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31 - 35 : 52 Things You Can Do for Transgender Equality

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#31: Plan to Come out on National Coming Out Day on October 11

The personal is political—the individual actions that we take can have an amazing impact on our movement for transgender equality. One very effective way to counter prejudice is to “come out” and tell people about your gender identity or the fact that you are a trans ally, friend or family member. Many people just aren’t aware that they know a person who is transgender or someone who is a parent, significant other or sibling of a transgender person. Coming out, or telling someone about your identity, is critical to the success of our movement. Coming out can be a challenging—and very liberating—step in our lives. Many people in our community, for good reason, are anxious about telling people in their lives that they are transgender. There are many, many benefits to being out, including the sense of relief of not having secrets from the people you love.

If you’re active in a gender group or organization, you can organize programs to help people during this process. You might hold a class on how to talk about being transgender or plan a support group specifically for people who are in the coming out process. You can also host a celebration for people who have come out in the past year or plan a Coming Out Day Party on October 11. Start planning now to get the word out to people in your community.

You can also use National Coming Out Day as a political opportunity to talk with your legislators and other government leaders about the needs of their transgender constituents. Tell them who you are and encourage them to support civil rights legislation and protections for transgender people. Better yet, organize a group of people to go and “come out” at the same time.

As always, think through carefully what feels safe and effective for you personally. Coming out is a very individual process and we encourage you to do what feels right for you.

However you choose to celebrate this National Coming Out Day—whether you choose to come out to a close friend or if you plan to have a roaring loud and proud party—we hope it will be a liberating experience! 

#32: Register New Voters!

Last week, the Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act (VRA) of 2006 was signed into law. This continues the vital work of the civil rights movement to ensure equal access to voting. Each vote does matter. Sometimes elections are so close that a handful of votes decide the winner. Voting is an important way for trans people and our allies to participate in our society.

Be creative: You might make it your goal to register everyone in your gender support group; or register everyone in your family; or everyone in your apartment building; register all the folks at your Wednesday poker night/knitting circle/yoga class; or do a "get out the vote" effort at your favorite trans/gender night club monthly event. There are a number of easy ways you can do this.

A national voter registration form is available for the majority of the country (North Dakota, Wyoming and New Hampshire do not participate in this program). The form can be downloaded, photocopied and distributed along with the instructions. You can find the form and more information on the United States Election Assistance Commission's website. The page and form are available in Spanish. For Puerto Rico, contact La Comisión Estatal de Elecciones.

You can also add a link to your website so that people can register to vote online. There are great resources at www.rockthevote.com. The site includes a direct link to an online voter registration page that you can add to your website, such as the one on the left-hand side of this page. They also list the deadlines for voter registration by state.

You can get paper copies of the voter registration forms for your state by contacting your county clerk or your state Board of Elections. You can find their numbers on the state government website and in your phone book. There is specific information about the rules for non-profits conducting voter registration drives on the IRS website. It is very important to keep in mind that while you are registering people to vote, you cannot display any materials that endorse any political parties or specific candidates for office. You must remain neutral. You also must turn in the forms promptly after people have given them to you.

Obstacles can often be overcome. For example, people with a felony conviction should not assume that they cannot vote. In some states, following completion of probation, voting rights are automatically restored. Check with your state elections commission. The fact that some members of our community cannot vote makes it all the more important that those of us who can vote do so.

So, make a plan this month to register voters in September and then encourage people to go to the polls in November. Put in a vote for democracy!

#33: Fund Scholarships!

Education can be very expensive, yet it matters because it is often linked to better paying jobs and broader career choices. It can be an important way for people to get training in new fields and reestablish themselves after or during gender transition. One way to make lasting change for our community is to make it possible for people to afford an education.

You can help make it possible for someone to get the education that they need; donations can be small or large. Here are some examples of existing scholarships:

  • The Point Foundation, offers scholarships for LGBT students. There are also opportunities to establish a named scholarship. The Point Foundation grants students money to complete their education, and also extensive support and mentoring.

  • The Houston Transgender Unity Committee is offering scholarships to trans students attending an accredited college or university (more information on their Web site).

You may also want to consider giving to schools you have attended. The Development Department or the LGBT Campus Center at your alma mater can give you information about how to set up a scholarship fund that will be administered by the school. This can help a college realize that they have transgender students and allies on campus, as well as support for them from transgender alumni and allies. There are many other scholarship funds out there as well; these are just some examples, so do some research to see where you'd like to invest your resources for our community. Whether you can give $5 or $50,000, a scholarship is a wonderful way to invest in the future of our community. If you are a student, check out these and other Web sites above and apply!

#34: Programs for Youth

As summer draws to a close, trans children and teens are preparing to head back to school. All kids deserve and need supportive, effective environments where they can learn and grow. There are some great resources available to help students, teachers, parents and community members make that happen.

If you are a student, teacher, parent or school administrator, consider supporting or starting a Gay Straight Alliance, or similar program, at your school. GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) has step-by-step resource guides to help you do that. There are sections for students and for educators with tons of practical information. If you already have a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) or similar group at your school, GLSEN also has great activities to educate your group about transgender issues.

Even if you are not a student, educator or parent, there are vital things you can do as a community member:

  • Consider how the programs and activities of the trans community in your area could be more welcoming and inclusive of transgender youth. Find out about the needs and interests of trans youth in your community and include that perspective in your planning.

  • Pay attention to the policies of your local schools—you can attend school board meetings and educate about the need to end bullying and create safe spaces for students.

  • If a local school tries to block the formation of students groups, like a GSA, support organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union who stand up for students’ rights.

  • Mentor a young person.

  • Donate supplies or money to a youth group.

  • Volunteer to speak to an existing youth group.

NCTE's Program Manager, Justin Tanis, was the guest speaker at a Virginia GSA a few months ago. “It had been years since I’d been to a high school but it was a very positive experience. The students were attentive, with great questions, eager to learn about trans issues and talk about ways that they could be more supportive of trans students at their school. They understood many ways in which gender impacts their lives as queer youth and allies and they really want to create a freer world in which to live their lives.” Trans youth can access these great resources:

We want our youth to have a safe school year, full of opportunities for learning. Let’s help them get off to a great start.

#35: Know your rights if you are stopped by the police 


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