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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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.

 

An Open Letter To Franklin Graham

While combing through the news this week, I came across a story about how Franklin Graham, in the midst of a vile attack on the LGBTQ+ community and our fight for civil rights, has called Transgender people “predators and sexually perverted.” When are these evangelical preachers going to realize that their actions against people they fear are completely contrary to the teachings of the man named Jesus they claim to follow?

Mr. Graham:

So I’m a predator and a pervert, am I? I identify as Genderqueer, which puts me under the Trans umbrella, and at 34 years of age, I have never preyed on anybody for any purpose; nor have I ever had the desire to do so. Your hateful diatribe against me and those like me reveals a willful ignorance (you do, after all, have access to education on these issues), a fragile ego that feeds off of demeaning and degrading others, and an un-Christlike heart. You should be ashamed of yourself.

As a child, I was in awe of your father. Billy Graham and his message was ever-present in the charismatic and evangelical movements of the time. He was a powerful speaker, and I was convinced that he was ordained by God to spread the gospel. I later came to see him as a charlatan, a man who is not only dishonest, but deliberately deceptive, a man who played on the hopes and fears of people while tugging at their purse strings. You, sir, are just like him. The difference, though, and this is what makes you worse, is that you are actively campaigning to deny basic human rights; and using vile degrading language in the process.

I suppose, Mr. Graham, that you are actually quite proud of yourself. You did, after all, win your last battle to keep discriminatory policy on the books (referenced in the link above), and you are no doubt thrilled that a dozen states still have unconstitutional sodomy bans in place (as of 2014, and to my knowledge these have not changed). But while you insist upon making it difficult for us to be recognized as human beings, and as you carry on this disgusting crusade, listen carefully when I say that you are going to lose. You see, what was once a secret, what used to be dangerous to say, is no longer taboo. Of course in some conservative places, it is still dangerous to say that you are gay, Trans, or even an ally, but in most places it’s now safe to come out. The genie, as they say, is out of the bottle, and it can’t be put back in. We are out, and in the face of oppression we stand proud. That pride is why you will lose. We aren’t going anywhere, and we sure as hell are not backing down from a petty, vindictive, arrogant person like you.

I want to suggest that you sincerely try to learn about who and what we are, about the challenges we face, and about the legitimacy of Trans identity. I want to tell you that at your age it’s not too late. I want to encourage you to find it in your heart to stop fighting against humanity … but I’m almost ashamed to say that I don’t actually care if you do any of that. I am very proud of how I handle my advocacy. I am proud of my insistence on civility, my discretion with labels and ‘name-calling,’ my honesty … but I’m sick and tired of people like you. Since you’re so honest about wanting us to be treated like second-class citizens, and about wanting to deny us basic human rights, here’s a bit of honesty from me to you. I want to see you fail. I want to see your ministry investigated, to have your tax-exempt status revoked, and I want to see you fall out of favour with those who you and your father have been cheating and stealing from all these years. I want to see every piece of legislation you fight against passed, and everything you fight for struck down. And if everything I want happens, it still won’t be enough. Why? Because I could never wish enough ill will on you to match the pain and devastation you want to see levelled against us. I don’t want you put in prison for your beliefs. I don’t want to see you physically assaulted. I don’t want to see you homeless. I don’t want to see you subjected to unconstitutional restrictions on your rights and freedoms. I could never match your hatred for me, because I don’t have it in me to feel that way toward another human being.

Mr. Graham, you may think I’m a predatory pervert, but I encourage you to look in a mirror. I don’t prey on people, nor do I use them … but that’s exactly how your father got rich. I don’t publicly talk about my sexual preferences … but you seem obsessed with the preferences you imagine I have. I fight for people who are taking their own lives … while your fight is the reason they take their own lives. Stop calling us predators and perverts, Mr. Graham. You’re obviously projecting all over yourself.

 

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.

 

‘Trans-Age’ And Abandonment 

It has been an uncharacteristically long time since writing my last post. In late 2015, a story surfaced that has had me quite perplexed, and I have had to take the time to think, study, talk with others, and decide how to approach it. What I am about to say may anger some people in the Trans community. As a Genderqueer person myself, I don’t want to offend anybody, but as an activist I have to speak up when I feel something is being done to harm our goals of visibility, acceptance, and equality.

