‚ÄúI didn‚Äôt just dis a specific member of Congress, right?‚ÄĚ Executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Mara Keisling prods. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not in anyone‚Äôs interest for a particular congressman to hear me call him ‚Äėthe most dangerous person in America.‚Äô
NCTE may be a non-partisan organization, but it so happens, there is one party that has the most to gain from denying trans people rights. And the activist did let a few comments slip about an unnamable Congressman whose anti-immigration policies disrupt transpeople‚Äôs lives.
Keisling transitioned at 40 and quickly became an influential activist, co-chairing the Pennsylvania Gender Rights Coalition, and, in 2003, founding NTCE (www.nctequality.org) to focus on trans issues at a national level. The group‚Äôs lobbying efforts have, at times put Keisling in the hot seat‚ÄĒeven with members of the LGBT community‚ÄĒparticularly when NTCE lobbied against the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) because it didn‚Äôt specifically include protections for transgender people.
Keisling says at NTCE, ‚ÄúWe don‚Äôt think that you can advance one cause by hurting other causes.‚ÄĚ Before this year‚Äôs elections, the D.C. based NTCE released a Voter‚Äôs Guide for trans people. Keisling argues ‚ÄúVoting should be a relatively easy thing that people can do to‚Ä¶anchor themselves to their community, and lessen the alienation that they might feel, [but] unfortunately for trans people, voting gets complicated.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not that we don‚Äôt think trans people should have identification,‚ÄĚ Keisling says. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs that it‚Äôs really hard to have identification. [Identification] has become much harder to have, while at the same time, having appropriate identification is a lot more important.‚ÄĚ
Keisling argues that the advent of post 9/11 identification legislation like the Real ID Act may preclude trans people from living under the radar, and she co-authors workshops called, ‚ÄúThe End of Stealth.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs our contention that it‚Äôs becoming increasingly difficult‚ÄĒif not impossible‚ÄĒto really be stealth.‚ÄĚ
The Real ID Act will require all state‚Äôs licenses to display the same information and that information be gathered into a central database. In an effort to comply with the Act, Keisling says, ‚Äústates are doing stupid things to trans people.‚ÄĚ She says one state sent letters ‚Äúto anyone who‚Äôd changed their gender on their driver‚Äôs license in the last five or 10 years, asking for proof of surgery.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúIn the real world,‚ÄĚ Keisling insists, ‚Äúvery few trans people‚ÄĒeven very few transsexuals‚ÄĒever have genital surgery. Yet we all talk about it as if it is a firm qualification for transdom.‚ÄĚ
Keisling, who identifies as a lesbian, says that trans people share issues with the broader LGB community. In fact, she argues that the administration‚Äôs concern over proper identification stems in part from their response to same-sex marriage. ‚ÄúSuddenly, because of same-sex marriage, the government felt like it had a bigger interest than ever before in knowing who‚Äôs a man and who‚Äôs a woman.‚ÄĚ
Keisling also sees a commonality with drag queens and through NTCE‚Äôs ‚Äú52 Things That You Can Do Locally‚ÄĚ program she‚Äôs urged trans people to work with their local drag community because, ‚Äúthe drag communities in most cities are doing amazing fundraisings ‚Ä¶And they‚Äôre trans. They‚Äôre differently-trans than I am, but they are trans.‚ÄĚ
She‚Äôs on record saying, ‚ÄúWhile we might parse out the differences between gay, bisexual and transgender people, our enemies don‚Äôt. If I am ever a victim of a hate crime, the odds are the person stabbing me 48 times is going to be calling me ‚Äėfaggot.‚Äô‚ÄĚ Furthermore, Keisling says, ‚ÄúEvery trans person who‚Äôs in a relationship, regardless of what their gender is or ever was‚Ä¶they‚Äôre either in a same-sex relationship or in an opposite sex relationships that somebody could claim was a same-sex relationship.‚ÄĚ
Trans writer Jacob Anderson-Minshall can be reached at email@example.com. He co-authors the Blind Eye mystery series which premiers March 2007 with Blind Curves.