A Change in the West Wing

[ ANDREW HARNIK | AP ]

Sunday, November 8th, I watched our USA President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris give their victory speeches before a huge outdoor crowd. They spoke and I felt hope. A hope in their ability to dig us out of a hole that was left behind from the current administration. A hope that changes will be positive instead of negative, for LGBTQ+ people, for people of color, for the disabled and immigrants. Biden used two words during his speech which lit up in my mind… “Transgender” and “Identity”. He was not just talking to one letter but all of the letters, WE were included! I let out a breath that was cleansing to my soul. The anxiety and angst I have felt the last four years wasn’t just negated, it was washed away like dirt that circled the ethereal drain.

I came out in 2018, in the middle of the current President’s term. I was afraid, especially because we are vilified by not only this President, but his administration and his civilian supporters. I came out to friends and family, but it took me almost a year before I could manage to walk outside my house. I was sure that I would be murdered or attacked, pulled from a restroom and beaten. Such is the culture that was cultivated by this President and his VP. Cis people guarding restrooms, roving the streets, looking for a reason to beat any transgender person to death. I have lived through war, but I was not prepared for how my own countrymen would gladly kill me if given the chance. 

So after a year of worry and fear, I finally decided to come out anyway. I was tired of waiting, it had been over 40 years. I had to do it now during the worst (I thought) possible time, so that I could prove to myself that I’m not going to be cowed into silence. Turns out, it was lucky that I did because a pandemic was on its way and that was going to complicate the lives of so many people, transgender people especially so. Jobs, which are hard for trans people to keep when they transition to begin with. Name change/correction to gender is a bureaucratic nightmare even at the best of times. With a pandemic closing offices completely or running on a skeleton crew, it’s almost impossible. Courthouse, SSN office, DMV, State agency for Birth Certificates (in my case, German consulate), Pentagon (DD-214), Mortgage company, Insurance company, Utilities, all of these places and more require that you be there in person and with all relevant documents. I can’t imagine how long it would have taken if I had to do it this last year in the midst of the initial wave of the pandemic. This should not stop any trans person from doing what it takes. It’s hard, but now even in the midst of covid, places have put better plans in place to help those who need services than when all of this started. 

Biden announced members of a 13-person advisory board to help shape his response to the pandemic. He is already planning an aggressive response to the pandemic to get us out of the darkness. Given all he has to do, it will be a tough road, but I feel good about our chances now. 

My parent-in-laws are Trump supporters and are upset at the loss. I’ve tried my best to keep out of their faces with the win, but it’s not like they are actually losing. Biden isn’t going to suddenly marginalize white, middle-class cishet people, he isn’t taking away their rights or entering a tax war with China then giving up when he decides he can’t win it. I don’t know their reasons for supporting Trump and honestly it’s a sore point with me. I’m fine with people being “conservative”, I was actually conservative in the past but I’ve learned in my years of life the value of being liberal not only because now I understand what it means to be marginalized, but because people should be helped and we should take care of our world. I grew up. I have an issue with Trump and Pence, who actively want to make me a non-entity, who want to take my rights and my life away. They want to force me into something I have never been so that they feel better about their place in the world. I don’t understand why two people who I love and respect, who say they love and respect me, would want these people in power. It’s a process for me, trying to let this go or finding a way not to be hurt. So, I’m not gloating, I’m just relieved that Biden has won. Sure, Trump is contesting the results, but it has no legs and the courts are denying his motions as having no merit. He has delayed, but he cannot stop the constitutional process and there is a definite end date.

I’m feeling good about the state of our union, I am feeling good about transgender people’s place at the table now. It’s not perfect, nothing is, but it’s miles better than where we were before. Biden marked Transgender Day of Remembrance, he actively cares about what happens to us. He has also appointed transgender veteran Shawn Skelly as a member of his Department of Defense transition team! This is a welcome change from not only the last four years, but from all of history. Long have we been the unseen, the unwanted, the shunned. So much so that there is scant historical data on trans people at all. We have been here since there have been people, but were forced into silence lest our voices be silenced for good. The threat of violence, institutionalization or death has always loomed over those who did not conform to that of the cis-normative lie. This is change, this is positive change. We cannot squander this chance. It’s not even about those of us now, it’s about those who come after us. We must leave a legacy of openness and of diligence, of honor and character, so that those who come after us are not left with the pieces of a shattered equality.

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