“I’m proud of the campaign we built and ran, I’m proud of the coalition we put together — the broadest and most diverse coalition in history […] gay, straight, transgender….” Hold up. Did I just hear Joe Biden, the President-elect, recognize the existence of transgender people and declare his pride for us? I sure as fuck did. He was the first president to mention transgender people in his victory speech.
It shouldn’t be a big deal to be recognized, but it was, because any time in the last four years the current president mentioned the queer community it was to erase our rights and protections. Trump has actively tried to eliminate queer people, specifically transgender people, from legal existence. He started this removal when he eliminated all mention of LGBTQIA+ people from government websites on his inauguration day. He has since banned transgender people from the military and has removed housing, health care, education, and employment protections for queer and transgender people. Biden seems ready to stop the literal bleeding.
Obama was the first to mention gay voters in his in 2008. Since 2008, queer people will hear the safe, “love is love” and “love wins” rhetoric out of the mouths of politicians, but rarely will we hear support for our identity and the fluidity of our gender and gender expression. Biden was the first to mention the transgender community.
In his speech, Biden also went on to thank Latino, Asian, and Native American voters for their support. While the diversity of race is mentioned in most campaigns, most politicians shy away from LGBTQIA+ topics and people. This is a calculated move because they are either bigots or are afraid of losing voters, which makes them hypocrites, no longer allies. I understand why liberal officials do this dance though; there is only so much “diversity” ignorant-but-willing-to-be-open-minded people can handle at once. Queer people and our “lifestyle” are only tolerable in small, manageable doses. Heaven forbid we are seen as humans with feelings and more knowledge about our identity than a stranger who thinks they know our existence better than we do.
I would love to have lawmakers and leaders in place who will actively fight for and protect the queer community by creating more anti-discrimination laws, but the best case scenario is often to hope for politicians who won’t waste time and money on trying to take away my rights. It almost seems acceptable to ask for the bare minimum: see us, but ignore us just enough to not make our lives worse.
I went through a lot of emotions when Biden acknowledged gay and transgender people in his speech — and by extension, me and my transgender daughter. I was hopeful that maybe a little fear and anger would leave my body. I was excited. I was frustrated that relief only came from an external source, but this is often the life of a transgender person. I live in a constant state of cognitive dissonance.
As a transgender person, specifically a nonbinary person, my existence is always being debated while I stand squarely in what I know to be fact. I know biological sex doesn’t equal gender. I know gender is fluid. I know I am not female despite people’s perception of me. And I know I am not male despite the fact it would be easier to transition to he/him pronouns instead of them/them pronouns. I know my body parts, my name, my clothing do not determine my gender, but I constantly feel pulled to align myself with society’s construct of gender so that I can get through my day without feeling like I am roaming around a ghost town of a body I can’t settle into. I hate how strangers can make me feel like a stranger to my own reality.
Imagine living in a house where you are ignored all of the time until it was time for your abuse. Or imagine being so desperate for a friend or to be picked for something that when you finally hear your name called you look around in joyful disbelief. That’s how it felt when I heard the word “transgender” said on national TV, with respect, by the highest ranking official in the country.
It’s going to take some time to work through some of the trauma left by Trump. Because not only did he challenge my and my daughter’s rights to live as transgender humans, but he allowed his followers to continue the narrative that transgender people aren’t real in any setting, specifically in the eyes of God. My sin is that of choice, so I should repent or be removed from society, and Trump did everything he could to make this happen.
Biden is off to a good start to reverse this. As he spoke, I also noticed Biden used the word “folks” almost exclusively instead of “ladies and gentlemen” to address the crowd. This could have been just his casual way of speaking, but I believe (I hope) it was an effort to be more inclusive regarding all genders. Biden knows transgender people are assets. We are smart and hard-working and deserve to be in positions of power. Biden named Shawn Skelly, a transgender veteran, to his team that will evaluate the Department of Defense. This could be seen as a big fuck you to Trump, but it’s also a thank you and apology to transgender military personnel for the horrible way they have been treated. It’s not a fix, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Kamala Harris, the vice President-elect is showing her allyship to the queer community too. She has her pronouns in her social media bio, nominated an out Black lesbian as her chief of staff, and seems to be learning and correcting mistakes regarding transgender inmates who are often denied gender-affirming care including being housed in a facility that aligns with their gender identity.
There are a lot of wrongs to make right, but this president seems willing to learn, make corrections, and be direct. Practice makes mistakes and I anticipate Biden and Harris will mess up as they try to protect queer people, but what gives me hope is that they are surrounding themselves with queer people who will help them amplify LGBTQIA+ voices rather than speaking for us. I look forward to more positive and gender-neutral shout outs in the next four years.
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