“Justice is what love looks like out in public. ”
Quoting Cornel West
Quoting Cornel West
Advice from Transliterature
Before we can even begin to talk about what needs to be done, let's go over a few things not to do. Don't kill, exclude, or belittle transgender persons. Start by not being an active and knowing part of the problem. Only then can we begin to stop being passive and ignorant parts of the problem. Next, don't get high and mighty or defensive by trying to deny that you aren't part of the problem. Whether or not we intend or approve, we participate every day in the normalizing and functioning of damaging anti-trans systems. It is in the water we drink and the food we eat. Also, before you engage with transgender persons or politics, check your privilege. This does not mean you have to make a lurid public confession. You don't need to tell us about your life, who you are and are not, or whether you are a bad person or not. The point is: it is not about you! It is not about me either. In all things take on the attitude of service. The things need to get done and we don't need to feel good or look good doing them. Justice isn't a feeling it is how the things should be and work but isn't and doesn't. What checking your privilege means is not ignoring differences but acting with loving awareness of them. Your life is not my life. You can't even begin to imagine correctly what my life is life. Likewise, I don't know you. Likewise, who we are "on the inside" does not usually change who we are "on the outside" to society. Society and the system treats us all different. It does. It does it so much and so well it doesn't even need to advertise it. Also, privilege is not all bad - it is a power and benefit others wish they had. So share it! Use it on the behalf of others. Work towards something that doesn't benefit you directly.
Finally: don't tell us to smile. Don't do that. Now onto what you can do...
1) Make Access for Trans Voices
Ask the question, "where are the transgender people and why would they come here?" Where are there spaces where transgender people can go and feel at home? How would they know even if they existed?
A few target points:
- Jobs: In current workspaces most trans people don't get hired.
- Schools: In current classrooms most trans students don't come out.
- Public spaces: If trans people can't use the rest room they are unlikely to go to share public space with you. If trans people fear they will be attacked, stared at, or spoken to in offensive ways they are less likely to join a group.
Things to do:
- Hire them. Promote them. Work with them.
- Become educated then educate. Take the initiative. You may have trans students and you (or them) may not know it yet. Teach them and others to honor them.
- Don't attack us. Stop others from assaulting us. Then display signs of support: change rest room signs, fly the transgender flag, wear buttons, speak out and be heard by your community.
2) Make Safety for Trans Voices
Create a space where transgender voices can be given voice and dignity.
A few target points:
- Media: Do read about non-transgender people talking about transgender people or do you listen to transgender people speak about themselves? Do you only know one transgender person and story or the stories of trans people from diverse backgrounds and circumstances? Does your library or bookstore have transgender literature and history? Is that what you read or teach to others?
- Business Management: Decisions that affect many are usually made by only a few. Are there transgender persons in the room making decisions that affect their day to day? Do your bosses know how to make the work place better for trans people and that they should want to make it better?
- Family: Do you let established voices speak over, mock, or undermine transgender voices? Are they discussed at all and if so in what tone? Are people informed? Do they care? Are people held accountable for their words and corrected?
Things to do:
- Research, read, share our stories.
- Stand up to bosses and co-workers. Be the one to bring up the topic and don't let blank stares or derision stop you.
- End bullying within the family. Offer alternative forms of family and home.
3) Make Change for Trans Voices
Build on the needs of the voices and defend them. There are problems that are hard for any one person to fix but especially when they are in the vulnerable position.
A few target points:
- Joblessness/Homelessness: Over 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ and most of those are transgender. Trans people are not welcome in the family homes or can't find work and lose their home. The homeless shelter system is highly limited in its services, forcing persons to spend several nights a week on the streets. Furthermore, it is difficult once one is homeless to find sustainable employment because it requires: an address, a phone number, as well as for the candidate to be showered, focused, and with a clean printed resume in hand.
- Police/Prisons: Police are not likely to stop someone for being transgender but that does not mean they don't find some other reason to stop them, hold them, and humiliate them. Often because of joblessness and homelessness transgender persons are having to resort to less than legal or borderline legal modes of survival. Once in jail many trans people can't afford fair legal services and can be imprisoned for transgressions they did not commit or else could have received a lighter sentence. In prison transgender persons can find themselves put in a system that does not reflect their gender, damaging them psychologically as well as making them a target for other inmates. Furthermore, basic transgender services and medications can be difficult or impossible to attain.
- Suicide: For all these reasons and more, transgender persons face a hard life that seems to be an unlivable and insurmountable life. It is not necessarily that they hate themselves but they feel society (globally and locally) hates them more than enough. Transgender life can be hard on a good day and place but those good days and places can be few and far between.
