives that “Trans Panic” is a disgusting and dehumanizing argument that has to be thrown in the trash where it belongs.

2016, I must admit, is also going to see me asking more questions. I intend to ask about terms that confuse me – terms like “transage,” and “trans-species.” I want to learn more, to know if my inclination toward dismissing terms I find suspect is valid or the result of my own ignorance. Humanity is complex, we are all very unique and fascinating creatures. Before venturing an opinion or point-of-view, especially for a person who chooses to live as an outspoken ally, information has to be sought out and carefully taken in.

My plans for 2016 are many, but where my Trans advocacy is concerned, I intend to ask, learn, act, and aggressively fight for the equality, rights, dignity, and acceptance of the Trans community.

Have a safe and happy New Year!