My hope is that as you read this on, or after, May 16, 2014 I will be celebrating in the heady air of having seen Governor O’Malley sign SB212 into law on May 15th. Yes, Trans folk in Maryland will have the same rights secured for them that our LGB peers have enjoyed since 2001. At least by October 1, 2014 they will. But I suspect it is going to take more than just a law on the books to change the outcomes for many Trans folk as the die was cast some time ago. Put another way, the law does not change minds, only behavior. Changing minds takes some effort beyond that pen and paper.
I know there are some right wingers out there trying to raise signatures against the law to send it to referendum. This column is not going to offer them some free publicity. Their burden is clear, get enough signatures. We do not need to help them by banging pots and pans to bring attention to their misguided campaign. Like in Baltimore County their efforts may just die on the vine. The end of May or June will tell as those are the due dates for signatures. I do expect to publish the names and addresses of those who sign on a nice Google map should they succeed. Yes, petitions are public documents. Sunshine is a ready and potent antiseptic to fear and hate. But that aside, they are broken people because they do not understand, and have no desire to understand, Trans folk.
I recently met with retiring Howard County Chief of Police Bill McMahon and his successor, incoming chief Major Gary Gardner, regarding what efforts they have made and are making with respect to training sworn officers, staff and volunteers with respect to their interactions with Trans persons. I relayed to the Chief and his staff an incident I experienced in 2010 at a traffic stop with a HoCo Police Officer. In this instance I had a blown tail light bulb. At that time my documentation did not match my presentation. So the dialog started with “Driver’s license and registration Ma’am” and ended with “Here are your documents, SIR.” As interactions with the police go, that was tame, to be sure. But it highlighted the lack of understanding in the department at the time.
I suspect that shortfall exists in other departments presently throughout Maryland and those places are going to have to come up to speed quickly. For that matter there are likely places where Trans protections have already been in place that could stand some instruction or a refresher on the law and interaction with Trans persons. [Baltimore can you hear me?]
To their credit the Howard County Police Department, with the assistance of PFLAGer Catherine Hyde, have developed and delivered training on the topic. Catherine worked directly with the Howard County Police to start a program of education and information dissemination. From what I can tell it is working. Does that mean it is perfect? Probably not. But it is a great start.
I do not know if other jurisdictions in the state have such materials or instructional programs but I am certain that as of October 1, 2014 they are going to be needed. Yes Garret, Cecil and Somerset that includes you too. My two cents, you might contact HoCo for a copy.
But this begs the question. Who owns this enlightenment effort? I am going to say it belongs to the Trans community and our staunch allies, especially those of us who live in each of those jurisdictions. You see if law enforcement does not see us, or know us, or have a dialog with us, then what right do we have to expect them to behave accordingly and protect us. Yes, we have a law now, but if you really want to effect change then you need to be out and in a dialog with them. When you do have that conversation, please tell them to have a nice day and that you appreciate the difficult job they do. I have found a smile can go a long way toward fostering law and order.