Marching into the future

Regardless of the final outcome of the mid-term elections, the administration has made it clear that they wish to erase transgender people from all federal protections, and have even presumably made overtures to the United Nations to attempt to remove gender from its human-rights documents.

The courts, particularly with the new, more conservative Supreme Court, are poised to do great damage to LGBT and other rights, particularly with a possible crop of so-called “religious-freedom” cases on the horizon.

Meanwhile, we’re seeing an increase in attacks against transgender people in general, both over the usual “bathroom” specters as well as newer threats, such as the “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” theory and other recent attempts to harm young transgender and nonbinary people.

To put it bluntly, we have a lot of work ahead, and it’s not going to be easy work at that.

It will be incumbent upon all of us who are able to stand up and be visible and to speak out for our rights in a hostile time. It’s going to be a monumental challenge, and we may face some very bleak times and terrible losses along the way.

We will need to come together more than we have before. We will need our allies, and they will need us. Our strength will come from our numbers as well as the love and hope we can provide to each other.

Any victories we gain will be hard-won. Indeed, I would liken the situation to a siege. Our best hope is to hold on to some of what we have and outlast those who choose to stand against us.

Those of us who’ve been in the fight for transgender rights for the long haul, well, we may be proud of all we’ve accomplished, but we know the cost. For me, it is an aching wound to watch things I had at least a small hand in get swept to the floor, knowing that it’s back to the fight after a decade of relative success.

You see, I have a historical perspective in mind. When I first came into my own as a young, trans woman, it was the tail end of George H.W. Bush’s presidency and still within the era where the notion of transgender rights was a bit of a fever dream.

There were still areas where anti-LGBT “cross-dressing laws” remained on the books, though they weren’t much enforced. You also wouldn’t find anyone enforcing any pro-transgender laws then, either. Such things were still a long way from existing.

It would still be years before transgender people would lobby Congress en masse for the first time, and transgender people were still busy trying to even get recognized as part of gay- and lesbian-rights battles.

The decades before that were even harsher. Those cross-dressing laws were used to jail LGBT people, and few could even dare to dream of any laws to protect them if they were ever outed as trans. Accessing care itself was a Herculean task. We lived in the shadows.

There are some important things, however, that we did not have then that we do today.

For one, as we have grown in prominence, we have discovered our past. We have reclaimed our lost history and know our heroes of days gone by. This is important: Knowing where we come from aids us in our future, and being aware of who we were affords us the ability to know who we are.

Secondly, we know what is possible. Those of us in the past may have only assumed that there wasn’t any higher we could reach. Today we know better. The transgender community is also one with its aspirational figures in the media, in politics, in sports — in all sorts of fields. Once again, we know what can be, and know that we are not limited.

Finally, and most importantly, we have each other. In decades past, transgender people did not get much of an opportunity to seek each other out. In many cases, it was highly discouraged by gatekeepers who might refuse us care for doing so. Today, a click of a mouse can connect us across the world, allowing for new avenues of support and education for our community. This is where our strength truly is. As long as we have each other, we cannot really be stopped. 

Gwen Smith’s TARDIS is disguised as a 1964 Rambler. You’ll find her at

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