Trans* Not Transparent

By Liz Massey, Oct. 23, 2014.

The local advocacy organization Human & Equal Rights Organizers (HERO) is rolling out two social media-driven campaigns in the next few weeks that will ask Arizonans to look beyond the battle for marriage rights for same-sex couples and focus on other issues related to LGBT legal equality.

“People think that marriage will cover everything,” said Kelley Dupps, training director for HERO. “But marriage provides equality based on your relationship with someone else, not on who you are.”

The first campaign, Trans* Not Transparent, is an education and awareness campaign related to gender identity. It will be presented in November, which is Transgender Awareness Month. The campaign will feature photos and brief self-descriptions of trans people from Arizona, which will be shared online and in social media.

Lili Montoya, a volunteer for HERO working on the campaign, said that the idea behind the activity was to encourage a positive focus on transgender people and their roles both within and beyond the LGBT community.

“My mind is constantly thinking of how to bring the trans community to the forefront,” said Montoya, who identifies as a straight ally. “[This campaign] will show that trans people are everyday people.”

The Trans* Not Transparent campaign will dovetail with several Transgender Awareness Month events that HERO has planned during November, including a Trans* 4 Trans* workshop from 2 to 4 p.m. on Nov. 8 at Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix that will share information related to the personal, medical and emotional aspects of the gender transition process, and a Nov. 15 celebration at Harley’s Italian Bistro for all transgender community members and their allies.

Dupps, who recently came out as trans/queer, said that even within the lesbian and gay community, many stereotypes and misconceptions remain about who trans people are.

“People look right through us, Dupps said.  “We’re invisible. When we are able to be ourselves, people are able to see us for who we are — siblings, spouses, co-workers and friends.”

In addition to providing clear images of members of the trans community, Dupps said the campaign should provide positive political ammunition that could prove useful early next year when the Arizona Legislature is in session.

“There’s always a threat of a ‘bathroom bill’ coming out of the Legislature — which makes us out to be predators simply for wanting to use the bathroom,” Dupps said. “It’s a lot harder to hate someone if you shake their hand. A lot of people may not know they know a queer or trans person. It’s harder to legislate against us when they know us.”

The Trans* Not Transparent campaign will take place alongside a social media effort that encourages the use of the hashtag #MoreThanMarriageAZ to highlight other elements of the LGBT equality movement — specifically, the many ways in which LGBT people can be discriminated against that have nothing to do with their relationship status.

Dupps noted that queer people in most U.S. states, including Arizona, were vulnerable to discrimination in employment and public accommodations that could impact their livelihood and ability to function in the general community. The #MoreThanMarriageAZ campaign will attempt to foster conversations on the specifics of how this type of discrimination occurs and how it can be best resolved.

“The idea of the hashtag is to get things stirred up,” Dupps said. “We want people to get up off the couch to spread the gospel of equality.”

Dupps and Montoya both noted that HERO’s approach to advocating for equality utilized discussions with potential allies, not just LGBT persons and existing supporters, to move things forward.

“When you’re a straight person, [equality topics] are not on your radar,” Montoya said. “You already have those privileges … but these are the people who will be having conversations with other voters. If we want LGBT equality, we need to talk to people who may not know what that means.”

Dupps acknowledged that some LGBT equality topics were harder to discuss with potential allies than marriage.

“The straight community gets marriage — they can understand that,” Dupps said. “Now, it’s time to talk about equality with those who are not in the choir we typically preach to. We need to ask everyone, ‘What does equality look like to you?’”

The two campaigns that HERO will be promoting both have ties to training programs that the organization provides to government, business and social groups that request it. In addition to the Trans* 4 Trans* workshop, HERO offers a LGBTQ 101 cultural competency training program, as well as a unit on LGBT history.

Montoya said that HERO often responds to requests from community members and does outreach to organizations that could benefit from the training programs.

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