Saturday, June 10, 2017

My Speech

Today I was asked to give a speech as part of the LGBT rallies being held across the nation this weekend and I am speaking in the to that I grew up in.

Speech June 10th

I don’t know if anyone knew that I grew up here in ________; but I guess you can tell by the way that I pronounce “______”

I stated in first grade at KGS and graduated from _____ High School in 1967. One of the problems with transiting in the town that you grew up in is that news of your transition spreads like wildfire. I was friends with a couple of high school friends in my class on Facebook and their high school friends wondered who this Diana is and then I started getting friend requests from some of them.

My fiftieth reunion is coming up this year and I’m still debating on whether I will attend or not. You see I don’t want to be the center of attention; I just want to have a good evening among old friends. But I am afraid that my transition will become the topic of the night, those who live in town have probably heard about my transition but those who are traveling from out of state I will probably be a shock to them. But if I decide to attend, I think I will be a shoe-in for the “Most Changed” no one can even come close.

When you transition in a small town it is hard to just be yourself, everyone knows your past and many times they slip and used your old name or as we call it our “deadname” or they use the wrong pronoun. You can never lose your past. When I go to the senior center I know a few people there from before I transitioned and I can say they handed it well when it dawned on them who I was and sometimes if I am in a playful mood, I tell them that was my evil twin who was impersonating me.

When you transition everyone around you also transitions, not only your family but also your high school friends and your fellow employees also transition. For some of us we will lose some friends but we will also gain new friends and those friends that stay with us through our transition will have a stronger friendship, while those that we never hear from again were not really your friends.

I remember ten years ago when I went to the ____ Probate Court and the judge said “…all the other transgender women form town…” and here I thought I was the only trans person in town back then, but now I see other trans women at the Stop and Shop and I know children who have transitioned even before they even started school here in town, they are totally accepted by their classmates. If there is a problem it is usually caused by an adult interfering.

If the parents do not make a fuss then the students do not have a problem with trans students in their classes, it is only when adults interfere that there is a problem and many time those adults are not even from town. At this year’s Transgender Lives: The Intersection of Health and Law Conference that is held the last weekend in April at the UConn Health Center, we had Nicole Maines for our keynote speaker. I do not know if you heard of Nicole, she is a teenager who is now attending college but when she was in high school her case set a precedent in the state of Maine.

She transitioned in middle school in small rural town and her school did everything right that is until a custodial grandparent told his grandson to follow her into the girls and that was when all of Nicole’s trouble began. The school disciplined the grandson, then the grandfather got a conservative legal organization to threaten the school system with a lawsuit if they allow Nicole to continue using the girls bathroom and locker room. The case escalated and Nicole filed a complaint with the state human rights agency which she won, the school system appealed the ruling and they won. The case then ended up in the Maine Supreme Court where they ruled in her favor.

I bring this up because Connecticut gender inclusive non-discrimination law is almost a copy of the Maine law, we also went through the same legislative debate so I feel confident that if we had a case similar to Maine’s we would also win.

Yes, we have anti-bullying harassment policies in schools and the town’s school climate policy says in part,
Bullying shall include, but not be limited to, a written, verbal or electronic communication or physical act or gesture based on any actual or perceived differentiating characteristics, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and  expression, socioeconomic status, academic status, physical appearance, or mental, physical, developmental or sensory disability, or by association with an individual or group who has or is perceived to have one or more of such characteristics.
But I wonder what would happen is someone pressed the issue, would our town officials cave-in to the pressure like the Maine town did? Would they stand up against the bullies? Or would a lawsuit have to be filed to make them obey the law.

Back when I was growing up I never even heard about trans people. Oh, there was Christine Jorgensen, Rene Richards, and other but I wasn’t like them, the media portrayed them negatively. There were no positive role models; the movies portrayed us as psychopaths and deranged kills or the butt of a joke on a television show. If you looked up transsexual in the school library it said it was a perversion and I knew that wasn’t me. So I thought I was the only one who felt this way, I was isolated and closeted.

But now children growing up know trans people because of the positive role models in the media and they see that they are productive members of society. The children today are able to learn that there’re other trans people feel the same as they do. They might even know other trans children, and also more importantly their parents understand what they mean when they tell them how they feel.

When I was in school there was absolutely no legal protect and it was the time of the Lavender Scare which was going on in Washington DC. Only a very few people understood the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity so as a result we were lumped together with the gays and lesbians and also back then trans men didn’t even exist they were just masculine looking lesbian. If you came out to your parents there was a possibility that you would be committed to a mental hospital.

Many in my generation says the trans children today have it easier than we did, but they are wrong, it is not easier to transition now because they now are faced with bullying and harassment while before we hid in the closet. Now the school climate is completely different, the administration is supportive of us; the school system has a school climate policy that includes us. But there is always the bullying from a few that they have to contend to.

Martin Luther King Jr. said about discrimination and harassment,
Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.
our laws are only as good as those enforcing them. Maine has laws protecting trans people but the school system ignored the law. However, today’s political climate has given the “green light” to bullies, they feel that they are empowered to discriminate against students who are different.

What can we do to prevent schools from ignoring the laws?

I like to quote Robin McHaelen the director of True Colors, “If you hear mean, intervene.” Most of you who are here today are allies and being an ally doesn’t just mean supporting LGBT students but also taking a pro-active role by speaking up. When we in the trans community speak up we have an axe to grind but when an ally speaks up they are speaking from the heart.

If you are in a check-out line at the grocery store and you hear mean speak out against it, let them know that you don’t agree with them.

To be an activist! Make being an ally an active verb, not passive verb. An activist speaks up. There is no time off for being an ally; it is a full time job.

Being an activist doesn’t mean that you have to be out on the picket line, it can be as easy as invited a trans girl to your daughter’s sleepover, it can be as simple as picking the trans boy for your sports team. Being an activist means being there for them when they need someone to just listen.

Being an activist means picking up the phone and telling your legislator that you support them when the take a pro-LGBT stance or telling them that you do not approve when they are anti-LGBT position.

In closing I just want to say that Connecticut has been leading the way in the nation for LGBT human rights. In 1991 Connecticut was one of the earliest states to pass a non-discrimination law which included sexual orientation, in 2004 gender identity was added the hate crime law, in 2011 after many years of trying Connecticut passed a gender identity/expression non-discrimination law.

Then in 2015 Connecticut lead the way to being able to change you gender marker on your birth certificate without surgery, was the eighth state to do so.

This year the legislature passed a law banning the barbaric practice of Conversion Therapy for those under 18, and it also increased the penalties for a hate crimes making the Connecticut law one of the strongest hate crimes laws in the nation.

But there were attempts to roll back our rights when a legislator in 2015 introduced a bill to strip our insurance protections.

We cannot rest on our laurels, we must be vigilant to make sure that there are no other attempts to repeal our human rights.

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