Not wanting to get political on issues of equality means you’re OK with inequality
When I came out, nearly seven years ago, I didn’t intend on being an activist. I had no meaningful experience in the area, but what I did have was 30 years of experience in both writing and performing on radio. I knew how to communicate; I knew how to tell a story.
If there was a turning point in my life where events pushed me towards advocacy, it was attending my first Transgender Day of Remembrance in 2013.
When my “egg cracked,” transgender issues were largely slipping under the radar. The big fight then centered on marriage equality. In those early days, I knew the world was a much more dangerous place for transgender people; I just had no idea how dangerous.
But that first TDOR drove that point home, and it was responsible in many ways for me standing up to make sure trans voices are heard.
So, with that said, if you are my friend on Facebook or if you follow me on Twitter, you know I post a lot of material that is political in nature. I often bring up political issues in conversations. Sometimes the response I get is that someone doesn’t want politics to “get in the way,” or they don’t want to “make people uncomfortable with political opinions.”
I wish folks would understand how much privilege is involved in those statements.
If you think that a space or a relationship can be non-political, it illustrates both your privilege and your benefit from the status quo. It highlights the privilege you have of being able to move through life without being constantly reminded of the uncomfortable reality that your existence is political.
Look, I get it! I spent a good chunk of my life sitting lazily at the top of the privilege ladder, enjoying my tryptophan buzz.
Think about it: Can you walk down the street holding hands with your spouse without risking harassment or assault? Can you be fired from your job or be denied housing because of who you are married to? Can a doctor legally refuse you medical care? Can you vote in any election without a second thought because your identification accurately reflects who you are? Can you use a public restroom with your only concern being how disgusting the facilities might be and not whether you will be assaulted?
If you answered yes, then congratulations. You probably don’t see the need for changes in basic human rights because the Constitution singled you out as one of the chosen ones. You don’t need politics in your life.
But what you need to understand is this is not a zero-sum game! Giving me employment protection does not jeopardize your employment. Keeping me safe in the bathroom does not make you unsafe. Allowing me to see a doctor without discrimination does not affect your doctor/patient relationship.
I just can’t wrap my head around someone arguing against someone else’s equality in America! What has happened here?
The simple truth is, putting politics aside and living a non-political life isn’t an option for me.
Keep in mind, this has nothing to do with the debate over whether a particular position is right or wrong; this is directed at those among us who decide to disengage completely from discourse.
As an over-60-years-old transgender woman, my very existence is shaped by political decisions. Being white and reasonably well-off,
I’m aware of my privilege, but still I have to fight for others who aren’t as fortunate as I am. My life is now intertwined with the political, whether I like it or not.
Telling any person from any marginalized group that you want to be “non-political” is hurtful. It’s like you are either denying that our struggle matters or you are denying that our struggle even exists. It tells me that you like things just the way they are, and, in your view, we should just accept it.
I heard the term “majority rules” a lot as a kid. The inherent unfairness of that statement speaks to this privilege. So, if the majority of people are in favor of oppressing a minority for their gain, that’s OK with you?
It most certainly isn’t OK with me.
That’s why being an American isn’t easy.
Keeping things as they are isn’t being non-political. It is very political. Down on the border, children are being separated from their parents. In Mississippi, they just proposed a law that will allow teachers to harass transgender students in school. The gay and trans panic defense is still used successfully in murder cases. The Department of Education refuses to even process a discrimination complaint from a transgender student.
Are you OK with that? If so, that’s a very political stance to take. Tacit approval is still approval.
If you are someone who thinks LGBTQ discrimination ended with Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, then this message is for you. And if it makes you uncomfortable, good.
Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com.