I'm scared, and hopeful, and you can help

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Tomorrow, I'm boarding an airplane to attend a work event. It's my first time flying since 2018, and I'm excited to meet all my coworkers in person. The travel is, on whole, going to be a good experience.

But there is a lot surrounding the travel that is stressful and scary. I'm traveling to a state that is banning HRT for trans people. And my plane ticket cost $460 because I needed a direct flight—the itineraries with layovers cost $160 but pass through Florida, where it's illegal for me to use the bathroom. Now another transit hub is poised to criminalize trans people using the bathroom.

Right now, it's safe for me to travel to Ohio. I'm thankful I work for a company where the leadership is both aware that I can't travel to Florida, and chooses locations that are inclusive for everyone. I fear that Ohio will eventually be a destination that's unsafe; the current trajectory scares me.

It's beyond heartbreaking to have the state I was born in, the state I am so proud of, turn its back on me this way. To criminalize using the bathroom. To pull trans people off their life-saving treatments. To become the political punching bag.

It's beyond heartbreaking to have so many people remain silent on the issue of trans rights.

Somehow, in spite of all the heartbreak, I retain a core of hopefulness. I've been called hopelessly naive, and I may be. But what I believe is that humanity is good at its core.

Right now what we're seeing is rotten, and it is intensely painful. It's a blemish on history that we'll never be able to undo or erase. We, collectively, are causing preventable deaths.

But I believe that, as MLK Jr. said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." We will, over time, achieve a more just universe. Someday, this time will be long past and all people—trans or cis, gay or straight—will be able to use the bathroom, get medical care, and express their love for each other.

And I see around me a lot of great people. I live in a town where I've been accepted with open arms since the day I came out. My family accepted me without question. And I'm a member of a couple of communities that are very inclusive. I see these people around me, and it recharges my hopefulness, because I know that in the long run, love wins.

Love wins.

This hopefulness is in tension with the reality that we're living around us. The reality that in the US and in many countries across the world, rights for queer folks like me are being dramatically curtailed.

But for love to win, you need to do something. If you're reading this and you're not a member of a marginalized group, you need to do something to help us.

I know that it's hard, because I've been there too. There are too many issues in my past where I've not spoken up, not advocated for people suffering, because I was afraid. Afraid that I might lose opportunities, lose friends, have uncomfortable moments. And it took coming out as trans to realize that that is all true, and yet, it's worth it and necessary and less than the suffering of the people you advocate for.

What is the point of having privilege if you're not willing to spend it helping people?

Here are a few concrete things that you can do to help. This is US-centric, but similar ideas apply globally.

Help fight legislature and administrative rules that hurt trans people. There are a number of ways to do this. The most effective, as I understand it, is to call your elected officials. Leaving comments on rules is also worth doing, and here's a blog post talking about ways to help fight the Ohio HRT ban.

In general, this is most effective in the area where you reside. Your voice may be ignored if you're from out of the district or state. In that case, there are still ways to help.

Donate to organizations helping trans people or fighting these laws. There are organizations which are dedicated to helping trans people and fighting these laws. They need money to operate. This is straightforward: giving them money helps trans people.

There are a lot of lists out there of where to donate. Here's one that looks reasonable. You can probably find one that's also more local to you, if you want to focus on aiding those in your state.

Follow and boost queer and trans voices. We're out there, and we live pretty normal lives (when we're not fighting for our right to pee in peace). It's always a good idea to follow and boost voices from marginalized communities. It's especially important in times like this, when we're being attacked. Normalizing us helps make it harder for people to strip our rights. It makes it harder for people to dehumanize us.

Following queer and trans people will help you see more of what we go through, both the joys and the struggles. And boosting posts by queer and trans people—sharing them for other people to see—will help normalize us for everyone else in your network, too. There's a little bit of caution here, of course: make sure that the posts you're boosting are intended to be shared and are public. Unwanted attention can also be uncomfortable and dangerous.

Provide direct (mutual) aid. There are many challenges people are facing now and will face in the future. Mutual aid has a long history, and it is common in marginalized communities to pull each other up and out of rough spots.

With all the impending, and enacted, legislation against us, trans people are particularly vulnerable. Many of us do not have the means to move somewhere safer, and we can lose our jobs or homes to discrimination. Providing direct mutual aid is a way of letting you help vulnerable trans people by giving them money, food, shelter, moving help, or other things they need. If you follow queer voices, you'll find them boosting some of these request. There is also a great PRISM article which gives greater depth to this topic and provides ways to find opportunities to provide aid.

Be unyieldingly, unapologetically vocal in your support of trans people. Unfortunately, my existence as a trans woman is coded "political" now. That means that if you post on social media that you support trans rights, that you support my right to pee in the right bathroom, that's political. If you support my right to receive my hormones, that's political.

And now is the time to be political. Please, please talk about support for trans people and how it is unacceptable to not accept us. Please talk about how important this is, and raise awareness of the ongoing assaults on our rights. You will have uncomfortable moments, and you'll also be helping shift everything for the better.

Encourage your organizations to support trans people. How is your coverage for gender-affirming care for trans folks? What's your company's parental leave policy? Does your company support reproductive rights for women in states where that's been restricted?

If you start asking these questions and making sure that your company's policies are inclusive, then you reduce some of the burden. You can make it so that we get access to the care we need without a fight, without outing ourselves to ask those questions. You can make it so everyone gets the access to care they need.

Vote, and encourage voting. This is the big one. Every single election matters. Your local elections feed up to the state elections, and those impact rights at a deep level. Federal elections are impactful in ways I don't need to explain.

Voting is important, and if you choose to vote for candidates who support our rights? Please tell someone, and encourage them to vote that way, too. Plenty of people don't realize the risks to us trans folks, and to our rights, which are at stake in the coming elections. Telling people why you're voting the way you are is not comfortable, but it can shift the window of what's acceptable in our favor.

Stay informed. Things are shifting every day, and there are new attacks on our rights all the time. Subscribe to news sources like Erin Reed's newsletter to keep up to date on what's happening. It's often difficult reading, but staying informed is one way you can know where to focus your energy in the fight. We need everyone to keep up to date to know how to help.

The attack on our rights is not going to end any time soon. We are in this for the long haul.

You and me, dear reader. We're in this together, and I know you can help. Now I'm going to go pet my cat and hug my kids.

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