As you read this, it will be no more than 3 days before Houston votes on HERO. It will be no more than 3 weeks before the Transgender Day of Remembrance. I trust the connection is not lost upon you, nevertheless, I will elaborate.
As the visibility of the movement for Trans equality increases, in certain quarters their will be a proportional increase in resistance. There is a toxic feedback loop in play that we should be well aware of and be prepared to work against. The loop, actually best described as a triangle, is structured thus: as trans people (and their allies) work for equality, those who profit politically and personally from demonizing trans people ramp up their rhetoric against their chosen scapegoats, which in turn infests the culture with misconceptions and outright lies that paint trans people as a threat to “normal” people and sound morals, making trans people the natural target of unstable and violent people who seek to do us harm, as well as the vagaries of the political sheep they control. Which returns us to the beginning – the need to push for equality and acceptance.
As I wrote about in my last entry, the forces of the Traditionalist Pharisees be they political, religious, and/or cultural are doubling down on the HERO vote for good reason. It can serve as a very real cultural milestone. If they can convince the 4th largest city in the country to surrender to fear and ignorance, to say nothing of deliberate mis-information then, they hope, they may be able to turn the greater public conversation regarding transgender rights back in their direction. In city after city, particularly across the south and middle America, cities and school districts and colleges and counties and sometimes states are considering policy shifts which may be favorable or unfavorable and often these turn on the pressure brought to bear by vocal constituents – even if the constituents are speaking in clearly non-factual terms. For the Pharisees to be able to trumpet a victory in Houston would serve as powerful motivation to those people.
That’s bad enough, on the legal front, because it stampedes office holders and policy makers in an anti-trans direction. But what’s worse is that the poison rhetoric, as exemplified by the “bathroom predator” nonsense is disseminated into the population and reinforces the worst stereotypes about trans people held by the more hateful bigots in the population. It increases the material danger to trans people on both the economic and physical levels. Biased business owners feeling more free to not hire, or fire, trans applicants/employees; landlords more bold in evicting trans tenants; families less willing to accept transitioning “loved” ones; and yes, trans people in greater physical danger of violence.
All problems that we seek to help solve by advocating for measures like HERO. It has been said that the law serves, among other things, as “the great teacher” and we saw that in action in the end of the segregation era. Once the law forced people into the sort of interactions they had previously avoided, they found that the thing they had feared was irrational, and relations improved (albeit, still imperfectly). The role of women in our culture has steadily improved as the law improved regarding their legal status. Those are just a couple of examples. So we must change the legal environment, even in the face of opposition, and in so doing leverage that to change the attitude of those folks who’s heart is in the right place, but are simply trapped in a cultural tradition that’s hostile to our interests.
But in so doing, those who are for various reasons intractable in their anti-trans views increase their commitment to opposing us, and the cycle continues. There’s a direct connection between November 3 and November 20. If HERO dies, the effects will lead to people dying, and not just in Houston. One might even wonder if the year-long debate about it has contributed to the record number of trans women killed in the U.S. this year. We cannot afford to be silent.
Image by: Jônatas Cunha