I was reminded this morning: the wheel turns slowly for trans individuals. My legal name has been changed for over five years; yet, for three years I have been wrangling with the Social Security Administration and the IRS to get my name legally changed on tax records. I decided to go up to the Winston-Salem office and, once and for all, get this fixed. Even though I had brought enough documentation (I thought), the clerk rudely informed me that she would be unable to effect the change without a properly amended birth certificate. Great! Stuck in the classic trans Catch 22. No money equals no surgery equals no amended birth certificate equals no money. I can’t afford my surgeries and the fact that the IRS has screwed up my credit by refusing to make the name change has been partially to blame.
We fought. I demanded to see her supervisor and eventually she caved in and agreed to amend my name. Even at that, she couldn’t accomplish it then and there and I left with an assurance that it would be “taken care of.” I should follow up in several weeks. Yeah, sure. The check’s in the mail, yada yada yada.
As I drove home, I daydreamed about what the world might be like for trans persons 20 years hence.
The year is 2030. It’s amazing how much has changed since 2010. The 2008 election saw thousands of new voters who no longer harbored the kind of intolerance so common among their parents and grandparents. The seeds that were planted early in the millennium have truly come to fruition as we approach the middle years of this century.
As has been the case for other minorities, rampant discrimination against trans persons has undergone a radical transformation. Today’s world sees diversity as a boon which nurtures harmony and encourages persons to reach their true potential. How could it be otherwise? If we were all suited for the same thing, it’d be awfully boring and this would be a carbon copy world. There would be no place for creative genius, no room for cutting edge, no growth, merely stagnation. Fortunately, this was not to be the case.
Employment protections for trans people were finally passed in 2013 during the second Obama administration. Leading up to this legislation were several important circuit court decisions that argued for Title VII applicability regarding workplace discrimination related to gender diversity. Even the extremely conservative Fourth Circuit held favorably in Glenn v. Brumby, et al. The plaintiff had been illegally terminated because she was a trans woman and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to step in to overturn the Fourth’s holding.
Workplace adjustments began to increase. Perhaps most significantly, bathroom politics changed. All new construction was in the direction of gender neutral bathrooms; older buildings were adapted gradually. The results were, as many speculated, an increase in bathroom security and no sign of increased predation. Most people now see it as no big deal. We close our stall door, we use the bathroom, we leave. No worries. No problems. Any of us can use any bathroom, so there are no inequities.
The court of public opinion had begun to turn and most Americans thought there were far greater problems (global warming, water pollution, corporate greed) confronting this country than gender politics. After passage of ENDA, that public opinion essentially snowballed and diversity legislation and trans protections began to be seen as a pervasive need toward making good on the American dream.
Legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act eventually made their way to the Supreme Court, which declared the law unconstitutional in 2014. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” fell the next year and marriage equality became a non-issue in 2018 when Congress passed and President Hillary Rodham Clinton signed, the Civil Unions Act. This piece of legislation effectively removed the legal aspects of domestic partnership from the bailiwick of the church and, across the board, made each and every one of these partnerships a civil union. If a couple desired to be married, well, that became a church issue to be decided by the couple and their religious institution. The constitutional mandate of separation of church and state has become more of a reality now as much of the bigotry espoused by neo-fundamentalists has fallen by the wayside. Trans people, as well as gay and lesbian individuals, are free to marry whomever they so choose and all are free to serve in the military.
Perhaps the biggest achievement after workplace equality, however, was the Federal ID Act, which removed the category of sex and/or gender from official documents. Now, a photograph and a retinal scan are all that are needed. Many argued the retinal scan was an abridgement of rights and we are still working on its removal; yet, this system is far preferable to the older one wherein a person could be denied rights or deliberately punished for disparate documentation. This has been applicable for birth certificates, driver’s licenses and ID cards, as well as Social Security documents and passports.
Yes, we still have problems to solve: we have slowed our consumption of petroleum-based products and coal and are doing more to protect our planet, but much remains to be done. Still, the strides we have made toward equal opportunity and guaranteeing all citizens have access to the proverbial “American Dream” are significant, given how frustrating the picture was back in 2010.
Bump! Back to reality: I can dream, can’t I? : :
— Comments and corrections can be sent to email@example.com. To contact Robbi Cohn, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s only because of dreamers that we move ahead. Without dreams life becomes a nightmare to be endured. Dream on sister!
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