On Sunday we woke up to yet another attempt to undermine our humanity and the humanity of the people we love. This time it was a leaked memo from the Trump administration that seeks to define trans and gender diverse people out of existence.
Earlier this month it was the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court despite the numerous brave women who came forward to tell their stories of the sexual violence he perpetrated against them.
Through these actions, and so many more, this administration and its supporters are sending a clear message: our stories, our experiences, and our lives do not matter to them. And, beyond this—they will actively create and implement laws, policies, and practices to strip us of our humanity every chance they get.
At the core of it, Kavanaugh’s confirmation was less about whether the Senate believed Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. His confirmation sent the painful message that our government, and many of our elected officials and the people who support them, do not care that he sexually assaulted her.
The truth of her story was made irrelevant because her life and experiences as a woman in this country were not valued to begin with.
The Trump administration’s leaked memo that plans to narrowly define gender as an immutable trait defined by genitalia at birth is one more opportunistically-timed attempt to undermine the few federal protections for trans people that we have fought so long for. While the memo itself does not change anything yet, it clearly sent the message that trans and gender diverse people do not deserve to be recognized, let alone protected.
But—as the #WontBeErased hashtag that emerged following the leak so clearly demonstrates—we will not let this administration, or anyone, define our lives for us or determine our worth.
In the midst of all this, it would be easy to focus our attention on maintaining the bare minimum of recognition and safety in the face of erasure and violence. And we do need to continue to strive for these things. But I also hope our resistance includes keeping our standards for how we are treated and our expectations for people in leadership even higher.
We, as individuals and a community, deserve better than this. We deserve to have our lives and our stories not only recognized and believed—but valued and prioritized.
We need people in all places of leadership who not only believe our stories—but also care about our lives. We especially need the people who are making decisions and passing legislation to have a vested interest in protecting our families and our communities.
We are a part of a long legacy of courageous people who embody this kind of leadership. From Anita Hill to Christine Blasey Ford, who spoke their truths at great risk, to all the survivors who have shared their stories because they know that their experiences matter. From Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera who demanded their right to exist, to every trans and gender diverse person who immediately responded to this weekend’s memo with affirmation of the value of lives.
This is the kind of leadership that we need right now—people who will fight for the right of everyone to not only exist, be recognized and be heard, but also to be protected and afforded opportunities to thrive. We see this every day at Pride Foundation—in our grantees, scholars, volunteers, and supporters—and this is the community we are building together.
We all have the opportunity in this moment to collectively support the truth tellers, the survivors, the visionaries—the people whose stories and lives have been devalued, and make sure theirs is the kind of leadership we are elevating.
We also have to send a clear message of our own: our lives have value, our stories are important, our experiences have worth, and our communities matter.
And we will keep sending that message every day with our votes, our organizing, our actions, our dollars, our voices, and our continued hope.
Here are some of articles we have been reading this week that highlight the strength and vision of our communities locally and nationally:
Advocate: Messages of Hope Post-Memo (Ariel Sobel)
New York Times: I Thought Men Might Do Better Than This (Roxane Gay)
Guardian: Americans Urged to Vote “Like Lives Depend On it” (Lauren Gambino)
TruthOut: Right-Wing Fantasies About Gender are Killing Trans People (Dean Spade)
And here are some reflections from our movement partners around Sunday’s leaked memo that are grounding us for our work ahead:
Katie Carter is Pride Foundation’s Acting CEO.