How To Fight the Transgender Memo

Camp's June 2017 Pride issue cover featuring Kansas City activist Nyla Foster in an homage to Stonewall activist Marsha Clark. Photo Styling Andy Chambers and Alan Dunham of Wonderland in Kansas City. Photo: P.S. LindenPhoto.com

I wrote my column before the New York Times published an article about the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services memo that sets out a uniform definition of gender. The Times reported: “The agency’s proposed definition would define sex as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with, according to a draft reviewed by The Times. Any dispute about one’s sex would have to be clarified using genetic testing.”

Since the article came out Oct. 21, I have received more than 100 messages, calls and emails from community members, new Facebook friends and reporters. It has been overwhelming. I have cried myself to sleep every day since. I weep not for myself, but for those that will be hurt and possibly die because of this.

I spoke at the Kansas City Demonstration for Transgender Rights on Oct. 27. Here are my notes for those remarks:

In June of 1969, a movement was started. It feels like that moment is starting again!

The events surrounding the Stonewall Riots are generally viewed as the wellspring of the LGBTQ movement, but the ideas had been percolating for many years. No one knows for sure who threw the brick that started these riots, but many, including me, believe it was Marsha P. Johnson. She was a well-known transwoman of color and LGBTQ activist of the time.

I do not believe in violence, but what can we take away from the symbolism of a brick?

Be Boldly Brave. Channel that fear into action. The root of activism is anger channeled in a productive, strategic way to instill change.

Resiliency. Being resilient is much like being a super ball – bouncing back with an equal or greater force.

Intersectionality. We cannot uplift our community without advocating and acknowledging the intersections of race. Other intersections include poverty, ability and nationality but it starts with supporting our trans women and gender non-conforming people of color.

Compassion. Be compassionate and do it with passion. Be empathetic to ourselves, our community and with those we advocate for. Be an ally for each other. We are stronger that way.

Knowledge. Be knowledgeable about our fellow community members and their culture. Be knowledgeable about the issues and the Nov. 6 ballot. Learn the platforms, bills and even the local policies within your city and place of employment. Get out and vote. Be the knowledgeable change that this country needs!

Don’t throw the brick. Be that symbolic brick!

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