Guest Post: The silent casualties of discrimination, and how you can save a life

Reposted with permission

A letter Mila and Professor Jayna Ponder of Trans-Ponder regarding trans people, broader community, and the issue of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Pay attention, this affects you. You are involved in this and might not even know it!

When you hear the word discrimination, the taste it leaves is bitter and ugly. It is a tactile word that brings visions of ostracism, alienation, or even outright segregation. It is a weapon that is used to silently assault people like us. We are able and willing American workers that are often ejected from the workplace. Mortally wounding our ability to support ourselves and our families, simply for telling the truth about our existence. We who face discrimination include doctors, lawyers, technicians, scientists, professors, and any other skilled profession you can think of. We are relegated to a class of people that is for all intent and purpose banned from having substantial employment, and relegated to a life of poverty. We are denied medical care, even in life threatening situations. We are upstanding Americans suffering every day because of the complicit actions and inactions of government, businesses, and average citizens. Perhaps even you.

It is not enough to reduce nearly half of entire class of people to poverty by failing to grant them legal protection in jobs, but we are routinely mocked, ridiculed, stereotyped and mischaracterized by everyone, from scare mongering political and religious demagogues, to late night talk shows (Conan, Letterman, we’re looking at you in the eyes). This is continued to be perpetuated by indie film makers and festivals and certain LGBT blogs that will use our name as an insult (i.e. Dan Savage). Even the mainstream media aggressively misrepresents the issues of our murders through the tactics of mis-gendering, publicly violating our sensitive medical privacy, dredging up irrelevant personal details, and treating the news of our murders differently than any other. The result of which is used to justify our erasure and to reduce the stories of our death to entertainment shock value.

We are a class of people that tend to attain higher levels of education and yet are run out of even basic jobs that could be filled by high school drop outs. In a country that values hard work, self determination, and success we are denied any of these. Despite our abilities, our intelligence, and our desire for a better life, we are instead in a position where less than half of our community in California are even able to work full time and in fact more than a quarter will not even make $10,000 a year. Those lucky ones that do get stable work will likely be subject to harassment. They’ll put on a brave face to earn the necessities of basic survival and endure denigrating remarks by callous co-workers. They know that if they lose their job, they might not be able to find other employment. They know that because the world sanctions their dismissal and permits business to categorically deny them work, that loss of their job could sentence them to a life of poverty, starvation, and homelessness. Even those homeless are denied access to shelter, because of who they are.

So we are forced to hide and be-ashamed the very impertinence of wanting to live healthy and productive lives makes others uncomfortable. We are pushed away from public view because we are treated as lepers when we show ourselves, unless we are placed as a spectacle for the laughs and jeers of a public that delights in an underclass. A public that feels more comfortable when they can express their disdain for us with their friends at home, secretly passing word that they would never work with “one of those people,” forgetting that “one of those people” is a doctor, scientist, computer programmer, teacher, artist, or any other skilled professional that you can think of. They forget that “one of those people,” is a person, with feelings and needs and goals. They forget that the inventions that they use, they technology they depend on, the games that they play, the books that they have read, were influenced, and even made because of contributions from “one of those people.”

They forget that American Citizens have a promises of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”.

Complicity is doing nothing when our lives are taken through violence, denial of the ability to earn a livelihood, and the trauma to being relegated to life on the streets. How can they stand by as liberty is taken away with public humiliation, fear mongering, and lies, and how can anyone justify these oppressive tactics that strip law abiding American Citizens of the basic tools that are needed to pursue happiness.

Even our education becomes a struggle, as our youth are thrown out of schools “for who we are”, or have to walk past parent protests to enter the classroom. We are shamed, bullied, and outcast by students and teachers alike, until we fade away and disappear. How convenient it is when we just “go away”, even if going away means suicide or living in the gutter. We end up doing both in astounding numbers.

Our fate is often left in the hands of organizations without any representation from the people who are directly affected by the policies and laws that they enact, or fail to enact. These are organizations that declare to speak for us when they address that we exist at all and often lack in even the basic institutional competencies to do so.

We are judged not by who we are as people, or even ‘the content of our character’ but on vague assumptions and blatant ignorance, perpetuated by people who believe that their desire to be comfortable around people “more like themselves” should trump the rights of fellow law abiding Americans citizens to go to work, to live, and to survive.

We are citizens who want only to join the workplace with dignity, so that we can provide for our families. We wish only to share in the same rights that all Americans were promised, regardless of our orientation or gender identity.

Now is your chance to be good neighbors, and stop the silence. Now is your chance to help your fellow law abiding American Citizens be productive members of society. Now is your chance to say to the world “Discrimination is wrong, and I will not stand idly by! I will call my senator and tell them that I think that all people should be treated equally in the workplace, and we support an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.”

This is your chance to do the right thing.


The Transgender American Citizens

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