The Governor and Me

GovBakerAndMe

Tonight I met Governor Charlie Baker of my home state, Massachusetts at a fundraiser.  My very limited goal was to get across to the Governor that the transgender public accommodations bill currently sitting in the Joint Judiciary Committee in the Legislature is important to families like ours in Massachusetts that are raising transgender children.  By that measure, I believe I succeeded.

A little background.  Massachusetts has had a Transgender Rights bill in force since 2012.  Transgender people have equal rights in housing, employment, education, medicine, and credit.  This bill was hard-fought in the Legislature and took 5 years of painstaking effort to get it to a vote on the floor.  It passed with an important provision stripped out: equal rights for transgender people in public accommodations, e.g., stores, restaurants, and the like.  This means that a person cannot be fired from a job in a store due to being transgender, but that person can be denied service in that store solely because that person is transgender.

A little more background.  Despite my political leanings, I am an enthusiastic supporter of Governor Baker.  He is a leader who is unafraid to buck his party on certain principles.  Some of those principles involve his support of the LGBT community.  Like many allies, he has a family connection through his gay brother.

However, Governor Baker, despite supporting the current Transgender Rights law, does not currently support the transgender public accommodations bill in its current form.  When I learned about the fundraiser, I decided to take the opportunity to tell the Governor why the bill is so important to families like ours.

So today, I did just that.  I was given the opportunity to meet the Governor and tell him a little about my family and why the bill is so important to us and other families like ours.  The Governor is obviously a very busy man so I had to get to the point quickly and keep him engaged.

I am happy to say that I did just that.  The Governor made this easy because he is warm and approachable.  I told him that, despite being quite liberal, I am a vocal and enthusiastic supporter – this is 100% true.  I told him that I admire his stance on social issues, and that that has become very important to my family over the past year.  I told him about Eli, about how wonderful his life in school is, and how fantastic it is to live in MA.  I then explained that the transgender gap is a real problem for families like ours.

Gov. Baker explained that, while he fully supports the current laws, and that the laws in MA are as wide-ranging and forceful as anywhere in the country, he is nervous about a “one-size-fits-all” law.  He explained that there are towns in MA like mine that are quite ready for such laws, but there are others that are not.  He fears lawsuits from towns not ready to adopt a public accommodations bill.

I of course disagree, but then again, I am not privy to what Gov. Baker sees.  However, I do see 17 other states that have a transgender public accommodations law in force without incident.  I mentioned this to the Governor.  I got the impression that he has higher expectations of such a law than in other states – just because a state has protections, they may not have force behind them.

Of course, I did not expect to change Gov. Baker’s mind with a four-minute conversation.  The victory lay in having the conversation with both of us listening to each other.  I have a better understanding of Gov. Baker’s reluctance to endorse the current bill.  And I think I got across that this bill is important to families with transgender kids.

This is not the end, but the beginning.  The current law took five years of hard work from dedicated activists and lawmakers.  There are loads of people right now, e.g., MassTPC, GLAD, and many others working to educate lawmakers and move the legislative process along.  I am confident that with that hard work as well as engagement with lawmakers, the people who need this law to pass can make it happen.

A Message from Our Son

Eli asked that we post the following.

Hi, I’m Eli. You’ve probably heard a lot about me, but only from my transition. I want you to know more about me.

I’m a pretty average kid. I like some sports, some video games. I’m into books and fantasy. I love animals a lot. My favorite color is green, my favorite number is three. I love music – especially Fall Out Boy and Twenty One Pilots. I love to write and learn. I have my best friends, and some people I don’t like as much. I just happen to be transgender. That’s one thing about me.

It doesn’t decide whether I’m ‘mentally ill’, or ‘going to hell’. It decides nothing about me. Being trans just means I don’t have the right body parts. I’ve spent the first 13 1/2 years of my life, confused and feeling broken. I’m who I am now, and I could never be happier.

