Saturday, November 29, 2008

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Thursday, November 20th was the Transgender Day of Remembrance. GLAAD asked people to answer the question "What does Transgender Day of Remembrance mean to you?" Here is my response:

During the Transgender Day of Remembrance service, we are reminded – these people are children, siblings, parents, friends, and lovers. As we read the names, I think of the mother mourning her transgender child’s death, the brother who will never understand how someone could take his sibling’s life. There is a small child whose parent committed suicide, an adult whose parent died because the doctors refused treatment. I don’t know their names, but anti-transgender violence has taken their family members.

In this moment, I find sadness. In this moment, I find rage.

Then, my thoughts turn to the transgender people in my life. I picture my father and her partner, the peaceful life they have pieced together in the small town surrounded by mountains. Grateful that they have a place to live, that she has a job. They are less vulnerable than many of those on the TDoR list, but still the fear creeps in. I could be that family member, holding a picture at the vigil. This year, I am not. I say a little prayer that my loved ones – family and friends – live free from violence.

In this moment, I find sadness. In this moment, I find rage.

While marching through San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, I meet a woman whose name could have been on the memorial list. She tells me her story of surviving stab wounds and being left at Ocean Beach, of the children who found her there, of her recovery just two years ago. And she is marching next to me, holding a candle just like mine.

In this moment, I find perseverance. In this moment, I find hope.

May this compassionate rage fuel our collective efforts to recreate a world where people live free from violence and discrimination.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Reflecting in a Moment of Change and Frustration

I realized on Wednesday that I'd been holding my breath for weeks, hoping that the collective power of grassroots organizing in America would win at the polls. In my decade-long experience as a voter in this country, I had reason to be skeptical. After all, my first opportunity to vote for president resulted in voter fraud in Florida and the Bush regime. I remember thinking, 'How bad could it really get?' and within a year, it was pretty obvious.

In 2004, I was living in Boston during the Kerry campaign. In the face of the Iraq War and so much injustice, many of us figured that Bush just had to lose. Instead, we had another close election resulting in a so called 'mandate' for a second-term president who should've never been elected. My good friend Bonnie and I visited Copley Square on election night to join with throngs of damp broken-hearted Kerry supporters. The day after the election, I saw Antibalas perform at The Middle East in Cambridge. We danced our pain and frustration out, realizing that millions of Americans actually believed those campaign lies.

All this is to say that I am used to being broken-hearted the day after election day, needing to be angry and sad, take care of myself and my community, and reflect on next steps.

Last Tuesday, I gathered with friends in San Francisco to watch the returns come in. Many of us spent part of the day near polling places reminding people to vote no on proposition 8. There was a nervous energy all afternoon. When I voted earlier that day, I was disgusted by the ballot question - 'Proposition 8 - Eliminates the Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry'. I should NEVER be able to vote on whether to eliminate another person's rights. But, I suppose it happens all the time, just in less obvious language.

As an east coast transplant, it's strange to see the results of the rest of the country before the polls close here. I am grateful for the delay, because it gave us about 45 minutes to truly celebrate Obama's victory before California precincts started reporting the bad news.

We sat together, snuggling and crying at Obama's speech, overcome with a momentous sense of hope and history. Yes.We.Can.

As President-Elect Obama told the story of the 104-year old African-American woman who cast her vote that day, the banner showed the first returns. We tensed, unready to move from this moment of victory. A little over 50% had voted to ban gay marriage - 52% in the final count. We were still hopeful, but tinged with a strange feeling of homophobia on a broad scale.

I am still so proud to live in a country that elected Barack Obama as its 44th president. This is the beginning of a new era and part of it is a nuanced mix of victory and injustice. I've grown used to trusting that every decision of the Bush administration is a bad one. Moving forward, I know I cannot trust the Democrats to always make good decisions. This means paying closer attention, keeping social justice at the forefront of my mind and my work.

As a member of the LGBT movement, a queer person, and a resident of California, I am outraged and saddened by the passage of Proposition 8. I took to the streets with thousands of San Franciscans on Friday to protest. Check out my radio report on Flashpoints here (it's about half way through the broadcast). While we need to get outraged to heal, this is not the time to scapegoat those who voted for the bill - regardless of their race, faith, or age - but rather a time to move forward. We must look beyond the fight for marriage equality.

I have been deeply inspired by some of the conversations some of us in the queerspawn community are having. As a community existing at the intersections of oppression, homophobia and transphobia is an oppression we all face. My goodness, we have some powerful things to say from this vantage point. Here is part of the COLAGE statement:
COLAGE calls on our members and allies to stand up against the scapegoating of voters of color in the passage of Proposition 8 in California. Some have publicly stated that the African American vote tipped the scales against marriage equality in California. African Americans represent only 6% of the CA population, while Anglo Americans represent 47% of the state population. This means that the majority of people who voted for Proposition 8 are white. Let's reject racist scapegoating. Affirming racism while standing up against homophobia is never productive and lashing out against those who voted for Proposition 8 will not help educate or raise awareness to move our society forward.
It really bothered me to see visibly white protesters wearing 'Second Class Citizen' t-shirts at the march on Friday. There are many people in this country who are treated like second class citizens. While all of us should have access to the institution of marriage, their claim overlooks the various privileges enjoyed by many white, middle-class, able-bodied citizens working for equal marriage rights.

We much use our voices at this critical moment, even if it's hard to know what to say. I vow to be more outspoken in the coming months. After all, I AM the child of LGBTQ parents. Those who voted for Prop 8 did NOT have my best interests in mind. AND there is so much more to equality beyond my right to marry a woman in California.

May we seize this feeling of hope to truly bring change to our communities.