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Some Thoughts on Activism

My friend Michael is one of the organizers of, and the webmaster for, the Central Arizona Gender Alliance. Recently, he asked me to write a profile of myself to be posted as the feature story on the CAGA website for January 2009. Rather than start from scratch, I adapted my “Who I Am and Why I Do What I Do” post. Since I wrote that post, however, my involvement in the issues affecting our community has increased. That led to the following comments that I added to the story that will appear on the CAGA site, which I wanted to share here.

While I have this chance, I also want to say some things about activism. The trans community in this country is small, and the number of those willing to speak out on the issues that affect us is even smaller. That means that each one of us is vital if we ever want the public’s attitude toward us, and the discrimination, hate and bigotry that we face, to change. It also means that one person can have a significant impact on the direction that our community takes in addressing the issues that we face.

It sounds clichéd, but I have learned through experience the truth of the statement that if I don’t do it, if I don’t step forward and say “this is wrong and must change,” if I don’t propose solutions and work to make them a reality, then who will? The answer is no one. It happens every day. We see or hear about something that we know is wrong – another trans woman shot in Memphis, another trans woman homeless because she can’t get a job – and we stand by in silence and do nothing. Those things will never change if you don’t work to change them, even if all you can do is to say “this is wrong.” Keep in mind too that, although it is important that we in the trans community know about these injustices, it is our families and friends, our lesbian, gay and bisexual sisters and brothers, and the general public that need to hear our voices. So many people truly have no idea about the mistreatment that we suffer, how widespread it is and how few protections exist to ensure that most basic of human rights: the right to live lives of peace and dignity. Those are the people we need to speak to, because it is their sense of justice and morality that we need to invoke if we ever want things to change.

Is it scary to step forward and say, “I am trans, this is wrong and it must stop”? Of course, it is. But there are also rich rewards in showing the world that we are proud of who we are, that we refuse to cower in the darkness of ignorance and hate any longer, and in knowing that we are helping to change the world, not just for ourselves, but for people everywhere. Join me! Today do just one thing to make the world a better place to live, whether that’s giving a hug to a friend you know is having a hard time, writing a letter to the editor or simply telling your story. But, most of all, Be Who You Are!!

(Cross-posted from my personal blog.)

Follow-up on Transgender Access to Healthcare

Lately I have been doing more thinking about the issue of health care coverage for trans people. My original post on this topic can be found here. This topic seems to be one that comes up repeatedly, and I think that it is one that deserves more attention and more analysis. Over the next few weeks or so, I am going to do more research into the issue, looking at coverages, barriers to health care access, costs of health care for transitioners, and the medical needs of the transgender community.

A few months ago, we had the Town Hall call on this topic, but I have seen little follow-up on this issue. In fact, we have seen things get worse in some respects. Recently we saw the policy changes allowing doctors to refuse treatments if it goes against their religious beliefs, and this was followed closely by the Pope’s condemnation of homosexuality and transsexual persons. Was this a coincidence? Maybe, but the timing is suspect. I wonder if this will be followed up with statements and opinions about what “good” Catholic doctors should and should not do. I grew up Catholic, and I have always held out hope that the Church will move into the 20th Century, but it seems to continue to root itself in the dark ages.

Anyway, I would like to ask for your help with this little project of mine. If anyone has any stories about health care issues such as being rejected by doctors, insurance plan issues, or any other problems related to being trans and seeking health care, please e-mail them to me. E-mail me at transgenderhealthcare@gmail.com. I would even like to hear the good stories, the improvements in coverage, etc. When sharing your stories, I will always keep your personal information confidential, but please let me know if you would prefer me not to republish your story as part of this. If you don’t want it published, I will just use the information as a reference points as I look for trends, opportunities, or discriminatory practices. Thank you to anyone willing to share their experiences. Also, if you have any good links to information you may feel is relevant, please send me that as well. I think the more information I can pull together, the better I can put together a picture of where we stand today, where we need to be, and some ideas of how we can get there.

[Editor’s Note:  Cross-posted from Kathryn’s personal blog.]