“If I am not for myself, who will be? But if I am only for myself, who am I? And if not now, when? And if not me, who?” — Hillel the Elder.
Every week in my short — and decidedly obscure — career as a blogger, I attempt to make sense in roughly a thousand words or so. Since I have no way of knowing who, if anyone, reads my weekly offering of prose, I cannot be certain what reaction, if any, I am provoking. Is anyone’s mind being nourished by the food for thought I offer? The blog entries I write are as messages placed inside of bottles that are cast upon the tides of cyberspace.
When I began my career as a blogger (the pay is lousy, but the hours are flexible) I did so to apply the means of communication in the hopes of helping to build a trans women’s community. There are particular issues, experiences, and obstacles that are unique to the Transgender community and, more specifically, to trans women. Ours is a decidedly minute segment of the population. And yet the issues which affect the quality of our lives are invariably interconnected with the political, social, and economic circumstances which impact the other 99.9% of the population. The personal is the political, and the sphere of our private lives is invariably affected by what happens in the public sphere.
When you change sex, you automatically become involved in politics.
It is my hope that anyone reading this blog who is eligible to do so is registered to vote on Tuesday, November 2, 2010. For those of you who are legally eligible to vote but have not yet registered, I urge you to do so as soon as possible. Although casting ballots is by no means the only political action which an individual can (or should) undertake, it is a moral and ethical imperative that we vote in the 2010 election. The future of our nation — and the prospects of achieving a more just and humane society — are at stake.
America’s vicious and indefatigable Right wing — flush with abundant corporate campaign financing and dominating the nation’s airwaves — is determined to regain power in the Congress and in state capitals across the U.S. The Right’s agenda — of perpetual militarism, corporate dominance of the economy, disregard for the natural environment, and reversals of gains in health care reform and civil rights — will have dire consequences for our nation as well as for our planet should the Right triumph at the polls. If the Corporatist Right is organized and planning to get out the vote, those of us on the Democratic Left have a moral obligation to counter them in turn.
Indeed, given the influence of corporate power, the very future of our nation’s status as a democracy with representative government is in doubt. Nearing the end of his life, Benjamin Franklin offered this caveat at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention: “You will have a republic…if you can keep it.” We can keep our republic, but only if we participate in the activities that will keep that republic sustainable. To do so, we must inform ourselves of the political issues facing our society.
When I consider this election, I think in particular of three issues which effect the quality of our lives: the economy, health care, the environment, and human rights.
Regarding the latter, as trans people it is crucial to our very survival that we should have recourse to laws which serve to protect us from criminal violence as well as discrimination in employment, education, housing, and other public accommodations. Consequently, it is vitally important that we elect public officials who will advocate for our civil rights.
However, statutes which prohibit employment discrimination are of little relevance if there is no employment available. It is hardly a secret that trans persons tend to live in poverty, and our economic straits are made all the more dire when unemployment is as high as it is at present. Thus, where possible we must vote for candidates who will seek to mitigate the deleterious effects of corporate capitalism.
The health care reform legislation signed into law by President Obama is a proverbial “foot-in-the-door” for the future prospect of establishing universal health insurance coverage for all American citizens, but at present the legislation is far less than what is needed to counter the health care crisis that afflicts American society. Even with this legislation (most of its mandates do not become effective until 2014), millions of Americans remain either uninsured if not under-insured and mal-insured.
Access to quality health care is a crucial issue for that determines the well-being of trans people’s lives, and we must continue to work for a society where health care is a right and not merely an economic privilege. As a Minnesota resident, I will be casting my ballot for gubernatorial and state legislative candidates who have avowed their commitment to establishing a state-wide “public-option” health insurance coverage that would insure all Minnesota residents.
As for myself, I am to the democratic left of the Democratic Party. Though I supported, and voted for, Barack Obama for the presidency two years ago, I have grown dismayed at his conspicuous lack of leadership regarding the peril caused by global warming. Indeed, global warming and the result catastrophe of climate change is not a mere hypothetical possibility for the distant future, but, rather, it is an inconvenient truth — and menace — of our present. Our lives as trans people are difficult enough given our condition — how far more unbearable shall our lives become on a planet that is too hot for humans to survive?
Finally, we must vote to counter the resurgent Right wing. As always, much of the impetus informing the American Right is motivated by status anxiety: their resentment of the traditionally disadvantaged and the fear that in gaining recourse to legal protections as well as social and economic opportunities that this will deprive the erstwhile advantaged groups of their supposed privileges. Hence, the notion that legal recognition of same-sex marriages will somehow undermine and devalue opposite-sex marriage. Indeed, politics that is motivated by homophobia can — and will — just as easily be used to target trans people.
Thus, we must organize for political action, and express our wishes and grievances. When necessary, we must demonstrate and protest. And we must also endeavor within our daily, private lives to change attitudes from fear, bigotry and violence to understanding, tolerance and civility.
We must also vote.