Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

Archive for January 22, 2010

Trans Lobby Day 2010

“I might have to become politically active.”

I said that to my Gram about five years ago, when I first told her that I was trans.

I was never one to stand up for myself. I was never one to separate myself from the crowd. I was never one to be political. And yet here I am, going to meet with my state legislators to urge them to support the Trans Civil Rights Bill in Massachusetts.  My words to my Gram have come true, and I’ve become politically active.

Of course, it’s been building for a while. I met my state senator about two months ago and urged him to help move the bill out of the judiciary committee. I’ve volunteered a few times with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. I marched in the Trans Pride parade in Northampton. I marched in the Pride Parade in Boston. I organized an open mic night at my church to support Trans awareness. I went to The Day of Remembrance. I blog. I tease and pretend that I’m not really that active, or that I don’t do too much, but I guess I really am pretty out there.

And so it never dawned on me that I wouldn’t go to the Lobby Day today; it was just something that I knew I would do.

It was an amazing day. I saw so many people I know, and so many people that know me. This really is my community – not because we share some connection to the “trans-umbrella,” but because these are my friends; these are lovely people; these are special people. These are people that I am proud to call my community.

I listened to the speakers at the rally, and there were many, and they were moving. I was surrounded by members of my church, including my priest, and I was moved to tears several times. Hearing folks talk about the discrimination they had faced simply for not conforming to what society thinks a man or a woman is supposed to be was heart-breaking. Hearing some of the legislative co-sponsors of the bill speak helped to balance that heaviness with positivity.

After the rally I went off to see my legislators. I saw staff members in both offices. My Representative, A. Stephen Tobin, is a co-sponsor of the bill, so I offered my thanks. My Senator, Michael Morrissey, was on vacation somewhere warm (smart man). He is a supporter, though not a co-sponsor, so I again offered thanks and urged his staff member to have him write a letter to the judiciary committee to help move the bill to the full houses of the legislature for a vote.

I also made a new friend who lives about a mile from my house. That’s pretty cool!

From chatting with folks, it seems like Representative Eugene O’Flaherty, the chair on the house side of the joint judiciary committee, is holding the bill in committee. And it seems the issue, as it seems to always be, is scary trannies in bathrooms. It makes me really frustrated that the issue is framed this way. In my experience, people who are trans tend to get in and out of the restroom as quickly as possible to avoid any stir. When I was in the midst of my transition, for example, and wasn’t sure whether I would be seen as an intruder in the ladies room, I went to great lengths to avoid using public restrooms at all. I would purposely dehydrate myself so that I wouldn’t have to use a public facility that everyone should take as a public accommodation. When I would go out to gigs I would refuse to use the restroom out of fear that someone might make an issue of me being in the “wrong place.” I often ended up in great physical discomfort, and I’m sure it’s possible that I did some damage to my kidneys, but I was that terrified of using the ladies room. I finally got over it when I flew to Iowa for some gigs. When I was at the airport I had to pee, so I went and peed – I even stood in line. And the world didn’t end. I had been living full-time for eight months by that point, and I had still been too scared to use the proper restroom. It’s just so sad that something that most trans folk are terrified about is turned around and used as if we are just trying to get into public restrooms to cause mischief. *sigh* I have yet to see a report of a trans person causing trouble in a public restroom (short of “causing trouble” by merely having the temerity to exist). It’s just so sad.

So, I feel positive about the day, and my activism. But I also feel sad that it seems so easy for others to hate and fear people whom they don’t understand.

Trans. Rights. Now.

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