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“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Today the Mass Trans Political Coalition, along with millions of people worldwide, mourns the loss of a great man and powerful advocate for equality, Nelson Mandela. President Mandela was a passionate advocate for equality and freedom of all people. His work and words have been an inspiration for many social justice advocates, including those of us here at MTPC. We mourn his passing and know that his passion for freedom, equality, and justice will live on in future generations of advocates.
“The time is always ripe to do right”
Photo credit: South Africa The Good News / www.sagoodnews.co.za
This week marks an opportunity for many of us to convey our thankfulness to those around us. In honor of the holiday and spirit of the harvest season, I want to take this opportunity to express my thanks.
This is my first holiday season here in the Boston area, and my first with MTPC. Despite my relative “newness” to the community in this area, the outpouring of support, kindness, and compassion with which I have been received has had a profound impact on me. From your welcoming emails, to your warm wishes at community events, and your phone calls – I want you all to know how much I appreciate the welcome you have extended to me.
On a personal note, I want to also thank the volunteers, interns, staff, and steering committee here at MTPC. It takes a small army to operate an organization like MTPC, and without those who selflessly give their time, energy, skills, and leadership, we would be unable to accomplish any of the work that we do. Thank you to Jesse, who has been a fantastic asset to this organization, and continues to show tireless dedication to this community. Thank you to our interns and volunteers whose time and skills drive a large portion of our work: Devyn, Landen, Mel, Ryan, and Tom. Thank you to the steering committee members, who volunteer their time and leadership skills to this organization: Nancy, Max, Bobbi, Grace, Alishia, Chris, Daniel, Kim, Mycroft, Tharyn, and Tre’Andre. I also want to thank the policy and interfaith committees who give a great deal of time and effort to their focus areas. Thank you!
Lastly, and most importantly, I want to thank you. Thank you for taking the time to visit our website and learn about MTPC and our work. Whether you’re a member of the trans community, or an ally, family member, or friend – each of you is an important piece of the tapestry that makes up MTPC, and for that, I am deeply thankful. As you may know, we are a community based, community driven organization; so, thank you for giving us the opportunity to be here, and work with you. Your support and kindness is greatly appreciated here at MTPC – thank you.
As 2014 approaches, I hope to have the opportunity to see and work with you all. If you have any questions, or if there’s anything on your mind, please don’t hesitate to contact me (MasonDunn@masstpc.org).
Wishing you each a wonderful, warm, and welcoming season.
This is my first observance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance in Boston. Over the years I have observed #TDOR in a variety of places, from rural New Hampshire to Los Angeles, and spoken to many community members about how the event has had an impact on them. Each year, I am deeply moved by the touching words of remembrance as well as the resilience our community shows in the face of prejudice and violence. This year, we mark the lives of 238 trans people whose lives were cut short because of anti-transgender bias.
On this 15th anniversary of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, I am sad to think about how many lives have been taken in the past year. Yet I am also proud to know that the activism surrounding the murder of Rita Hester of Allston, Massachusetts, and the fight against the gross bias in the local media’s reporting of it, catalyzed our worldwide trans community to stand together against the tide of anti-trans violence.
It’s important for us to take a moment to look at the names and identities of those who were taken from us this year, and to recognize the intersections of race and class as it applies to anti-transgender violence. As Monica Roberts discusses in her post, “This year we’ll be reading 238 predominately Black and Latina names … and we’re fed up with doing so.” Anti-transgender violence disproportionally affects transgender women of color – this fact is inescapable and must be addressed as we work to combat bias against our community.
As the new Executive Director here at MTPC, I am particularly moved by the TDOR history recounted in today’s PFLAG blog post from Diego Sanchez, Senior Policy Advisor to former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank and now Director of Policy at PFLAG. Diego was the first openly #transgender person to work as a legislative staff member on Capitol Hill and was quite active in the fight to honor Rita. Below is an excerpt from his post.
“The nation didn’t immediately honor the memory and loss of the beautiful, always-smiling, intelligent, elegant Rita. She was gone, and the local Boston newspapers – mainstream and LGBT alike – misnamed and misidentified her even when asked not to, sloppily linking unfounded allegations about Rita alongside facts. The fact was that she was horridly murdered in her own home, and media reported it without care, respect or regard for her or for the transgender community, including those of us who were local and friends of hers.” (Read more.)
(Read MTPC Steering Committee Chair Nancy Nangeroni’s thoughts on why #TDOR and #TransWk are both important to our community.)
