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1 - 5 : 52 Things You Can Do for Transgender Equality

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#1: Take a Trans Person to Lunch

Or dinner, coffee or afternoon tea. Where and when you go doesn’t matter, but connecting with another person does. Networking strengthens our activism and reminds us why we are doing this work, plus you might make a new friend. So, maybe think of that person in your support group, the cross dresser who doesn’t always talk but is such a great listener—why not get to know her better? What about the transman who volunteered at that event you went to—what about saying thanks to him? How about that college student from the genderqueer organization—seems like an interesting person? Or a person from a group that’s very different than your own—how about finding out what makes them tick? You get the idea. Think of folks you don’t yet know well and drop them an e-mail or give them a call. Let’s start our year of activism with that all important human contact. In future weeks, we’ll include resources on how to put the ideas into action, but we’re sure you’ve got this one covered. So, make plans this week to take a trans person to lunch.

#2: Ask your library to carry books that deal positively with trans people

Libraries are an important source of information. Access to public libraries is free and open to everyone in the United States. According to the American Library Association, there are more than 117,000 libraries in this country, including 16,220 public libraries, and 62% of Americans have a library card. Therefore, it is important to have accurate and trans affirming books available when people seek them out. Think of the students writing research papers, the people wondering if they might be trans, and the doctors and therapists who want to learn a little more about their trans patients, just to name a few. All kinds of people go to libraries.

Help the librarians in your community or at your school include books that are useful to our community by suggesting titles or donating books. Think of books that have been especially helpful or interesting to you.

For ideas of good books, check out the Trans Academics website and click on Publications.

To find a library near you and for information on how to support your library, go to the American Library Association website.

Contact your local library and ask how you can submit a title for consideration or make a donation to the library to purchase a particular book or journal.

#3: Attend an anti-racism training and put into practice what you learn

Racism is damaging to our grassroots movement and to us as individual people. Trans people come from very diverse backgrounds—we come from all cultures, races, classes and groups. Racism continues to fracture our nation … and transgender communities.

Taking a strong stand against anything that may divide and weaken our community is one way to strengthen our activism. Attending an anti-racism training, and then putting into practice what you learn, can be a vital step in building a strong movement. We cannot create a world in which all people are honored treated with equality while disrespect and inequities of racism continue.

A good diversity training will not make you feel guilty or powerless; rather, it will give you tools to work with others who are different from you and help you better understand the world in which we all live.

Look for an anti-racism group that has a proven track record of positive work in your area. If you want to set up diversity training for your community group, ask for references from non-profits, religious groups, other community organizations or employers about successful programs that they have done. Some excellent places to start are:

Go to an anti-racism training. You’ll be glad you did it, you’ll strengthen our movement and it’s the right thing to do.

#4: Run for Office

Some of the ways you can work for transgender equality are easy while others are more challenging. This week’s idea is one that could turn your life upside down, but imagine the good that you could do as an elected official.

Our government is one that is of the people, by the people and for the people. Trans people have a right to run for office and the right to be well represented by our elected officials. Those who serve in political offices are in a position to make a difference in people’s lives, introduce legislation that can improve the lives of their constituents, and set an inclusive agenda. Elected officials have an opportunity to be a part of the decision making mechanisms of our country.

Transgender people have successfully run for office. For example, Michelle Bruce, who is open about being intersex and transgender, currently serves on the City Council in Riverdale, Georgia. Other trans people have held office as well.

Running for office can be an important statement and a worthwhile experience. NCTE Board of Advisors member Amanda Simpson, who was a candidate for state representative in Arizona in 2004 commented, “By running for office, you are able to engage the general public about the issues that are important to them and they can begin to relate to transgender people as people who are fully part of the same community and have the same struggles and hopes as everyone else.”

If you are interested in running for office, or in supporting those who do, an important resource is the Victory Fund, which has endorsed and supported transgender candidates. You can find them at the Victory Fund and click on the button marked, “Run for Office.” They hold regular trainings for potential candidates; this year, the trainings are being held on March 9-12 in Louisville, Kentucky, June 15-18 in Washington, DC and November 15- 18 in Orlando, Florida. They have had at least one transgender participant at each of the trainings that they have held in the past two years and see this as a very positive sign that more trans people will be running for office in the coming years. If you are even considering running for office or supporting someone who is, make sure you check out the trainings.

#5: Invite your mayor or other elected official to address a trans group or town meeting

Okay, so maybe running for office isn’t for you, but it is critical that trans voices be heard by our elected officials. After all, they do represent you. Why not invite the mayor, a legislator, city council member or other elected official to address a trans group, conference or gathering? You can ask them to speak at an already scheduled event or create a special town meeting for them to speak as well as hear concerns from the community.

If the elected official you are inviting has been supportive of transgender causes, consider how you might say thank you. For example, consider giving a certificate of appreciation or an award.

If your local politicians have not been supportive, think of ways to help them change their positions. Use the opportunity to educate them about the discrimination that trans people face and helping them learn accurate and positive information about their trans constituents. You want to inspire them to be courageous and open minded when dealing with our issues. Remember, too, that people rarely change their positions because of direct confrontation; education works much better.

To invite an elected official, fax or mail a letter to their office, requesting their presence. State clearly who you are, what group you represent, what are you are asking from them, and briefly why you think their presence will be important. Be clear about whether you have a firm date in mind (for example, if you would like them to speak at an already scheduled conference or a Day of Remembrance observance) or if you are flexible about when this might take place. Be clear, too, about what you are asking (for example, would you like the person to give a 15 minute speech or sit down for an hour strategy session with community leaders?). Give plenty of lead time before you want to hold the event and remember that politicians have very busy schedules. Follow up with a phone call about a week after their offices receive the letter. Polite and persistent follow up is the most effective.

Be sure to publicize your event widely, both within our community and, if appropriate, to the media. Be as thorough as you can be in your set up, making sure that there are microphones, if needed, bottled water, and so on. Designate one person to meet your guest at the door and escort her or him to the front, and make sure that someone is prepared to introduce the elected official and to moderate questions, if needed.

Afterwards, send a thank you note to the politician and to any staff member who helped you with the arrangements. That will help you establish an on-going relationship with them.


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