âWhat shocked me working at the National Center for Transgender EqualityâŠwas the sheer level of discrimination out there,â maintains the groupâs former Deputy Director Simon Aronoff. âNot letting [transgender] employees use the restroomsâŠor just blatantly firing them; extreme harassment, police brutalityâŠThe discrimination and oppression out thereâŠis just really intense.â
Having left NCTE to do public interest communication, Aronoff maintains, âParticularly for trans folks, communications need to take a leading role, because for us, a really basic battle is public education, public awareness around what our lives are like and what kind of discrimination we face. Those are stories that need to get out thereâŠand more of us need to be comfortable telling these stories in clear and compelling ways.â
Aronoff recently joined Renna Communications, as Vice President to the small, lesbian-owned media relations and communications firm, which works primarily with non-profits and foundations serving LGBT and womenâs communities.
âThe mission of the firm really fits with my own personal values around using communications as an advocacy tool,â Aronoff explains. âWe take clients selectively, ones thatâŠmove the issues of the LGBT community forward or the issues of feminism forward.â
Aronoff has served on the boards of both San Franciscoâs Transgender Law Center and the National Stonewall Democrats. He encourages other activists, âYou can use the media to advance whatever campaign youâre working on.â
âThrough the ENDA debacle we saw the vast majority of our community supported inclusive legislation and vowed to continue the fight to get that legislation back on the right track,â Aronoff maintains. But he recognizes that wasnât true across the board.
âThe further you are from experiencing some kind of oppression or discrimination, the harder it isâŠto recognize. Some of the more conservative voices in our community donât want to accept their own past. They took a really a historical stance on where trans people have been in LGBT communities. They really wanted to divorce the gender from the sexual orientation issue. But the fact of the mater is that being gay or lesbian is transgressing gender norms. The discriminationâŠnon conforming gays and lesbians face [is] gender identity discrimination, itâs not sexual identification discrimination.â
Those kinds of internal attacks are difficult to address, but Aronoff believes, âIt comes back to the need for public education, even within our own communities.â
A Smith College graduate, Aronoff contends he has no regrets about attending an all womenâs school. âI live and breathe LGBT advocacy. Iâm out in every which way you can be. If that had not been my nature and if I had wanted to do other types of work where being out was problematic then having a degree from Smith would have been a challenge.â
âI really value having womenâs institutions [and support] the right of trans women to attend sex segregated schools,â Aronoff asserts. He worked with Smith to develop their policies around trans students, eventually settling on the idea of Smith as a single sex institution with students representing a diversity of gender expressions.
When it comes to trans masculine students, Aronoff suggests, âYou have to be your own kind of judge, in terms of âIs my gender identity such that Iâm comfortable in this space and I donât feel that Iâm being disrespectful of the space that is women or female-identified?ââ
After transitioning from female to male and receiving testosterone shots for seven years, Aronoff made the decision to stop his hormone treatments, because âthe cumulative effects of testosterone were pushing my gender expressionâmy physical manifestation of masculinityâpast the point where I was comfortable with it,â he explains. âStopping testosterone has reversed that to a degree where Iâm more comfortable in my body.â
Trans author Jacob Anderson-Minshall co-writes the Blind Eye mystery series with his wife.