The struggle for transgender rights has been a much longer battle than most people realize. Much of it occurred outside of the public eye while we were relegated to the punchline of bad jokes. That all changed thanks to celebrities such as Chaz Bono, Lana Wachowski, Laverne Cox and even Caitlin Jenner. When these people came on to the public scene, they brought with them a lot of awareness to transgender people and also the struggles that we endure. The attention our community received by mainstream media has been transformative and very beneficial to us. We are less of a joke now and that is a very good thing. However, despite all the good it has done, there is a downside to being so visible. Our new visibility in the mainstream placed a target on us for the alt right. It began with bathroom bills and then progressed to new bills that would prevent us from changing the sex markers on our birth certificates. It appears that it has now become an all out attack on our rights. One of the main arguments that I have heard is that such a small proportion of the population does not deserve extra rights. They are very wrong about that because we don’t want extra rights; our fight is for equal rights.
The opposers to transgender people will deny that they are acting out of hate though a few of them do not hide it at all. They will also claim that we don’t need extra legislation to protect us. This is because they believe we should be fine under normal human rights just like everyone else. That is not the case at all. Normal human rights does not protect us from harassment, from being fired from a job because we are trans, or even be denied a place to live based on our gender identity. The bills to grant transgender rights are not giving us extra rights. They are reinforcing the equal rights that we should have had from the start. Obama’s Executive Order 13642 is one such bill that has made it illegal for discrimination based on gender identity in the federal workforce. This Executive Order does not provide protections in the public sector. It is a good start. However, we need to go further like the land north of the American border. In Canada, Bill C-16 provides a much larger scope of protections for transgender people and it applies to all sectors. This Bill is up for a second reading in the Senate and is expected to pass and get enacted into law.
The big concern on many people’s mind is the new Trump administration and what it is going to mean for LGBT rights. The track record of this administration is horrific in regards to the LGBT community and it is only fair to be worried. Currently, people fear that Obama’s Executive Order will be overturned by Trump and that is a possibility. However, recent news is reporting that Trump may leave it alone as part of a strategy to rebuild faith with the LGBT community. Only time will tell us if this is true. Even if he does keep it, there is still a way to strip our rights from us. The most probable way is to sign into law the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) once it is reintroduced. I will probably get though the republican heavy congress without too many problems. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) have both stated that they plan to reintroduce FADA this year. Trump is already on record saying that he will sign FADA if it makes it to him. The provisions in FADA would strip away the rights in Executive Order 13642 and would apply to the public sector as well. It is a very bad bill for the entire LGBT community as well as women. We can only hope that Trump will change his mind on FADA.
If FADA passes and is signed into law, a few of you may just be ready to consider leaving the country. If you have a taste for maple syrup and back bacon, Canada may be a good consideration. The current Canadian administration has been awesome in opening our doors to people in need. Recently, that included people stranded by Trump’s immigration Executive Order. I can only hope that Trudeau will be just as kind to LGBT people who want to and are able to leave America. I would love for him to allow LGBT folks to claim refuge status to make entering Canada much easier. If that were to happen, you would all be welcomed with open arms into a society where we are a lot closer to equal rights. Canada is not perfect by any means as there are some people still not fully onboard with Transgender equality. However, compared to many other places it is a lot safer. If you do come to Canada, you never know, you may like it up here so much that it may be hard to return to the States if things change. The future is looking scary but at the same time we can only hope that in four years time there will be a change in administration and the lost protections will be returned and we can all move closer to the realization of transgender equal rights.