Proud to be Plutonian

by Shaker Erin M

Hi all! Liss invited me up here from the comments section to comment on this Salon article about why the T is an inseparable part of the LGBT community and the debate around an inclusive ENDA. I’m really touched that she thought of me, so many thanks for that. This is probably going to end up a collection of reactions and personal observations and I do jump cuts rather than smooth transitions, so hold on to your hats. In any case, I’d like to start by telling you were I’m coming from.

I’m a young trans woman (I know Coming Out Day was a couple of days ago, but I’ve never been on time in my life!). I have it about as good as it gets for a trans person in the U.S. I live in a city that includes gender identity in its non-discrimination laws for employment, housing and public accommodations. The state I grew up in has passed gender identity protections, so in a sense I really can go home again. And despite my queerness, I have several other levels of privilege I can fall back on. Like John Aravosis, I’ve got mine. All a federal ENDA would do for me at this point is give me some more options of places to move to and allow me to sue in federal court if the need arose.

But as good as I have it, it simply isn’t good enough. It isn’t good enough because it isn’t everyone. Now, sure, I’ve heard the arguments about pragmatism and incrementalism and all that, but it doesn’t wash for me.

First off, saying we’ll get back to trans eventually doesn’t seem very helpful when the states that have sexual orientation ENDAs have taken an average of 15 years to pass trans-inclusive ENDAs – if they ever get to it at all. (Thanks to KatRose at Pam’s place for the numbers.) Fifteen years is the difference between me now and me in the middle of high school just starting to come out. Knowing then that the law protected me would have changed my life. I’m glad it’s catching up, but how long do people have to wait until they get treated like human beings, John? Barney? Anyone?

Second, the more we incrementalize our advances, the smaller and smaller the groups we have to “get back to” become, and the less political clout they’ll have by dint of numbers. Might we get it passed anyway? Sure. New Jersey did it. Vermont did it. But they did it with allies. New Jersey’s bill more or less rode the civil unions tide through the State House (it passed on the same day, to much less fanfare). So maybe we don’t really need you, New Jersey to the contrary. You certainly don’t seem to think you need us. But it would be nice to get this done with other folks having our backs. That’s why we call it community.

Third, the notion that it will take decades to get any kind of ENDA passed if we don’t pass the stripped-down version now. Why so pessimistic? As Susan Stryker points out in her article, trans didn’t get forced on the community from outside and above. We rose up from within and below. I’ve learned a lot about my history these last couple of weeks, and the history of those that have become my family since I started this strange journey called transition. We’ve been around a long time, and we aren’t going anywhere soon. Even better, my generation – call us Gen Y, the Millennials, the under-30s, or those slackers you see hanging out at the Gamestop, whatever works for you – grew up with the closet open. For young people – queer or otherwise – gays, lesbians, transgenders and every other shade of the rainbow aren’t just some shameful thing we’ve heard about. They’re our friends, our families, and our selves. We’ve grown up seeing them out and about in the world. There are two city elected officials that are trans (and it’s not where you might expect: Missouri and Georgia). This season a network TV show – on Disney-owned ABC, no less – has a trans woman character played by a trans woman. Even the Fortune 500 are catching on. (195 companies can’t be wrong!) Sure, it’s not every state, or every family, but that’s exactly why we need these protections now. We need the kids still afraid to set foot outside their rooms to know that it’s not just in some far off big city, but right there in their hometown that they have rights. They may have to fight harder than they should to exercise them, but just the knowledge that they exist might help them feel less freakish and less afraid. We’re not looking at decades here. We’re looking at years at most. Call me an optimist, but the new generation – queer, questioning and ally alike – is coming on strong as the old dinosaurs are dying off by the month.

Why does it have to be years, either? Why not now? Whatever the discrepancy is between the number of votes in hand that would pass ENDA-lite and the votes lacking to pass full ENDA, that’s the job for the party whips. We weren’t even supposed to have political parties, but since we do, let's make the best of them. Get those waverers into line and get that bill passed. The public have spoken, and will continue speaking, but in the end, it’s your job, Congress Dems. The Republicans never have a problem getting their party to vote unanimously (and I can’t imagine every one of them believes in every single thing the GOP falls in line behind), so let’s see a little discipline in our own ranks. We’ve got a majority for a reason, so let’s put it to use!

Sure, Bush will veto it. Try it again next year. He won’t be around forever (thank goodness!). And those that will be around forever? The haters, bigots and fundies? The hell with them. Like I said, they’re a dying breed, but we’ll never be completely rid of them. They’ll always be pushing their ignorance and misinformation and they will never come around on this issue. Backing down is never going to satisfy them, so just ignore them and do the right thing anyway. Sure, it will piss them off, but they never liked us in the first place. I don’t see what difference it will make, since our very existence is the burr in their hides.

One final comment on the title of my post. It’s a riff on a line from Ms. Stryker’s article, that even if men aren’t from Mars and women aren’t from Venus, trans folks still seem to be from Pluto. (Read the article, it’s not hateful. Just a little joke on not quite knowing where we Ts fit in the mix.) I’m no astrophysicist, but I’ve got a feeling that if you took Pluto out of the solar system, it’d do some pretty funky things to Mars, Venus, and this little ball of rock we call home. So, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t care if you’re from Pluto, Sedna, or the Oort Cloud, you’ve got a place in my solar system. We’re all in it together, and we’ll all get what we deserve – no, what we’re due – together. Anything less just isn’t good enough.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus