A big story in MetroWeekly about trans in the military, and how the DADT repeal group OutServe has given the trans issue the cover story on its most recent magazine.
I remember working on the DADT battle we fought in 1993, during the first six months of the then-new Clinton presidency. Every single day there was a slew of DADT stories in the daily paper (this was before the World Wide Web) nearly every single day for a period of six months. I remember at the time thinking how significant of a cultural shift this was. Families across America were going to be forced to address, to think about, to talk about, gay issues at the breakfast table as mom and dad read the morning paper. The gay visibility was unprecedented. (And one could argue that unlike articles about the AIDS epidemic, these stories were a more positive spin.)
I don’t think the trans community has had that watershed visibility moment yet.
It’s been said that the trans community, politically, is twenty years behind the gay community, at least at the federal level. In a number of cities and states, trans civil rights ordinances, or LGBT civil rights ordinances, have passed, when they haven’t passed at the federal level.
Twenty-one states plus Washington, D.C. outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and fifteen states plus Washington, D.C. outlaw discrimination based on gender identity or expression.
At the federal level, while we’ve slowly made progress on gay civil rights, trans civil rights’ successes have been fewer, and smaller – meaning, while Clinton appointee Roberta Achtenberg was the first openly gay assistant secretary, one of the first (the first?) ever openly trans appointees – but not an assistant secretary – was appointed by President Obama in early 2010, a good 15 years or so later, and again, not at the same level as Achtenberg.
And culturally, we had the 1993 March on Washington that certainly brought hundreds of thousands of gays and their supporters to Washington, DC. No equivalent trans march has been so visible (for a variety of reasons, including the simple fact that their total numbers are fewer).
So it’s an uphill slog for the trans community. Visibility is a big part of the fight. And that visibility needs to happen early and often. We didn’t really start fighting DADT – with organizations devoted exclusively to repealing the ban – until 1993. And it still took us nearly 20 years to beat it.
The trans community is also disadvantaged by its lack of a national organization akin to an HRC. Back in ’93, HRC was already a big and decently powerful place. No similar trans rights organization exists today. And while HRC, NGLTF and GLAAD all embrace trans rights as part of their agenda, it’s only part of their agenda. And while some might perceive NGLTF and GLAAD as more pro-trans than HRC, NGLTF has been missing in action for years on federal issues (remember, NGLTF took over the lead on ENDA four years ago – how’s that been going?), and GLAAD’s mission is narrower than other groups, only focusing on the media (important, but not enough). The trans community needs its own civil rights powerhouse, and I think it needs to be independent of other allied communities.
What the trans community really needs is a big rich trans donor to set up a real – meaning, big money and big staffing – trans rights organization in Washington, DC. Chaz, are you there?