By D’Anne Witkowski | Guest Editorial
I was in a coffee shop and the song “Safe and Sound” by Capital Cities started playing. I’ve heard it many times and while it’s good, I’ve never paid much attention to it. But I just finished reading Sarah McBride’s memoir “Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality.” In it, this song plays a special role in her relationship with Andrew Cray, the man she would fall in love with. The man she would marry. The man she lost four days after their wedding to cancer.
So the song now makes me think of these two young people finding love in each other, making a life together and the tragedy of that life together being cut so terribly short.
But today “Safe and Sound” took on even more significance because as I was listening to the song I was reading about the Trump administration’s plans to scrap transgender health care protections.
As the Boston Globe so plainly puts it: “The Trump administration says it plans to roll back a rule issued by former President Barack Obama that prevents doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies from discriminating against transgender people.”
This is, of course, terrible, cruel and completely unnecessary. But there’s an added layer of awfulness: one of the people instrumental in crafting the rule protecting trans people was none other than Andrew Cray.
You could say this is a good example of “adding insult to injury,” but such hateful discrimination goes beyond insult. It will, however, lead to injury in that it will harm transgender people, a group so reviled by the Trump administration that every step forward toward freedom and equality under Obama, however small, has been met with hostile pushback.
There’s this idea the so-called religious right has that trans people drive up health care costs with their incessant demands for transition surgery that surgeons are being forced to perform. That was one of the stated reasons behind Trump’s ban on transgender troops: the country can’t afford all these trans troops mooching off the military for health care. Let me just state that 1.) There is nothing the military can’t find money for if they want to and 2.) If a transgender person serves the country by volunteering to risk life and limb, something the vast majority of Americans will never and would never do, then the least we can do is pay for their damn health care needs, transition surgery included.
As McBride points out in her book, people are much more likely to support trans equality if they know a trans person and the number of Americans who know someone has grown a lot in the last few years. But that number is still quite small because the transgender population is quite small. If we have to wait until every American gets to know a trans person before full equality is achieved, we are never going to get there.
Which is why cisgender people need to advocate for trans folks. As anyone who isn’t a cisgender heterosexual white male knows, having to fight for your most basic rights and constantly advocate for your own humanity is “exhausting.”
And unfortunately for transgender Americans, they are the direct target of the most powerful people in the country. It’s not a fair fight by any means, but so long as we have hateful bigots in D.C., trans people are in an especially dangerous position.
Though let me be clear: trans people have always been in danger. While we’ve witnessed some gains in recent years, trans people are at a higher risk of discrimination and violence. Trans women of color are at an especially high risk of physical violence and being murdered.
If you support trans equality, you need to be more than a silent partner. Speak out and stand up for trans people. Want some tips for how to be a good ally? The National Center for Transgender Equality has an excellent guide at transequality.org at gaybe.am/RX.
As Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Putting it another way: Until trans people are safe and sound, nobody is safe and sound.
— D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.