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26 - 30 : 52 Things You Can Do for Transgender Equality

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#26: Locate Support Services

Trans people are often unaware of the resources that are available to them. Knowing what is out there can help people access services they need and helps them to feel that they are part of a vibrant community.

Start by compiling a list of all of the services that you are aware of. Think of support groups, medical services, columns in local papers etc. After you have all that you know about down on paper, begin to search the internet, ask other people for groups and services that they know about and keep building your list.

Once you have made a list, think through how you want to organize it and how people will be able to access it. You will probably want to put it on a website as well as make paper copies available. You may also want to translate it into Spanish or other languages that are appropriate in your area. Update it regularly so the information stays current.

Your list can be local, state-wide, regional or national in scope. There are several different ways of organizing the information, as well as formats that are primarily web-based and those that will be easier to print out.

However you organize it, making a list will make life much easier for trans people who are just coming out and those who are new to your community, as well as folks who have been around a while, but just need help finding something.

#27: Collaborate with another group on a community project or social event

It’s a simple fact: we can accomplish more when we work together than when we work alone. Collaboration can increase our creativity, multiply our resources, reach additional people and make an event more fun.

There are so many forms this collaboration could take, and the list of potential people to work with is nearly endless when you consider the number of trans, ally, and other community organizations at work in your city or state. And think about partnering both with groups under and outside of the Transgender umbrella.

For example, if you’re part of a primarily male-to- female identified group, try partnering with the local female-to-male group. If you’re part of a cross- dressers organization, think about partnering with a nearby genderqueer or radical third-gender group.

If you’re involved with a trans advocacy or support group, try joining efforts with a non-trans organization working on issues that impact your town like racial justice, youth empowerment, reproductive health, disability access, neighborhood renewal and clean-up. The list of possibilities goes on and on.

What about holding a joint social event with another group in your area so members can mingle and get to know new people? If there are groups active in improving your neighborhood, what about planning a project together? Partnering with non-trans organizations on a joint project is a wonderful and meaningful way for non-trans people to get to know you can have a broader impact where you live. Maybe there are events already planned in your city, like street fairs or other local celebrations that a group you are active in can co-sponsor or help to produce.

Think about the multitude of ways you can join your energies with other activists and community groups— both trans and non-trans groups—to make an impact. By getting to know each other, you widen your pool of allies and make a difference in your community. The possibilities are endless.

So this week, pick a project, reach out to others, and collaborate!

#28: Work to Pass a Nondiscrimination Policy at Your Workplace

We know that being able to find and maintain meaningful employment is a critical issue for the wellbeing of the transgender community. A majority of Americans—61 percent—agree that transgender people should have workplace protections, according to a 2002 poll done for the Human Rights Campaign foundation. Yet slightly less than a third of Americans live in a jurisdiction with laws that ban employment discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

It is certainly possible—81 of the Fortune 500 companies now include gender identity or expression in their non-discrimination policies along with many other companies and non-profit groups—and the number of workplaces with such policies is growing all the time.

Becky Allison, MD, comments about why it is important to have workplace protections: “I have practiced cardiology with CIGNA since 1994. It has been a very good experience, and I have enjoyed the full support of my administration. Until recently, however, there was always a possibility that a new administrator might disapprove of my transition history, and my job would be in jeopardy. I am grateful to CIGNA for adding ‘gender identity’ to their non-discrimination policy.”

In addition to NCTE, there are a number of resources to help you with workplace issues including:

By working with your employer to add gender identity and expression to their non-discrimination policies, you can make a significant difference in the lives of transgender people. Not only does it address potential problems at work, it also sends a vital message that transgender people are valued as employees at that company or agency.

#29: Connect with PFLAG!

Having a transgender family member has a tremendous impact on our parents, children, spouses, siblings and others. PFLAG-Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays-is a wonderful group for family members and also a place where we can find support for ourselves. PFLAG has a Transgender Network that has great resources specifically for us and for our families.

Judy Hoff, a PFLAG staff member, tells us, "We have a wide-ranging network of resources for the families and friends of transgender folks around the country who have their own transitions to navigate when a loved one comes out trans. Our network includes on-line support groups for trans youth, e-support groups for parents and spouses/significant others, and a newsletter that just went to electronic format this year and is being sent out to about 300 people across the country every other month. We encourage interested folks to sign up to get the newsletter by going to the PFLAG web site and clicking on the link to sign up for the weekly update. The next screen gives an option to sign up for TNET publications. Click on that and you're in! The TNET website has now been incorporated into the National PFLAG site."

Dave Parker, President PFLAG Transgender Network, adds, "Families of transgender individuals need the same sort of support that PFLAG has always provided for parents and friends of GLB people. They need to know that they can discuss their feelings in a safe, confidential environment with others who have experienced or are experiencing the loss of expectations that come with an announcement of some form of gender variance.

"PFLAG chapters offer an opportunity for transgender folks to meet accepting and supporting families. They also offer an opportunity to work with the nation's leading grass-roots support, education, and advocacy organization for parents, families, and friends of the GLBT community.

"As one mother put it, 'They really were there for me by phone and internet when I needed them the most. They connected me with a wonderful transwoman after I found out about my son. They also helped my son obtain health insurance after he was rejected due to his trans status'."

Thanks to the folks from TNET and PFLAG for all of their years of support. This week, check out their website and make use of their resources!

#30 Write a regular column for a publication

People understand us better when they know more about our experiences and hear our perspectives. Columns and guest commentary pieces in newspapers and online media sources are great ways to express opinions and distribute information on transgender issues from a variety of voices.

So this week's idea is write a regular column for a publication.

Joanne Herman, a member of NCTE's Board of Advisors, writes a column each month for the Advocate.com, a leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) publication. She says, "When non-transgender friends would hear the story of my gender transition, invariably I'd be told, 'Wow, you should write a book about it!' But I sincerely doubted my ability to write a book that would be better and more interesting than some of the books already out there. Meanwhile, I kept finding that gay, lesbian and bisexual people-contrary to what one might have been told-were very interested in learning more about what it means to be transgender. But they weren't so interested that they would sit down and read an entire book about it. So the idea for a column on Advocate.com was born-a collection of bite-size chunks to make the learning easier to digest. I'm now convinced that columns are a great way to reach any group of people outside of the transgender community about a topic (being transgender) that is often overwhelming in its entirety." You can read all of Joanne's Advocate.com columns on her website, www.joanneherman.com.

There are many media outlets you can consider approaching, or "pitching" in PR lingo, for a column-mainstream newspapers, alternative weeklies, queer community papers, magazines, professional publications, Web sites, blogs and more. Think about all of the publications you read that might be a good fit for your writing. If you are interested in writing a column, here are some pointers from NCTE's Deputy Director, Simon Aronoff:

  • Send a letter or email to the editor-in-chief of the publication proposing ("pitching") a regular/semi-regular column on transgender issues. Be sure to include any relevant experience you have as a writer or as a transgender advocate, as well as a brief list of potential column topics.

  • Follow up with a phone call to gauge the editor's interest. Suggest a desk-side meeting at her/his office to discuss your vision for the column or invite the editor to coffee.

  • Offer to send a "sample" or first installment for review so they can really get a feel for your work.

  • Consider offering to write for the publication's Web site if the editor isn't able to find space in the print publication. You may be surprised to learn that Advocate.com has a larger readership than the print magazine.

  • Make the deal. Be sure to negotiate whether or not your column will be exclusive to the publication or if it can be printed elsewhere. Determine if you'll be paid for your work or if the column will be a labor of love.

Local LGBT publications are often eager for content, so they may well be interested in your pitch. As Joanne notes from her experiences: "Of course, not every publication is going to leap at the prospect of having a transgender column, especially if they don't know you or your writing. So I recommend using your connections - something that might make the publication comfortable taking a chance on you. There's a lot of curiosity outside of the transgender community just waiting to be satisfied. Take advantage of it."

If you can't write a regular column, consider placing a stand-alone article. Whatever you do, we hope to see you in print soon!


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