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Reasons to celebrate trans resilience during the era of Trump

November 22, 2017

Segments of this article were originally published in The Student Life of the Claremont Colleges by GLAAD Campus Ambassador, Donnie TC Denome. 

This past Monday, November 20th was Transgender Day of Remembrance. Just like every November 20th this day was one for solemn reflection and mourning. There have been, on record, at least 23 trans people killed in the United States since the beginning of 2017. 23 moments of silence, 23 reasons to cry.

But in the midst of the disaster that is the Trump administration and all the havoc it has wreaked on the trans community, we have to stay strong and look forward. We must celebrate the victories we have.

Tuesday, November 7th was one of the best election days many progressives could have hoped for and a wonderful day for the trans community.

Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham, both Black trans people, became the first and second openly trans people of color elected to the Minneapolis City Council.

Danica Roem beat out self-proclaimed “chief homophobe” Bob Marshall for a seat in the Virginia state legislature. Roem is now the first out trans woman elected to a state legislature.

In Pennsylvania, Tyler Titus, a Black trans man, was elected to the Erie School Board.

Lisa Middleton won a seat on the Palm Springs City Council and became the first openly trans candidate elected to a non-judicial position in California. Christy Holstege, who is bisexual, was also elected, meaning the entire city council of Palm Springs is now queer.

Of course, these elections don’t come anywhere close to combatting the damage inflicted by a Republican-controlled federal government. I have a feeling that the reaches of Ms. Jenkins, Mr. Cunningham, Rep. Roem, Mr. Titus, and Ms. Middleton are all limited to their state, city, or special district.

But in a less concrete sense, wow. That’s a lot of trans people in government who weren’t there last year or even last month. Every single one of those people is a role model and an inspiration to trans people, and especially trans kids, in their area and beyond.

Bob Marshall was one of the lead sponsors of a “bathroom bill” similar to HB2 in North Carolina and SB6 in Texas. During the Virginia campaign, Marshall refused to debate Roem. He misgendered her consistently when he talked about her.

And Roem beat him by eight percentage points. That sets an example: when your representatives trash-talk and bully you and people like you, run against them, beat them, and take their jobs.

However, these victories don’t make up for everything the Trump administration has done. When Betsy DeVos repealed the Dear Colleague letter on protections for trans students, this country took definite steps backward. When the ban on trans people in the military came down and was subsequently bounced around the courts, that was a definite step backward.

The nomination of Jeff Mateer, who called transgender children part of “Satan’s plan," to the federal judiciary was a step backward. The judicial nomination of Mark Norris, who opposed the trans-positive Dear Colleague letter and has supported multiple discriminatory laws at the state level, was a step backward.

But we are fighting back and we are making strides towards change.

Chelsea Manning had her sentence commuted by Barack Obama back in mid-January and since being released in May, she’s gained a large Twitter following, had multiple speaking engagements, and been named Newsmaker of the Year by Out magazine.

Gavin Grimm, who became a national figure in his quest to use the boy’s bathroom at his high school, graduated high school this spring. Right up to his graduation, his school refused to let him use the boy’s bathroom. But he did graduate and he never gave in. He decorated his graduation cap with a restroom sign.

On November 21st, a judge blocked the Trump administration’s ban on trans people serving in the military, calling it “a form of discrimination on the basis of gender.”

And for the rest of us, we have survived. Even if we have done nothing but live our lives every day since Trump’s election, we are still here and still fighting.

I exist as a queer trans person and I know that’s enough to piss off the likes of Mike Pence, Donald Trump, Roy Moore, and Jeff Mateer. I am not going to be silent. I refuse to stand down and give in. But I understand that there are people who are forced into silence or must remain in silence for their own safety.

The worst thing that anyone—trans or not—can be in this political climate is complacent. After a year of Trump, we’ve become so accustomed to the administration’s disturbing hijinks that each new development feels like just another day. It’s easy to become complacent but complacency is deadly. When we do not stand up for ourselves and our friends who are forced into silence, we fail ourselves, our friends, and our country.

Human rights—and human beings—die in the silence of complacency. We, as a trans community, must seek out opportunities and seize them: anything from writing articles, to speaking at community meetings, to running for office.

So on Monday, we had 23 reasons to mourn, and we did mourn. And going forward, we also have plenty of reasons to celebrate. Every single trans person who made it through this year is a reason to celebrate. Every electoral victory, every kid who escapes a bad situation, every person who speaks out against the injustices against the trans community, is a reason to celebrate.

Trans people have always existed and thrived, and we will continue to exist and thrive, Donald Trump and company be damned.

Here’s to another year. Maybe, just maybe, this one will be better.

Donnie TC Denome is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and a second-year at Pitzer College, studying Public Health. They hail from Silicon Valley and hope to work in HIV care in San Francisco post-graduation.

the voice and vision of a new generation