I’m proud to lead the ACLU of Indiana LGBTQ Rights Project, where we fight for transgender people in the Indiana statehouse, in the courts and in our communities. We raise up transgender leaders and support their work all over the state. So far, we’ve trained nearly 40 advocates through our Indiana Trans Justice Project, and they are hard at work educating their communities and their lawmakers.
But educating cisgender people is only a small part of this work. When most people think of “trans rights” they think about name changes, pronouns, surgery and of course, bathrooms. But these are only the easiest problems facing us.
2019 is already breaking records with a rising tide of violence against black transgender women. Four murders within weeks of one another. Racial justice is trans justice.
Fighting for trans people means fighting for immigrant rights. Ask the ghost of Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender migrant woman who was beaten to death while handcuffed in ICE custody. Nearly 111 transgender people remain in their hands. Just days ago, Johana Leon died after ICE repeatedly denied her basic medical treatment while in custody. Trans rights are immigrant rights.
Fighting for us means fighting for our partners at Planned Parenthood. Trans men and nonbinary people exist! Many have a uterus that requires care! Every trans woman knows what it’s like to have her body policed. I’ve stood up with my sisters in the women’s movement to fight our state’s yearly assaults on Roe v. Wade. Trans justice is reproductive justice.
Fighting for us means fighting sexual assault. Trans people experience sexual violence at twice the rate of cis women. For women who are trans, it’s worse. For black trans women? The number is 4 in 5. Yet we are routinely left out of the conversation. #MeToo is #UsToo.
Fighting for us means fighting mass incarceration. Trans people are incarcerated at higher rates and are invariably housed in facilities that are unsafe. Solitary confinement, a polite word for torture, is commonplace. Denial of access to medical treatment is the rule. Sexual abuse is as common as grass. Prisoner rights are trans rights.
A recent study found that only 28% of Americans are willing to be friends with a trans person. Fix that. Reach out and invite us into your life. Be part of ours. Don’t ask us to be your “trans friend” - just ask us to be your friend. Your peer. Or your colleague.
To borrow the words of the great civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson, we need you to get proximate to us. We are writers, musicians, artists, actors, lawyers, poets, scientists, politicians, builders and healers. Come to know us as whole people, not just cautionary tales, sad victim stories, or vessels for a savior complex. We’ve been fighting for our own liberation, alone, for too long. Help us by participating in our liberation. Get proximate.