Amanda Simpson, one of President Obama's 150 or so LGBT appointees, reminds lesbians, gays and bisexuals why they should care about transgender issues.
She was a panelist at the woman's roundtable in this year's International Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference, during which she decried the missing outrage over the persecution and decimation of a segment of the community. She asked how many of those present in the ballroom - elected officials, organizational leaders and activists - knew of the staggering murder rate of transgenders.
Transgender Europe reports that from 2008 to 2009, 121 trans women and men were reported murdered worldwide. One reported murder every three days. Human Rights Campaign estimates that in the United States, at least 15 transgender people are killed each year in hate-based attacks. Both groups stress that their numbers most likely underestimate the reality, based on trans people's common fear of going to the police and widespread misreporting.
Simpson points out that transgender oppression is lesbian, gay and bisexual oppression as well. She reasons that discrimination against us is not due to gender orientation - being gay or bisexual - but on gender expression. After all, she says, "we don't wear orientation on our sleeves." Others identify us as queers because we don't look, act or speak "straight."
People, queer and straight, are targeted because they are gender non-conforming. We are picked out and upon because of our gender expression which often does not conform with what society expects of our assigned gender. Girls who are deemed butch and boys who are judged effeminate are bullied by their peers.
Simpson also reminds us that gender non-conforming people have always been the ones who storm the gates of exclusion. The Compton Cafeteria riot of 1966 and the Stonewall riot of 1969 were led by transgender people who had enough. She quoted earlier speakers who attribute the burgeoning LGBT movement in India to hijras who courageously express their gender and fight for their proper place in society.
Personally, this brings to mind Filipino baklas and tibos who are at the forefront of the movement in the predominantly Roman Catholic Southeast Asian nation. Earlier this year, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled against the country's Commission on Elections which had disqualified Ang Ladlad, an LGBT-rights group, as an official political party.
Simpson is right in spotlighting the lack of concern among most of us for our transgender sisters and brothers. We need to realize that we have much in common and at stake with those among us who bravely choose to be themselves and not conform.
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