Let’s start with some basic, honest facts: I didn’t start out here. I had to reach this place, and I had to be shown the way.
At the start of this Presidential campaign season, I was an ardent supporter of Dennis Kucinich. The truth is that I still believe in Dennis’ vision, his platform, and his staunch support for real equality in America. None of that has changed. What has changed for me is that I now believe that our best chance for America to get there is with Barack Obama as our President.
It was not a short or easy trip to get here. I’m not someone who trusts politicians easily, no matter what platform they run on or which party they happen to represent. We’ve all heard politicians speak of change before, just as we’re hearing it now, and we’ve been sorely disappointed when those supportive words and promises were not later backed up with positive action.
I’m a transsexual woman, and over the last few months, I’ve watched the leaderships of both houses of our current US Congress tell me and every other Transgender-American that our right to be protected from discrimination in the workplace through the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, our right to be able to pursue the American Dream like other American citizens, is seen by these people to be expendable and politically inconvenient to fight for.
I’ve heard Congressman Barney Frank, considered by many to be a champion of civil rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, tell me and others like me that even when this election is over, even when we have a new President and a new Congress in office, the Democratic House leadership has already decided that those Americans who look and act differently from that which is considered the norm will be left behind, excluded from ENDA and from the hope of a better tomorrow, in order to better ensure those selfsame rights and opportunities exclusively for those who present themselves to the rest of the world in the same way as straight people do.
I’ve witnessed Congressman Frank take to the floor of the US House of Representatives to tell his colleagues and the American people that those who believe the rights of gender-variant Americans are just as important, just as urgent, and just as worthy of being protected under the law as those of other Americans are being “unrealistic”, and that we’re “living in Oz”. I’ve seen Senator Kennedy, another man who has said he supports equality in the workplace for all Americans in principle, make it publicly known that despite that belief he and his colleagues in the Senate leadership will also turn their backs on us and will validate and endorse Congressman Frank’s view by seeking to pass a version of ENDA which excludes us from its protections.
As time goes on, it’s becoming harder and harder to say exactly who is the real barrier to the dream of an America that offers its blessings of liberty and justice for all: Those who say outright that they stand against protecting our equality under the law, or those who claim to support that goal, but then when actually called upon to stand on principle and stand up for these values, prioritize political convenience over principle and turn their backs on the most persecuted and violently oppressed American citizens in order to make it easier for themselves to offer these rights to wealthier, more populous, and less different-seeming minorities, even though they come at the expense of those Americans who are in need of these protections the most.
This Congress has told us, in no uncertain terms, that while they believe that it’s not acceptable for people like us to be beaten and murdered in hate crimes, if we have to be excluded from being protected from discrimination in the workplace in order to protect those minority groups which offer the Democratic Party more money and more votes than we do, those minority groups whose members look and act more like themselves, they’re OK with that.
I’m not OK with that, and I never will be.
Of the three current frontrunners for the Democratic nomination for President, Senator Hillary Clinton still hasn’t even done so much as address the issue publicly without being directly questioned on it, and even then she equivocated, saying she was concerned about gender-variant Americans being placed in positions of authority. Former Senator John Edwards has proven only marginally better, only stating his support for an ENDA that protects all of us in response to direct questioning, but never discussing it proactively in any public forum that I’m aware of. We need more, and as Americans we deserve more, than just this kind of halfhearted, lukewarm support for our basic civil rights under the law.
Out of these three, only Senator Barack Obama has taken the real high road here, speaking out on these issues on numerous occasions on the campaign trail, as well as coming to our community of his own accord and telling us in a guest blog posting at the Bilerico Project, where I am an Associate Editor, that when he is President he will “…place the weight of my administration behind the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act to outlaw hate crimes and a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act to outlaw workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”.
This is the first time, in all of the nearly eleven years I’ve been living as an out transsexual woman and have been speaking out these issues for almost as long, that I’ve heard someone who has a real chance of becoming our next President say something like that. And honestly, to be blunt, it’s long past time we did.
A “hopemonger”? You bet he is, but it’s more than just that. When I hear Barack Obama say these words, I believe he really means them, that to him these words are more than just the kind of pleasant-sounding but ultimately empty promises we’ve heard so often from politicians like Barney Frank and Ted Kennedy, and even the largest LGBT political lobbying group in the country, the Human Rights Campaign.
I believe that Barack Obama understands, better than any other candidate running, why our inclusion in ENDA is so important to us, and why it’s so important to millions of Americans who believe as we do that these rights must be extended to all Americans now, not years from now or even decades from now, that over 350 American civil rights organizations chose to rise up, speak out, and band together under the banner of United ENDA to say that they too believe that these rights are indeed self-evident, that we really are all created equal.
I believe Barack Obama when he says these things. I believe that to him they are more than simply inspiring words said on the campaign trail, they are promises, and I believe he knows that they are promises which cannot be compromised or watered-down for the sake of political expedience. I believe he understands that these protections are vital to our ability to pursue the American Dream with the very same fervor and success as other Americans, and that he understands that the happiness and even the very lives of real, hardworking American citizens depend on their being kept.
Most of all, I believe that Barack Obama will be the kind of President who makes ensuring the basic civil rights of each and every American citizen and our full participation in the democratic process and this great experiment which is America, a priority for himself and his administration. I believe that by standing up for Barack Obama, every one of us, no matter how much we may seem to differ in some ways from other Americans, are also standing up for ourselves.
For all of these reasons and more, I declare my support and my endorsement of the candidacy of Barack Obama for the Presidency of the United States of America.