Things to do:
- Create shelters, low income housing, and jobs specifically for (or offering preference to) transgender persons. In a "gender-blind" system, we do not have the basic resources to compete. Also, there is no such thing as a "gender-neutral" system, that just means people don't talk openly and honestly about gender.
- Vote to change laws and advocate at your local police station. Inform your community so transgender persons won't become targets for punishment as they are struggling to survive.
- Because you can't tell who is transgender and who is suicidal just by looking at someone, so you need to proactive in getting the trans positive voice to be heard over all the anti-transgender rhetoric (including the rhetoric that claims to be gender neutral). You never know who will hear you. People want to hope it gets better but they need reasons to believe. Give them those reasons and once you do, make those reasons known.
Ways to Donate and Volunteer
Want to do something quick and direct? Give money or volunteer at organizations that advocate and care for the transgender community. Here are just a few:
(a transgender summer camp)
(a fund for trans people of color)
(a fund for transgender medievalists)
(a fund for trans people in prison)
the happy hippie
(a fund for LGBTQ homeless youth)
(an organization for parents of the LGBTQI community)
Achieving our goal of transgender equality requires activism at the local, state and national levels. While NCTE focuses on federal policies, we strongly support and encourage the vital work of grassroots activists. This list features ideas for action that you can take at a local level. Some will be challenging, some will be simple; all are effective ideas and we will include links, resources and thoughts to help you get started. Some are things you can do on your own, while others are ideas for local groups to work on. We hope that you will take on projects that spark your interest and that meet a need in your community as we work together for equality for all people. You can print out our free poster of 52 Things You Can Do for Transgender Equality and put it on your wall where other people can see it and get inspired to take action of their own. Or, click on an idea here to read more details and find resources on how to accomplish each of these things.
- #1: Take a Trans Person to Lunch
- #2: Ask your library to carry books that deal positively with trans people
- #3: Attend an anti-racism training and put into practice what you learn
- #4: Run for Office
- #5: Invite your mayor or other elected official to address a trans group or town meeting
- #6: Plan an Art Show of Works by Trans Artists
- #7: Create and publicize a calendar of local events and encourage people to attend them
- #8: Start an online community or a blog that deals with an issue that is important to you
- #9: Change the Policy of an Organization You Belong To
- #10: Donate money to an organization providing direct services for transgender people
- #11: Hold a workshop on how to effectively advocate for yourself when seeking medical care or therapy
- #12: Ask Your Local Film Festival to Show Trans Themed Movies and then Go See Them
- #13: Support the Day of Silence
- #14: Preach or speak at a local community of faith, such as a synagogue, church or mosque
- #15: Adopt a Highway
- #16: Hold a Trans Pride event in your community
- #17: March as a trans contingent in the Gay Pride Parade
- #18: Educate a local homeless shelter about how to be trans inclusive
- #19: Pass a non-discrimination ordinance in your community
- #20: Visit the offices of your congressional representative and educate them about trans issues
- #21: Start a local support or education group
- #22: Volunteer with an LGBT Advocacy group
- #23: Start a Speakers' Bureau
- #24: Break a Gender Rule
- #25: Make a Restroom More Accessible to Trans People
- #26: Locate Support Services
- #27: Collaborate with another group on a community project or social event.
- #28: Work to Pass a Nondiscrimination Policy at Your Workplace
- #29: Connect with PFLAG!
- #30 Write a regular column for a publication
- #31: Plan to Come out on National Coming Out Day on October 11
- #32: Register New Voters!
- #33: Fund Scholarships!
- #34: Programs for Youth
- #35: Know your rights if you are stopped by the police
- #36 Get involved in the political process: Volunteer for a Candidate
- #37 Plan and conduct a Day of Remembrance event
- #38 Support or create a radio show or podcast
- #39 Hold a House Party for NCTE or another trans organization
- #40 Make Jails Safer for Trans People
- #41 Hold a Job Fair
- #42 Support a Drag Community Event
- #43 Engage Media Coverage of Transgender Issues
- #44 Conduct a Community Needs Assessment
- #45 Vote!
- #46 Start a discussion group on gender related books
- #47 Respond to Alerts from Other Organizations
- #48 Collect and share stories of discrimination
- #49 Set up a training in a hospital, nursing or medical school
- #50 Write an op-ed
- #51 Help an LGBT organization become more transgender friendly
- #52 Make a New Year's Resolution for Transgender Equality