Hartford Unity & Pride Rally: It’s About Being Able To Be Who We Are

Yours truly, The Divine Miss Bri up close and personal at the Unity and Pride Rally in Hartford

On Sunday, June 11, a diverse group of people representing the LGBTQ community and our supporters gathered on the back steps of the state capitol building in Hartford to stand in solidarity with the main rally in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by Hartford Capital City Pride and CLARO (Connecticut Latinas/os Achieving Rights and Opportunities), this rally provided an opportunity to celebrate who we are and find the inspiration to keep up the fight until all of us everywhere have the right to be who we are.

Standing out there in 90 degree heat Sunday

My sign for the rally!

afternoon, we were both one and many. We recognized how fortunate we are to live in Connecticut, where the LGBTQ community enjoys rights and protections that are rare in other states. But we also know that we have to stay vigilant and engaged to assure that no one can take those rights away. We also have an obligation to fight for the rights of those outside of our state, because it’s vital that we all stand together.

Pastor Louis Mitchell, trans man and activist, speaking at the rally.

Sometimes we tend to lose sight of the fact that the rights we enjoy today did not come easy. They did not come without pain, without sacrifice. From the Stonewall Riots  that occurred 48 years ago this month through the horrors of AIDS to today, pioneers stood up and defied the efforts of so-called “normal” society to make us go away. Now it is up to those of us who have benefited from their sacrifices to move forward to continue the momentum.

I confess that this rally shook me out of my comfort zone

Connecticut Lt. Gov. Nancy S. Wyman speaking at the rally

and made me realize what we need to be fighting for. Unlike many members of the trans community, I have had it very easy. I am surrounded by mostly “straight” friends who accept me as me without reservation. It is a level of caring and acceptance that I wish others could experience. And, therein lies the crux of the message from today. It is up to those of us here and now to keep pushing the boundaries so that others can share what we have — love, acceptance and the freedom to be who we are.

Some of the crowd in attendance at the rally

Yes, we are different … and we’re damned proud of it! We’re all different races, genders, religions, sexual orientations. Hell, we’re a freakin’ rainbow of humanity! However, there is one thing we share with other groups, from women to seniors to the poor, and that’s the fight for equality of treatment, and equality of opportunity. Some fights are too big to stand alone when we can be stronger together.

I am still adjusting to the role of an activist, though I’ve really been pretty open

One of our emcees for the rally! Love that hat!

about being a trans woman, because I want people who’ve never met a trans person to understand that we’re not a threat — we don’t sprinkle stuff in their drinks to make them want to change genders, we don’t molest children (or anyone else) and we just want the right to be who we are.

It was inspiring to be a part of today’s rally which featured so many members of the LGBTQ community, including Pastor Louis Mitchell, a trans man I had met before on several occasions and Hartford Commission on LGBT Issues member Kamora Herrington, as well as our Lt. Governor and the Mayor of Hartford.

Another crowd shot from the rally.

For all my brothers and sisters in the community as well as those who support us, I wish you Peace, Love and Strength to carry on the fight in Unity and Pride!

The Divine Miss Bri

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Anti-Transgender Bathroom Laws Need To Be Flushed: Conservative Fears Are A Lot Of Crap

Why is it that conservatives, in particular, automatically fear what they don’t understand and immediately assume the worst without a single shred of evidence to support those fears? Please, tell me, because I’m totally fed up with their absolutely unjustified opposition to transgender students and adults using the bathrooms that correspond to the gender they identify with. Their fears and assumptions are basically crap!

First of all, let’s establish that being transgender isn’t just something we made up. We’re born this way. It’s not a choice. It’s a fact of life. And just because you’ve never experienced what’s it’s like doesn’t mean it’s not real. As Johanna Olson, a physician who specializes in healthcare for transgender youth at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and who was quoted in an article on The Atlantic.com, says that “genitals don’t equal gender.” Plus, gender identity is not necessarily an either/or proposition, but rather “a continuum along which any individual may fall, depending on a variety of factors, including anatomy, chromosomes, hormones and feelings.”

 According to Transexuality.org, transgender youth face an especially tough challenge both at home and at school. In fact, survey results indicate that 75% of transgender youth feel unsafe at school. And it’s not just bullying from fellow students, but also the way they are treated by school officials, from not being allowed to present as the gender they identify with to being forced to use the wrong bathroom for their gender identity and even being excluded from school activities. This causes extreme stress and negatively impacts a transgender student’s ability to learn, to grow as a person and develop the self-confidence to be successful in life.

Again, the Atlantic article states that the federal Office for Victims of Crime reports that transgender individuals face ‘shockingly high’ levels of sexual abuse and assault. Two in five attempt suicide at least once in the course of their lifetimes.”

And it affects more students than you might imagine. For example, The Atlantic article cites a Los Angeles Unified School District survey which found that 0.5 % of students identified as transgender. But while the percentage seems small, it amounts to 3,000 students. That led to California instituting a landmark law prohibiting discrimination against students based on their gender identity. Unfortunately, a lot of states and local school districts ignore the statistics and the damage that can be done. So, the Federal government needed to take action.

During President Obama’s administration, guidance was given to schools that receive federal funding which classified gender identity as protected under Title IX rules. This meant that students should be allowed to use the bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity regardless of the biological sex listed on their birth certificate. Now the Trump administration is leaving the decision to the states and local school districts. And, just like any other civil rights issue, this is the official code for allowing unjustified discrimination.