If this is a mental disorder, it’s sure a good one if it makes me feel like I belong.

Dear Mike Huckabee: My transgender son wishes he were cis

Mike Huckabee has made the news for the umpteenth time because he made comments that rankled those fighting for equality in any context. In this latest brouhaha, Huckabee joked that he wished that he were a transgender female when he was in high school so he could shower with the girls.

Huckabee was of course feeding his supporters the red meat they crave.  The red meat in this case is the defamatory contention that transgender females are just male pervs in drag.  To Huckabee and his audience, transgender people are just trying to get special rights to legalize their perversions.

However, let’s look beyond the justified outrage shared by the many allies of transgender people at this joke.  In making this joke, Huckabee has unwittingly made a valuable point.  Of course he doesn’t realize this because his belief system demands ignorance about that which he opposes.

The point is this: My transgender son wishes he were cisgender**.  I know this because he has told me, repeatedly.  In fact, Eli is not very different from most transgender kids I have met.  Nobody wishes this on themselves.

The by-now-well-known and gruesome suicide statistics for transgender kids backs this up: 41% attempt suicide; of those, 25% succeed.  Having a loving and supportive family lowers the risk, but the numbers are still plain scary.  Most trans parents I run into speak of hospitalizations and injuries caused by dysphoria.  This stuff ain’t easy.

Given that, I have a question for Mr. Huckabee: did you ever attempt suicide because you were stuck being cisgender?  Did being stuck in a male body cause you depression and anxiety so bad that you wanted to slice yourself open?  Did you ever get beat up for being a cis man?  Did you ever get taunted for being a cis man?  Did your parents ever have to take work off to meet with school officials about how you are being treated because you are “cis”?

I somehow doubt it.  And that’s exactly why transgender kids need help.  Kids that are fighting a real battle for their identity really wish they didn’t have to.  Comments like Mike Huckabee’s make this point perfectly clear.

 

**The likes of Huckabee would not likely know the word “cisgender,” but who cares.

Call her Caitlyn, please.

Calling her Caitlyn is the most natural thing to do.  Why?  Because it is her name and when we talk to people, we use their names.  As a matter of simply dignity and respect we address both close confidantes and casual acquaintances by name.  It is done automatically and no one seems to ever have to justify this practice.  But for Caitlyn Jenner, using her name isn’t automatic for many people.  Some people don’t think Caitlyn is her name.  They think her name is Bruce, and they are wrong.  Caitlyn Jenner has to justify to people that her name is indeed Caitlyn.

 

I don’t have to justify to anyone that my name is Laura.  I never have and I suspect I never will. It just is. Caitlyn Jenner and I are both women.  We are both parents. We both like the beach.  We both like manicures.  And while there are many things that set us apart as women, the one thing that really has invaded my thoughts is that only one of us has to justify our name.

 

Calling Caitlyn anything but her name is disrespectful because it denies the basic truth that she is a woman.  A woman named Caitlyn.  I agree that for 65 years, her name was Bruce.  But just because her name was Bruce, that doesn’t mean she was a man.  She was never a man.  Clearly, Caitlyn was defined male at birth but that doesn’t make her a man and it never did.

 

Caitlyn is a transgender woman and is a shining example of how gender identity is in the brain and not the body parts.  Just because Caitlyn had an incredible hair and make-up team, exquisite dresses, and lighting and photography done by the incomparable Annie Leibovitz, it doesn’t make these photographs inaccurate.  Caitlyn Jenner exuded female beauty, wisdom, and sexuality in ways that I am sure she will continue to do in her everyday life, away from photo shoots.  When the cameras were put away, and the gowns returned to the designers, Caitlyn remained a woman.

 

I honestly believe that Caitlyn Jenner and I are equal women.  We both worry about our children.  We both want to make sure the people in our lives are happy.  We both hate disappointing people.  We both enjoy girl time with friends sipping wine and laughing.

 

Call her Caitlyn.  Just as you call me Laura.