Why The "T" Matters to the LGBT Movement More Than Ever

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November 20, 2015
Kevin M. Cathcart

When times get tough in a movement for social justice, some people look for scapegoats or exploit disappointment by trying to divide us from one another. At Lambda Legal, we know this weakens our work, just when we need to grow stronger.

We unequivocally reject the ugly and divisive calls for Lambda Legal and other organizations to stop working on behalf of the rights of people who are transgender. We are one movement commonly seeking the liberty to be our true and full selves, to be free from acts of bias, and to live our lives with dignity.

Throughout LGBT history, transgender people have played a critical role in leading and working toward equality for us all. As early as the Stonewall riots in 1969, transgender people have been principal figures in our common story. We are fighting together for an end to discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation as well as gender identity and expression because these are all forms of prejudice and abuses of power that are rooted in hatred, fear and a lack of understanding of those who are perceived as not conforming to gender stereotypes.

The recent defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance showed us, once again, that it can be easier to frighten people than to inform them. Opponents of trans rights launched a campaign of lies and fear-mongering targeting transgender people and, unfortunately, it worked. A majority voted against basic fairness in Houston. The lesson from this disappointment is not that we should divide and hide, but that we must work harder at visibility, strength and unity.

The LGBT experience is not monolithic. The intersections of sexual orientation, gender, gender expression, class and race all have critical bearing on the lived experiences of each person in our many communities. Our focus is on the shared cause of seeking fairness and dignity. Our job is to actively listen to the transgender as well as the lesbian, gay, bisexual and intersex communities, and to identify how best we can use impact litigation, public policy advocacy and education to serve the needs, concerns and experiences of all these communities as a whole. That is what it means to be part of a movement.

In commemoration of Transgender Day of Remembrance and Resilience, we grieve for the victims and families affected by violence against transgender people, including the many transgender women of color who we have lost in horrific acts of violence.

Each day—but especially today—we also celebrate resilience. Transgender survivors of violence can teach us about strength and hope. In the face of violence and injustice, we stand together to fight back.