Steps for­ward, back for trans folk

Vote on re­peal­ing LGBTQ rights is just one ex­am­ple of the ar­ray of chal­lenges amid the tri­umphs.

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION -

NEW YORK — For trans­gen­der Amer­i­cans, 2018 has been marked by se­ries of ad­vance­ments and set­backs.

The steps for­ward have in­cluded numer­ous leg­isla­tive ac­tions and court rul­ings but­tress­ing civil rights and a vic­tory by a trans­gen­der can­di­date in Ver­mont’s Demo­cratic gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­mary.

The steps back have in­cluded the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion rolling back pro­tec­tions, and anti-trans­gen­der vit­riol that caused an Ok­la­homa town’s schools to be closed for two days in Au­gust after adults made threat­en­ing com­ments on Face­book about a 12-yearold trans­gen­der stu­dent’s use of a girls’ bath­room.

And the com­ing weeks may be even more un­set­tling, ahead of the first statewide vote on whether an­tidis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions should ex­tend to trans­gen­der peo­ple.

On the Nov. 6 bal­lot in Mas­sachusetts is a mea­sure drafted by con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists that would re­peal a 2016 state law — passed with bi­par­ti­san sup­port — that pro­vides such pro­tec­tions in pub­lic ac­com­mo­da­tions, in­clud­ing bath­rooms and locker rooms.

Though Mas­sachusetts is among the most lib­eral states, and the first to le­gal­ize same-sex mar­riage, re­cent polls in­di­cate vot­ers are closely di­vided on the bal­lot mea­sure.

Trans­gen­der at­tor­ney Kasey Suf­fre­dini, co-chair of the cam­paign seek­ing to pre­serve the 2016 law, calls the mea­sure “one of the sin­gle big­gest threats to equal­ity in re­cent mem­ory.” If the pro-re­peal side wins, he pre­dicts, op­po­nents of LGBTQ rights will try to scale back nondis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions in other states.

Un­cer­tainty about the out­come in Mas­sachusetts has added to a sense among some trans­gen­der Amer­i­cans that their re­cent civil rights gains are frag­ile and their ac­cep­tance by fel­low cit­i­zens is far from uni­ver­sal.

“I just try to fo­cus on the long run,” said Jen­nifer Fin­ney Boy­lan, a trans­gen­der writer and pro­fes­sor. “We’re in this less for our­selves than for our chil­dren, whom I pray will grow up in a world less cruel than this one.”

The progress in 2018 has in­cluded sev­eral cities and states mak­ing it eas­ier for trans­gen­der peo­ple to change their gen­der on iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments. Courts have up­held poli­cies en­abling trans­gen­der stu­dents to use the bath­rooms of their choice at school. Con­necti­cut be­came the first state giv­ing trans­gen­der in­mates the right to be housed in pris­ons match­ing their gen­der iden­tity.

Among other break­throughs: a for­eign-lan­guage film Os­car for the trans­gen­der-themed film “A Fan­tas­tic Woman” and trans­gen­der can­di­date Chris­tine Hal­lquist’s Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion in the Ver­mont gov­er­nor’s race.

But Hal­lquist’s tri­umph had a down­side: She says she’s been tar­geted with a stream of death threats and other per­sonal at­tacks dur­ing her can­di­dacy.

In early Sep­tem­ber, trans­gen­der ac­tivists got a jolt­ing re­minder that even some al­lies might be­lit­tle them.

At the na­tional meet­ing of NLGJA, the Assn. of LGBTQ Jour­nal­ists, anger was sparked when gay em­cee and TV weath­er­man Mar­shall McPeek be­gan the clos­ing cer­e­mony by wel­com­ing “ladies and gen­tle­men, things and its.”

McPeek, of Colum­bus, Ohio, soon apol­o­gized, as did NLGJA, but many trans­gen­der peo­ple were out­raged. The jour­nal­ism or­ga­ni­za­tion promised to be­come more di­verse and in­clu­sive, and McPeek re­signed from the group while promis­ing to learn from his mis­takes.

More broadly, trans­gen­der rights ac­tivists are an­gered at moves by Pres­i­dent Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion to un­der­mine gains achieved be­fore his elec­tion. Trump is seek­ing to ban trans­gen­der peo­ple from mil­i­tary ser­vice, al­though that ef­fort has stalled in court.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion re­scinded an Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion guide­line ad­vis­ing schools to let trans­gen­der stu­dents use the bath­room of their choice. And it has as­serted that civil rights laws don’t pro­tect trans­gen­der peo­ple from dis­crim­i­na­tion on the job.

Trans­gen­der at­tor­ney Shan­non Minter, le­gal di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Cen­ter for Les­bian Rights, said he re­mained op­ti­mistic about the over­all progress, cit­ing fa­vor­able court rul­ings, broad re­sis­tance to the mil­i­tary ban, and new guide­lines from the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics for how par­ents and oth­ers can sup­port trans­gen­der chil­dren.

These changes “re­flect a grow­ing un­der­stand­ing on the part of fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties, courts and elected of­fi­cials that trans­gen­der peo­ple are part of the fab­ric of our so­ci­ety,” Minter said.

In April, trans­gen­der peo­ple got some sup­port from vot­ers in An­chor­age. By a 6-per­cent­age-point mar­gin, they de­feated a bal­lot mea­sure that would have re­pealed a trans-in­clu­sive civil rights or­di­nance and re­quired trans­gen­der peo­ple to use pub­lic bath­rooms and locker rooms con­sis­tent with their gen­der at birth.

For ac­tivists, that re­sult was heart­en­ing in light of events in Hous­ton in 2015 after its City Coun­cil adopted an or­di­nance that in­cluded pro­tec­tions for trans­gen­der peo­ple us­ing re­strooms based on gen­der iden­tity. Op­po­nents of the or­di­nance gath­ered enough sig­na­tures for a re­peal ref­er­en­dum, then cam­paigned us­ing the slo­gan “No Men in Women’s Bath­rooms.” By 61% to 39%, the anti-bias or­di­nance was re­pealed.

Now, the di­vi­sive is­sue is resur­fac­ing in Mas­sachusetts, where the cam­paign seek­ing to re­peal the 2016 state law is us­ing Hous­ton-style mes­sag­ing.

“The law puts women, chil­dren and vul­ner­a­ble mi­nori­ties’ safety at risk,” says Keep MA Safe. “It al­lows a per­son to self-iden­tify as any gen­der in or­der to use what­ever bath­room, locker room or shower fa­cil­ity they choose — even con­victed sex of­fend­ers.”

Trans­gen­der rights sup­port­ers con­sider this ar­gu­ment ma­li­cious. They say 20 states and scores of cities have ex­pe­ri­enced no sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic safety prob­lems linked to their poli­cies al­low­ing trans­gen­der peo­ple to use pub­lic bath­rooms of their choice.

Elaine Thomp­son As­so­ci­ated Press

PLAIN­TIFFS Cathrine Sch­mid, sec­ond left, and Con­ner Cal­la­han, sec­ond right, lis­ten with sup­port­ers in March at a fed­eral court­house in Seat­tle, where a judge or­dered Pres­i­dent Trump not to take any ac­tion bar­ring trans­gen­der troops from serv­ing in the mil­i­tary.

Mark Thiessen As­so­ci­ated Press

LIL­LIAN LEN­NON, a trans­gen­der teenager pic­tured in April, was a field or­ga­nizer who helped de­feat a bath­room bal­lot mea­sure be­fore An­chor­age vot­ers.

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