Ryan here, to speak briefly about the importance of trans awareness in higher education. This topic is actually the subject of my senior thesis research, and it is always filled with surprises. While here at MTPC I am a policy intern, at school I am a student-athlete and in the middle of a social transition. I’d like to think of myself as very logical and objective in this, but I first have to consider myself human and be able to communicate my feelings if I hope to make the best argument for change.
In my research, I have found that the topic of trans inclusion in higher education is scattered; this is likely due to the difficulty in researching the multiple facets of life that intersect and shape what it is to be trans. Or, to rephrase: there is a growing field of trans studies that focus on higher ed, but none of these studies can seem to agree on any single important subfield because the field is still considered new.
Higher education is a strange creature. Since it often breeds social change movements, it has been interesting to see the growth of how trans policies affect the cultural environment. There tends to be a “chicken or the egg” conundrum. Schools without trans advocates are hesitant to make changes (which may welcome some and/or insult others) while schools with loud, visible trans advocates create social modifications, bringing about policy and institutional change. In short: as if it were not hard enough being trans, in order for a school to pay attention and create trans-inclusive policies, the trans students (and vocal allies) have to advocate for those changes themselves.
And I am not just talking about gender-neutral bathrooms, or living with the person/friends of your choice regardless of sex. The margins for social change span the inclusivity of trans-identities in the LGBTQ student organizations, the sensitivity of a school’s career center (for instance, how helpful they are when you’re presenting as Jennifer and all of your school IDs, past job sites, and professors know you only as Jacob), or the attitudes of campus police towards trans students.
Sidenote: if you are an educator, instructor, professor, etc., include trans subjects in the readings; if it does not generate any discussion it means that either no one read the work, or that you teach in a beautiful utopia with non-binary notions of gender instilled in everyone. That’s unlikely, though, so prepare for some interesting questions.
Some departments and certain schools take trans issues as a case-by-case opportunity, which may be swept under the rug for the trustees and higher-ups. These schools may not have policies “on the books,” but they will work with trans students if and when the need arises. This can make it both good for the school and for the trans students, but it is also understandable as to why a student might still feel ignored or that their full needs are not being met.
It is similar to non-discrimination laws that cover the work place and housing but not public accommodations. Great, I have a job and a place to live but I might be harassed or kicked off the T and prevented from buying a sandwich by some staff member giving me a dirty look and whispering to their co-workers behind the counter.
Just as a diamond saw blade needs water to work most efficiently, we see again and again it is advocacy that brings about policy change. And often, education is required to grease and facilitate the advancement. So for those of you in higher education during this trans awareness week, speak up, be heard, and sparkle!
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on “one of the great, neglected human rights challenges of our time”
In this United Nations video, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls LGBT rights “one of the great, neglected human rights challenges of our time.”
The main text of the speech is below, but I recommend watching the full video. It will make your heart grow three sizes today.
We should all be outraged when people suffer discrimination, assault, and even murder simply because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We should all speak out when someone is arrested and imprisoned because of who they love or how they look. This is one of the great neglected human rights challenges of our time. We must right these wrongs.
Governments have a legal duty to protect everyone, but far too many still refuse to acknowledge the injustice of homophobic violence and discrimination. We need to document this problem and share information with the states on a regular basis for discussion and action. We must institutionalize our efforts to address discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We need public education to change popular attitudes.
Some will oppose change. They may invoke tradition or religion to defend the status quo. Such arguments have been used to try to justify slavery, child marriage, rape in marriage, and female genital mutilation. I respect culture, tradition, and religion, but they can never justify the denial of basic rights.
My promise to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender members of the human family is this: I’m with you. I promise you that as Secretary General of the United Nations, I will denounce attacks against you and I will keep pressing leaders for progress. I’m committed to leading a global campaign in partnership with the United Nations Human Rights Office.
I count on others to join us. Together we can make the world safer, freer, and more equal for everyone.
MTPC is heartbroken over the explosions at the Boston Marathon yesterday that took three lives and caused numerous injuries. Marathon Monday, also known as Patriots’ Day, is a day of pride and celebration in this city. At MTPC, we grieve for the individuals and families who are affected by this tragedy.
We are grateful to the first responders and all the community heroes who rushed toward the danger in order to save others. We are all so very lucky to have you protecting us, and we hold you dear in our hearts.
In particular, we are proud (though not surprised) to see Javier Pagan caught being a hero in this now-famous photo from the scene of the blast. Pagan, in uniform on the far right, is the Boston Police Department’s liaison to the LGBT community, and he has been a hero to us for years.
Photo by John Tlumacki / The Boston Globe
In times like this, we must respond to senseless hate and tragedy with love and community.