Yesterday, I wrote about how nobody from the LGBT community was given time to speak about their personal stories at the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act expansion legislation hearing. In that piece, I published the prepared testimony of trans activist and personal friend Amy Hunter from Kalamazoo.
Amy wasn’t the only one who had prepared to speak but was unable to because not enough time was alotted during the hearing. Six other folks were there to speak, as well. Their testimony wasn’t heard during the hearing but it is now available at the No-T-No-Equality.com website.
The success of the LGBT community in changing the conversation in America about the issues they face, in making marriage equality a reality in a plurality of states, and in getting laws passed from the local level all the way up to the federal level has been largely due to story telling. Not made up stories but real, personal stories. Stories about our neighbors, our loved ones, our coworkers – people with whom we interact each day who often face discrimination and challenges as LGBT citizens that the rest of us are completely unaware of. When the lesbian daughter of a Repbulican Vice-president of the United States is out about her sexuality, a profound transformation in our national worldview has occured.
Stories of transgender people are harder to come by, however. Cultural stigmas against gays, lesbians, and bisexuals like myself have been hard to overcome but trans people face an even higher barrier to acceptance. Even within the LGBT community itself they encounter discrimination and are often not included in the social advances that are made.
That is why these testimonials are so powerful and important. Their stories are essential for moving toward a society that accepts that people with non-traditional gender identities are a reality, that they are not going to go away if we ignore them, and that they are as deserving as anyone else of the full protection of the laws in our American democracy.
I am crossposting one of those testimonials here today. You can read the rest at the No-T-No-Equality.com website and I strongly encourage you to do so. I will also be posting a couple of more over the next couple of days.
Here is Lex Everson’s story:
Hello. My name is Lex Everson and I am a recent college graduate. I went to Western Michigan University, and just a short time ago moved from Kalamazoo to Grand Rapids. In 2009 I volunteered on the One Kalamazoo campaign for our non-discrimination ordinance which gave the same fully inclusive protections covering sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression that the inclusive House Bill 5804 would. After learning through the Kalamazoo community’s success in passing our non-discrimination ordinance that this city was a place where I could be my whole self, where my LGBTQ community was respected as equal citizens who deserve the right to work their hardest at jobs they love without being afraid of losing them because of who they are, that we won’t be denied housing or evicted for reasons that have nothing to do with rent payments or credit scores- I was proud to call Kalamazoo my home. I still look on that city with love, and when I am there, I feel safer.
In the last few weeks I have been asked many times and in varying arenas about my reasons for needing an updated Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act. This has caused me to really look at my own experiences and fears. Because this inclusive modernization looks an awful lot like extra words and hassle when you are reading it, but for the LGBTQ community- it is a promise of safety. Those words will mean that when I rent an apartment or eventually look for a home I know my gender identity or expression are not going to exclude me from the neighborhood where I want to help plant a community garden, or near where I work. It means only my credit score and savings have a say in that decision. It means that the job I hope to be promoted in, so that I can pay back my student loans, so that I can help my family, who has a street named after us in the small farming town of Coloma, that I can count on those paychecks as long as I work hard and earn my way.
I described to my senator, Dave Hildenbrand, when he was considerate enough to call me back to hear what I have to say, that we need this fully inclusive bill, because right now a portion of Michigan’s citizens are living in small pockets of safety, where they can be fully themselves, and so bring their full potential to their work and to our economy, but when you are traveling between cities that have protections for you, or if you live in or dare to move to a place that doesn’t have those structures set up so that you can strive for the prospects and possibilities every American should be able to aim for and hope to achieve, it’s like swimming against the current and hoping when you reach land- that land recognizes you as a person.
This bill is about people. It is about the citizens of our State, and whether they are protected in working to support our beautiful Michigan. Every one of us can pinpoint our location on our hands, and I hope that when I am asked where I am safe in this mitten State, I do not have to pinpoint, I can just hold up my hand, and say, “Michigan is where I am safe.”
[CC image credit: Paradox | Wikimedia Commons]