We Are All At Risk

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TransGriot Note: This op-ed is courtesy of Philadelphia based trans advocate Sharron Cooks, who was our lone African-American trans feminine delegate at the 2016 DNC, and recently participated in the Trans United For Hillary event centered in North Carolina.


The Democratic Party and its leadership as we know it have been devastated by the results of this election term especially the presidency. This is particularly troublesome for people of color, Muslims, people with abilities issues, LGB people and the transgender community. The transgender community of color will be the first and most negatively affected by the 2016 presidential election results because of the discriminatory policies the Republicans plan to implement while in control of our three branches of American government; the presidency, congress and the Supreme Court (if a conservative is appointed). Mike Pence has been hailed as one of the most conservative and anti-lgbT government officials of our time. His views and policies on lgbT issues will strip away any and all progress made for lgbT equality under President Obama’s administration. For transgender individuals this is absolutely terrifying. 

During the Hillary Clinton campaign, I took a visit to North Carolina with Trans United for Hillary (TU4H). TU4H is a political organization that is comprised of Trans activists from various organizations and states from around the country. TU4H organized several events in North Carolina to help support Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party, and oppose Governor Pat McCrory, the sponsor of HB2. House Bill 2 or more formally known as the, “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act,”  is a piece of statewide anti lgbT legislation that grants the state permission to legally discriminate against gay and transgender people in North Carolina and it is in full effect. 

My visit to North Carolina, gave me and others in the Trans community, a glimpse of what is in store for the lgbT community underneath a Trump/ Pence administration, which is the legalization of discrimination against lgbT individuals not only in North Carolina but nationwide. A member of the TU4H team had a first had experience being discriminated against for simply existing. While canvassing for the TU4H campaign, a Trans woman had law enforcement officials called on her not once but twice. The perception of being “Trans,” is all North Carolina residents need when they call law enforcement officials. Luckily, my TU4H team member was not arrested but it was definitely a wake up call for me and many other TU4H team members.

Trans activists from the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Human Rights Campaign and from around the country along with some Trans delegates from the Democratic National Convention were informed about the discrimination our TU4H team members faced and we were instructed not to “post” about it by a TU4H organizer. In essence we were being “silenced” in the face of anti- lgbT protections even though our mission is to advocate for pro- lgbT legislation.

This was most troubling for me for several reasons; first, why would the TU4H and the Democratic Party knowingly send a Trans people in a known conservative county with No Trespassing” signage to canvass (knock on the doors of residents to get them out to vote and to promote the Democratic Party’s platform of inclusion and diversity)? Second, why was our safety being compromised for political gain? Third, why did TU4H organizers ask the team to “remain silent” about two incidents involving the police being called on a Trans woman for simply existing?

All too often, Trans people are exploited and their safety put at risk all for the sake of a human resource such as labor and political capital in this case.

Republican GovernorMcCrory was defeated in North Carolina’s gubernatorial race by Democrat Roy Cooper which gives lgbT people in North Carolina some hope of HB2 being repealed. But is it a victory considering what the Trump/Pence administration has planned?  

 It has been days now since the results of the American presidential campaign and many white LGBT organizations and leaders are at a loss as to which direction they “should” focus on to ensure the protections LGBTQ people,  secured during President Obama’s administration. As a member of the Trans community of color, I am extremely concerned that the rights of Trans people will be the first set of protections to be revoked. It is time for white LGBT leaders to become supportive allies to the Trans community and it’s leadership. It is time for the “old guard” to step aside and listen to those who are facing discrimination on an all too frequent basis, and to help elevate members of the Trans community to lead this battle for equality. Not equality for some, not equality in incremental stages, not equality that only consists of white LGBT run organizations but true equality for all people. 

In Philadelphia, PA we are very fortunate to have lgbT protections but how long will that last under a Trump/Pence administration? Well if it is anything like HB2 in North Carolina, our nation’s LGB and Trans community is in for a world  full of troubles. The Trans community, all too often, has not been a priority when it comes to legal protections and now that we are probably the first in line facing a repeal of any and all rights we have fought for, we are demanding our inclusion in every the stage of the legislative process. #ProtectTransRights 

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