While some trans advocates are caught up in needing to win a battle over language, and other trans advocates are trying to decide if a drag queen’s video is a parody, the linked post was in my news feeds yesterday. For me, it illustrates the notion of recognizing the needs of real trans persons as opposed to merely getting caught up in “issues.” Without a doubt, language matters. Drawing attention to the violence many trans persons face matters too, but for many many trans persons, the “battles” and struggles are at a far more basic level- like how to earn a living and build a life.
I know I’m one of the millions of unemployed and underemployed who are struggling to stay afloat, so in that respect my story in not unique. However, the fact that I am a 52-year-old transsexual woman makes my situation a bit more complex.
But you aren’t going to see trans advocates post thousands of words about someone like Rebecca Pell (or will we?) because her struggles are not sexy, trendy, nor do they lend themselves to criticizing the Gay Community. Yet how many real trans persons have the same or similar experiences as Rebecca? I’m betting many.
And Rebecca’s story is one that I believe most Americans can relate to. Her voice is critical to educating everyone about the lives of trans persons. Sure, a few loud angry persons will force RuPaul to pull an episode from the air, but brave persons like Rebecca telling their stories has the chance to change hearts and minds.
In November of 2013 I was hired at a rental car company to detail cars. While it is a job, it’s humiliating and demeaning to accept that this is the only job I can get. But as everyone keeps telling me, I’m fortunate to have a job and it’s only temporary. So for the past five months I have shown up for work every day to do a job that requires no particular skills, where I don’t fit in and which doesn’t pay the bills. A job which has no meaning, which I do realize is a luxury, but is something important to me. And five months later I still can’t get a job anywhere else.
I remember meeting a trans person similar to Rebecca about four years ago who was extremely smart and had been employed at a high level prior to transitioning. Here she was breaking out of shackles that kept her isolated and unhappy, and yet with doing so, she found herself in a new set of shackles: the inability to find a job that fit her skills and abilities.Trading one set of shackles for another is not a picture of freedom and liberation.
I encourage everyone to read Rebecca’s story and ask yourself, why is it that we allow talented, skilled, and valuable people to be invisible and sequestered into menial jobs? Advocating for trans persons is also about advocating for Economic Equality for all as well as for an end to discrimination in hiring and employment.
One way to press for trans equality is to draw lines around trans personss’ experiences and highlight their differences. Highlight how they are victims and who is to blame. But another way is to let people, in their own voices tell their own stories. In those stories we see how they are alike every bit as much as we see how they are subjected to boundaries, restrictions and struggles that are different because of their gender identity and expression. This ability to see how someone is alike as well as how they are different is the basis for changed minds and changed actions.
And thank Rebecca for bravely sharing her experiences. These are the stories that will enable change in a big way. At least that’s my opinion.
Here is Rebecca’s blog.