Why does this matter so much? Because where you live in these United States should not affect your basic human rights, but for transgender people it makes a huge difference. In Connecticut, where I live now, I enjoy the same basic rights and protections as everyone else. And, since I am a transwoman, that includes the right to use the Ladies’ Restroom wherever I go. Guess what happens? Nothing out of the ordinary. I go to answer the call of nature and that’s it! Nobody has ever seemed to notice or care, because there was no reason for it.

Pre-operative transgender individuals have no interest in exposing their genitals to anyone else. In fact, it’s the last thing they want to be reminded of because it’s just damned depressing. Also, the fears of a non-transgender person being assaulted by a transgender individual in a restroom (or anywhere else) are completely baseless. According to the Advocate in an article on Mic.com., There has never been a verifiable reported instance of a trans person harassing a cisgender person, nor have there been any confirmed reports of male predators ‘pretending’ to be transgender to gain access to women’s spaces and commit crimes against them.

Don’t believe it? Consider this excerpt from the article Sexual Assault Misconceptions by the Sexual Assault and Prevention Awareness Center at the University Michigan:

x Misconception

If we allow transgender and gender non-conforming people to use whichever bathroom they feel safest in, sexual assault in bathrooms will increase.

 Truth

This misconception is rooted in the false belief that people who are transgender or gender non-conforming are sexual predators. There is absolutely no evidence of this. There are no statistics that support the idea that LGBT individuals are more likely to commit sexual assault or be sex offenders than heterosexuals or cis-gendered individuals.. In fact, sex offenders are disproportionately likely to be heterosexual cis-gendered men.

And that’s not all! According to an ABC News story, “a coalition of over 200 national, state and local organizations across the U.S. that work with sexual assault and domestic violence survivors are objecting to the justifications given by lawmakers to forbid transgender people from using the bathroom of their choosing.”

Also, according to the coalition in this story, “Over 200 municipalities and 18 states have nondiscrimination laws protecting transgender people’s access to facilities consistent with the gender they live every day. None of those jurisdictions have seen a rise in sexual violence or other public safety issues due to nondiscrimination laws. Assaulting another person in a restroom or changing room remains against the law in every single state.”

Now if you really want some solid statistics involving assaults, try chewing on these for a while:

  • According to Justice department statistics, in 8 out of 10 cases the victim already knows the person who sexually assaulted them.
  • According to a study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality, 64 percent of transgender people will experience sexual assault in their lifetime.

So, if you’re still hung up on forcing transgender students or adults to use a bathroom that’s not consistent with their gender identity, you’re the problem not them. Get over your inexcusable ignorance and prejudices, because you’re on the wrong side of the facts and the future.

On the other hand, if you believe in in equality for everyone, here’s how you can help. Call or write your state legislators, your Congressional representative and your U.S. Senators to express your support for eliminating discrimination based on gender identity for both students and adults. You can also contact a number of groups that support this initiative including:

Freedom for All Americans , the Human Rights Campaign  and GLSEN.

Remember, there is no equality until it applies to everyone!

Let the R.A.I.N. wash away the ignorance and let equality grow!

The Divine Miss Bri

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Inspired to Fight Back

Hi! Welcome to the newest incarnation of my blog. As it has been since I first started it, this blog is a work in progress. While it has been trending toward the political in support of transgender rights, I have been inspired to take the next step and make it an ongoing effort to actually fight for the rights of all who are being threatened by the new government. This applies to everyone who is not able to enjoy the equal rights to which ALL citizens should be entitled.

Today’s Women’s Marches were the catalyst that got me mobilized to really become an activist, so I joined the A.C.L.U. and the H.R.C. in addition to re-thinking my blog and my priorities. As an out and proud transwoman, I have tried to simply be an example that transgender people really are everyday people — we work (if people will hire us), we shop, we laugh, we cry, we pay bills and we pay taxes. Of course, I’ve been fortunate to live in a state that provides the LGBT community more rights than many places. Plus, my friends, mostly theater people, have been very accepting.

However, the election campaigns brought out a very ugly side of America in the anti-women, anti-black, anti-muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric being espoused by candidates and their supporters, especially the Trump camp. Post-election, Trump’s nominees and appointees embody the hard core philosophy of extreme conservatism that marginalizes women, racial/ethnic/religious minorities and members of the LGBTQ community. The key point that emerges is that if we do not band together and fight together for the rights of all, then we will all lose.

While the national demonstrations are hugely important as a statement and as a motivator, the next step is to get involved, as Michael Moore said in addressing the women in D.C., by supporting organizations like the ACLU, HRC, Planned Parenthood and many others. He also cited the phrase most associated with former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill that “all politics is local” in urging all of us to get involved in local politics.

One essential thing that must be stressed is that we do not seek special treatment but rather equality of rights. We simply want to be treated equally and not marginalized because of our gender, skin color, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or anything else.

I have renamed this blog “Raging Against Inequality Now” AKA R.A.I.N., because I hope to rain all over the new government’s efforts to treat us like second class citizens or worse. Over the coming weeks, months and years, I hope to address specific threats / challenges and some options to help deal with them. I invite your comments and suggestions going forward, but please keep them clean and respectful because Karma and I are both bitches! Also, if you like what you read here, please share it with others. The more the merrier and the bigger the impact!

LET THE R.A.I.N. COME DOWN!!!

The Divine Miss Bri

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