As some of you may know I have been selected by Baltimore Pride as the “Activist of the Year” for 2014. I want to thank the hundreds, yes that many, who have contacted me providing well wishes and positive affirmations of this recognition. As always no one person accomplishes much in this world without the help of others and I am no exception. A heartfelt thank you to so many that I could not name them here for fear of omitting any one of you. As a relative outsider to the LGBTQ movement prior to my own transition I can offer that it has been a rapid and bumpy ride along the way but I am very excited to see that one of the personal goals I set for myself, and achieved with the support and energy of many, will become law on October 1, 2014. Trans persons in Maryland will be afforded the same legal status and protections that our LGB peers have enjoyed since 2001. That, is huge.
So I am indeed “Proud” of this accomplishment which had the foundations laid for it in 2002 in Baltimore City, in 2007 in Montgomery County, in 2011 in Howard County, and in 2012 in Baltimore County (the latter two which I directly participated in). The successful efforts in those jurisdictions have proved that insuring the rights of Trans persons in no way jeopardizes any other persons or infringes on their rights. Because of those successes it became increasing difficult for opponents to claim otherwise. So it is my heartfelt belief that this honor is not simply recognition of what has happened in 2014 but the culmination of years of work not only on legislation but on a number of issues related to LGBTQ and in particular “T” concerns including the regular authorship of this very column.
That this recognition is linked to Baltimore Pride is another matter for me personally. Historically I have not felt a strong connection to the Pride event in Baltimore. My sense has been it is indeed a party or celebration but also in some way an event that demands others to “look at me”, and “don’t I make you uncomfortable”. In the newspapers and on TV following pride you will see the most outrageous drag queens displayed for their “shock value” and some of the public will say, “oh yeah those are the trans women”. Nothing could be further from the truth! That is not who I am. And when I state so I would hope the rest of the “Pride” community would take note and respect that, both in language and deed. Often this is not the case.
I believe that too often Trans issues and concerns have taken a back seat to those of our LGB peers. I have seen some LGB folks comment with respect to the recent passing of this legislation in Maryland that they felt the relief of a “burden” and that Trans folks should be “grateful” to the LGB community for “getting them their rights”. By all means I am not speaking of all LGB folk, just some. Newsflash for you folks who are thinking this way: We are not children who need your parental guidance or supervision. Please stop it. We worked for your rights too and so the notion that you “gave” us something here is pretty offensive. So please stop that too.
Here is the deal, as Time magazine has shown by sporting Trans Actress Laverne Cox on the cover, we have indeed reached a tipping point. Trans folk are ready for prime time and for all of you to finally recognize us as peers. The general public is starting to get it. The US Military is starting to get it. The state of Maryland will get it. The EEOC already to gets it. It would be great now if the rest of our alphabet soup community would do the same. We have come of age as a movement and as people who have meaningful lives to contribute to society. It is time you stopped thinking of us as anything else.
So yes, we are going to run for public office and seek political appointments. We will lead organizations and corporations. We will have and create jobs and opportunities and in some cases compete against our LGB friends for all of those positions. That is what equality is, and should be. Who I am, where I come from, who I love, should pale in comparison to what I know and can do. The “Time” has come for us to take our place in the greater community. So while I may not feel 100% in sync with “Pride” I am indeed “Proud” and hope to demonstrate that visibly by marching in the parade with my Son at my side and good and dear friends and allies at my back.