In late 2015, we learned about the 52-year-old father of seven who left his family to live life as a 6-year-old girl, Stefonknee (Stef-on-knee) Wolscht. She was interviewed and applauded by The Daily Xtra and The Transgender Project (read about it here), has become a well-known advocate for Trans issues, and while we need and welcome more advocates, I’m just going to say it … ‘trans-age’ and abandonment should not be celebrated

In a very small nutshell, gender is largely a social construct. The gender binary (man and woman) is part of this, as are the roles assigned to those genders, and oftentimes a person’s sex does not correlate with the gender distinctions placed upon it. It’s really much more complex than this, and I have written about it in more length in previous posts, but in the most basic of terms, this is how we get the multitude of legitimate Trans identities. Age, on the other hand, is a temporal condition that is NOT socially constructed. Age just IS, it’s defined largely by the responsibilities and relationships that develop over time, and a responsible adult does not get to stop being an adult just because they have had enough of it. One can certainly live as a child in their own home, but when you have responsibilities, namely seven children, you don’t get to just quit and move on. When somebody has a psychotic break and decides to go back to being a child, they do not need to be celebrated. They need compassion, empathy, and professional help.

Now, I have no doubt that Stefonknee Wolscht is a Trans woman. That is a legitimate identity for many, many, many reasons; including those mentioned above. Also, she has suffered a great deal for being Trans, an experience that should never be diminished. What I take issue with is the celebration of her decision to abandon her family and live as a child. We all wish we could escape adulthood from time to time. Sometimes the pressure gets too much and we have to step back to catch our breath. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it may very well be that the play therapy she is doing is a legitimate form of healing. But at the end of the day we are the sum of our years, we have whatever responsibilities we have taken on, and we don’t get to escape that by deciding we are once again six years old.

Frankly, I am disappointed with The Daily Xtra and The Transgender Project. Evangelicals are constantly looking at us and asking “what’s next?” They already see us as degenerates, and just as we start to gain legitimacy at the discussion table, you go and praise somebody for abandoning their family to escape reality and live as a six-year-old. Do you know how far back you have set us? Do you know how many evangelical radio hosts and public figures are using this to further their cause? Yes, we must accept everybody as they are, but that doesn’t mean without question. There is a big difference between gender and age, and jumping to celebrate something before attempting to think about it and understand it is an act of ignorance. Even your own reporting on Stefonknee reveals a troubled person in need of help, and your actions are not at all conducive to her mental health. We certainly need to accept and support her, and in this case that means validating her identity as a Trans woman, and helping her to learn to cope and heal as an adult.

The movement for civil liberties, for equality, understanding, and acceptance, is where I feel at home. I love people, and I love this work. When I came out in August, I received all kinds of support. This fight is very dear to me, and I feel honoured that there are people who read and appreciate what I have to say. I feel the need to protect it because it has helped so many people; myself included. On one hand, I sympathize with Stefonknee’s struggle, on the other I see a gross misuse of the movement when abandonment is celebrated. In Stefonknee’s case, it was clear that she would no longer be welcome as a Trans person in her own home. This is devastating, and it’s no surprise that it would cause a meltdown. As an adult, she had to move out, and find another place to live. But to leave your children behind because you “don’t want to be an adult right now,” is not okay.

I’ll be honest, this one story has made me question my involvement with the movement altogether. I have a dilemma regarding my alliance with a group of people who lack the ability to understand when a person has had a mental breakdown and needs help. And what about empathy for the family affected by this? There are seven children, where was the compassion for them in the coverage? All I saw was a condemning tone when speaking about the letters Stefonknee’s children wrote expressing embarrassment and hurt. Sure they clearly don’t understand Trans issues, but they are children! They are children, and they have just been abandoned by a parent with very little explanation as to why! Is that what we’re doing now? Condemning children for feeling hurt over abandonment? If we don’t care about the obvious issues here, what business do we have reaching out to anybody? Am I wrong? Am I the only one who feels this way?

 

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!