The beginning of a New Year always seems to be a time of predictions. It's a time when people try to guess what's going to happen over the next 365 days so they can look back at the end of the year to see how right (or wrong) they are. These predictions are often little more than educated guesses and can sometimes seem so outlandish as to be laughable. Still, I think these things sometimes have value.
With that in mind, here's my prediction: 2009 will be the Year of Trans. It will be a year when transpeople are no longer simply be knocking at the door, asking to come through it. Instead, it will be a year when our voices and our energies will emerge full-force to take our rightful place as full partners in Equality. It will be a year when we take major strides to escape the shackles of our traditional role as sorry stepchildren to our GLB brothers and sisters, as freakish curiosities, or as noisy pests. It will be a breakout year unlike any other we've experienced - a year many of us have spent a lifetime to achieve.
It's not as though this surge in presence is a sudden shift. Events have been leading to this point for quite a while. Our visibility socially, in the media, in politics, in schools, in places of worship, in workplaces, and simply as neighbors, friends, and co-workers has been helping to bring our stories and experiences to the forefront for quite a while. But each movement comes to a Tipping Point where it either bursts forward or retreats. I believe that the Tipping Point of the Trans community is happening now.
The signs are all there. The American Medical Association made a significant statement about the nature of trans wellness in July of last year - the full impact has not been felt yet. Corporations are continuing to further workplace policies and benefits to address the needs of their trans employees - that is about to shift gears again as more and more companies remove barriers to wellness care. Mainstream media is beginning to include trans people and characters in roles other than as a victim, a stripper, or a joke - that will continue. Community response to the cast of characters who have been named to update GID in the DSM-V has been unprecedented. Efforts to take away rights that have been granted have been successfully beaten back. After the jolt that ENDA provided in late 2007, last year was a significant one for us. 2009 will be even bigger.
I suppose I should admit that I purposely didn't use the label "Transgender". It's not that I'm uncomfortable with it - that's not it at all. It's just that the typical meaning of that word doesn't really include the broader spectrum of people whose gender-fluid nature might not conform to typical gender stereotypes. There are hundreds of different labels that people use to describe themselves and their unique sense of their gender. Transgender often doesn't really encompass all that so for the purposes of this post know that I'm referring to the broader spectrum of Trans people. We are indeed a community of communities.
While I'm making predictions, here are a few more:
- Who could have imagined even 5 years ago a Federal Hate Crimes law that covered gender identity? That will become a reality.
- There will be several high-profile trans "outing" stories in 2009. The most significant of these will be when a very visible, successful, respected Hollywood-type personality comes out as trans. It will be shocking to many but it will force people to confront questions they rarely if ever ask themselves.
- Many of us are working to ensure that there will be one and only one version of ENDA next time around, and that version will be fully-inclusive. I expect that the hard work will pay off.
- I predict that we will hear the President of the United States actually say the word "transgender" (or some synonym for it) publicly more than once. He will use it on its own - not as simply the last part of GLBT. That will be a big deal.
Of course, predictions are easy to make because you never know what's going to happen and whether they come true or not is often little more than luck. Even if absolutely nothing I've said here comes true in 2009 as more of us come to the forefront our day is coming. I expect to be right on all of these predictions. The only thing that might be off is the timing.
As we continue to push the envelope and more and more of us get involved in general "life" things we'll continue to see things change. We'll continue to see pride replace feelings of shame, guilt and fear as we go about our lives. We'll continue to see recognition of the unique challenges many of us face. And we'll continue to gain friends and allies in this struggle who accept us as valued peers, not as expendable liabilities.
I'm not trying to diminish other significant events that may happen this year. We are living in a time of significant opportunity and many of us have high hopes so there's no need to argue about what's the biggest. However, I'm not willing to admit that our continued emergence as whole, sane, contributing members of society is any less important than anything else.
Changing culture, and that's what we're fundamentally talking about here, takes time. Barriers and prejudices built over generations do not come crashing down in a day. It's a gradual change that happens brick by brick. It's filled with stops and starts, spurts and crashes, victories and defeats. It is a journey fueled by passion, energy, and dedication. Looking at our progress it's not hard to predict that 2009 will be a big year in this journey. It is truly an amazing time to be alive.