As a gay man, I appreciate how the trans community fought for my rights – it's time to repay the favour

Let's not forget that it was a transgender activist who threw the first brick at the Stonewall Riots

Dean Eastmond
Thursday 23 February 2017 15:49 GMT
The Trump administration revoked federal protections for transgender students in public schools who sought to use the restrooms that match their gender identity
The Trump administration revoked federal protections for transgender students in public schools who sought to use the restrooms that match their gender identity (The Washington Post)

Following on from an anxious first month for the LGBT community of America following Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, the President’s administration has revoked a previous Obama-era protection for trans people. No longer will transgender students be allowed to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity in school.

It was the trans community who helped paved the road for LGBT rights. As the one who allegedly threw the first brick at the revolutionary Stonewall Riots in the 1960s, Marsha P Johnson was a leader within the transgender community in New York’s Greenwich Village alongside Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major.

Skip to the 21st century and prominent trans figures in the movement include Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox, and Leelah Alcorn. Alcorn killed herself in the December of 2014.

“When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was,” the 17-year-old Ohio-based trans girl wrote in her suicide note on micro-blogging platform Tumblr. “I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to Christian therapists.”

It is easy, as cisgender white gay men, to ignore the privileges we have and ignorantly assume everyone in our community has it as well as we do. Though times are still turbulent and tough for us, we must use our social awareness and platforms of being LGB to rally for the T that so valiantly fought for us throughout history.

The LGBT community is not a homogenous group. We are a patchwork of demographics, generations, creeds and cultures that have interwoven politics and resistance as an integral part of our identities. Our rights are the products of protest, and we only got where we are today through intersectionality.

Though suicide rates among young gay people in America fell after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of same-sex marriage, 76 per cent of BME (black and ethnic minority) gay and bisexual boys have thought about taking their own life. Meanwhile, 40 per cent of transgender adults have made a suicide attempt, 92 per cent before the age of 25.

We live in a world where Trump can tweet that he will “fight” for us, yet revoke our rights within his first month of presidency; where he will wave our flag during his rallies and then curate one of the most homophobic cabinets in recent American history. Almost half (46 per cent) of the LGBT people killed in the Americas in 2013-2014 were trans women, with 1,612 trans people being murdered across 62 countries between 2013 and 2014 – that’s equivalent to one killing every two days.

It is our duty, as cisgender and white gays, to take a stand for those who continuously took a stand for us. Anything else would leave us guilty of ignoring historical truths – and allowing future tragedies.

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