(K+M) Back in July, we teamed up to write a blog defining terms and concepts in the LGBT+ community. We focused on terms related to being “trans,” as that’s the main focus of our blog. We’ve decided to do that once again, to provide some more educational material.
(K) Back in the spring of my senior year of high school, I boarded a bus at 4am with other members of my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), and we drove to Albany where we spent the day learning about the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and attended other various conversations about sexual orientation and gender expression throughout Albany’s convention center.
GENDA is sort of a follow-up bill to SONDA (Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act), which passed in 2002. SONDA prohibits discrimination on the basis of one’s perceived sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, credit, and the exercise of civil rights. GENDA is essentially saying the same thing, but its protections are for transgender/non-binary/gender nonconforming, since SONDA did not explicitly create a protected category for these aforementioned individuals.
Fast forward to now, and GENDA has been passed in the State Assembly for eleven straight years, but the State Senate has never brought GENDA to the floor for a vote. This means that the transgender community in New York State is without explicit protections for over fifteen years!
If GENDA is passed, it could not be overturned by a future governor. It also stands up against transphobia, and sets a good example for other states to protect their transgender residents as well.
(M) Recently my husband and I attended a Gender forum. We, as parents of a child within that community, took in an incredible amount of information that never would have occurred to us with just our own experience.
We were greeted by a transgender woman who really knew her stuff. For example, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association define being transgender as a disconnect between the sex assigned at birth and the gender the brain identifies with (being transgender IS NOT a lifestyle or a choice). A noted statistic (according to a 2016 Williams Institute Report) approximately .6% of the population identifies as transgender. This equates to approximately 1.4 million Americans and over 100,000 New Yorkers. She provided us with a great power point presentation.
The slide that resonated most with me is that every one can be described by four basic factors: biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Gender is more than the biological tissue you are born with. Not everyone’s gender identity matches their reproductive organs. Sexual orientation is not based on biological sex or gender identity. Not everyone fits the gender binary (the binary demonstrates that there is only male and female, nothing else can exist). These are things I would have never thought of on my own. It’s like saying, “you don’t know what it’s like to be someone else unless you’ve walked a day in their shoes.” Well, let me tell you the panel that was there to share their stories and answer questions CLEARLY were very different from one another. I learned that every single person in the community has walked very different paths and has their own journey to celebrate because all they want is to be accepted as who they are and what they contribute to society.
There were six people on this panel and of all ages 25-60+. Sadly, the only thing that was the same for them was that at one point in their life they were not accepted and felt unloved. Feelings are very hard to deal with sometimes. You want to suppress them, ignore them, or fill up your time keeping busy so that ‘feeling’ doesn’t take up your every breath. I have seen the anxiety and depression first hand and it’s not easy to watch. It is reported that 40% of transgender individuals have tried to commit suicide. 40%! At one time our child was part of that statistic. That being said, the love and support he receives keeps him safe and happy. Many people don’t want to tell anyone due to lack of support, love and acceptance. That leaves one to think “no one wants me and I’m better off dead.” I just don’t understand what gives a person the power to make someone else feel so helpless and ashamed.
(K+M) Here are some of the highlights from the presentation, and these are the things we feel are important to share and educate people on.
We found this chart to be informative and easily digestible for people who may not know the proper terminology behind these topics, or for those who may not understand the several different aspects of gender expression/identity/biological sex/sexual orientation.
Transphobia: a dislike or prejudice towards the transgender community. Transphobia can also be internalized, when a trans person experiences hatred or shame towards themselves.
Gender Identity: Our deeply held, persistent, internal sense of self as a man, a woman, somewhere in between, or not at all. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “By age four, most children have a stable sense of their gender identity.”
Heteronormativity: The way our culture views heterosexual men and heterosexual women as “normal” and “natural.” All other genders are viewed as abnormal or inferior.
Some things to remember when interacting with a gender-expansive person:
You don’t have to understand a person’s gender identity to respect them and their identity. Be sure to use the person’s pronouns of their choice. Do not be afraid to ask someone which pronouns they use. Respect their name, regardless if it has been legally changed or not. And remember, be mindful of the questions you ask them (do not ask about their birth name, genitals, or sexual relationships).
Thank you for reading our second educational blog post! Stay tuned for more. 🙂
Now, go VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!