Argue for us as human beings, not just against an economic hazard
I’m seeing more and more stories pop up on my Facebook page that mention the impending “bathroom bills” popping up in this session of the Texas Legislature, such as Texas’ Senate Bill 6, which is deceptively named “The Privacy Protection Act.” While I’m exceedingly grateful to the various lobbying groups that have taken up the cause of defeating these bills, I’m troubled by some of the language being used to argue against them.
The most common argument is that passing these laws — laws that essentially punish transgender people for something we haven’t done, or worse, because of something a cisgender (non-transgender) person might do — is that they will effect the state economy in a negative way, as happened in North Carolina.
In December, the Texas Association of Business held a press conference to announce results of a study the association commissioned that estimated a North Carolina-style bathroom bill could cost Texas more than $8 billion in economic impact and 100,000 jobs. Again, I appreciate the support — and while it may very well be true that business owners and GOP donors are against laws that discriminate, as they should be — I wish that transgender people weren’t erased from the discussion.
It’s bad enough that those who hide behind their religion or political agendas seek to erase transgender people from society by denying us jobs, healthcare, housing and access to public accommodations. Now, those who call themselves allies are erasing us from the political debate!
It saddens me deeply that the fact that young transgender kids taking their own lives, like 19-year-old Jai Bernstein, aren’t enough to get these idiot politicians to see the damage they are doing. It hurts me personally that even though I have not done anything wrong, broken no laws, yet I am targeted for scorn and labeled a “predator.”
I shouldn’t have to choose between going to jail or putting myself in danger of physical harm just to go to the restroom. And the danger is real: Threats against trans women have come from no less than the sheriff of Denton County, Tracy Murphree, who posted on Facebook that he would “beat the hell out of a transgender person who tried to piss in a bathroom where my daughter was peeing.”
Hopefully, someone will post pictures of his daughter around public restrooms so we can all avoid an ass-kicking.
I feel a little awkward even writing this because I run the risk of coming off as ungrateful, though I’m truly not. I appreciate all of the efforts from anyone willing to help because there just aren’t enough of us in the trans community alone to gather any kind of political critical mass. If we are going to get anything done, we need help.
I just feel like we are getting lost in all of this.
Here’s why I feel this is so important:
Passing laws that protect us would be great. Same with not passing laws that punish us for just existing.
But laws won’t bring equality to trans people. Visibility will.
Prior to Caitlyn Jenner coming out, only about 8 percent of Americans said they knew someone who was transgender. According to research commissioned by the Gill Foundation, when asked to picture someone who is transgender, the number one response was “RuPaul,” a male-identified drag performer.
Since Jenner came out, the number has risen to nearly a quarter of Americans. But to many, we are still a mystery or a perversion — or worse.
The best way to counter the misunderstandings that people have about us is to live our lives fearlessly. That’s not easy when there are so many things to be legitimately afraid of.
That’s why we need allies who know us to help spread the word that we share more in common with you than we do differences, that we aren’t a threat. Once people know us and understand us, they cease fearing or hating us.
Laws don’t do that.
So, when telling our story, or going to bat for us against hostile legislators, I ask you — I beg you — please don’t forget the transgender people who are real, live human beings. Human beings with hopes and dreams; who love, laugh, cry and want the same things everyone else does.
To have our lives, our human dignity defended not because it is our non-negotiable birthright as citizens of this country but because it might hurt tourism, whether true or not, hurts me in ways you just can’t imagine.
Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2017.