Editor's Note: Today's Guest Contributor is the Reverend Donna Tara Lee, a Gainesville Florida out and proud M2F transgender activist.
Back in 1978 the message of Harvey Milk was that if we were out, the public would know us and therefore will not vote against us. The Briggs amendment was overwhelmingly defeated. Now fast forward to 2009. This past year there was a charter amendment fight here in Gainesville, FL. By way of quick background, in January, 2008, Ts were added to the city's civil rights ordinance of protected citizens. The right wing Christian conservatives immediately launched a successful petition drive to put on the ballot charter amendment 1 which effectively through a ruse would have stripped GLBT citizens of their civil rights protection in Gainesville.
At once I joined the group Equality Is Gainesville's Business to ensure defeat of this hateful, regressive measure, and it was defeated. Many gays and lesbians as well as our straght allies made forceful statements against this amendment. We out-organized and out-campaigned the opposition and won overwhelmingly by a vote of 58.33 to 41.67 %. I was very grateful for our victory and was shocked and surprised at our victory party when I was referred to as the heart and soul of Gainesville's transgender community.
As time has passed, I am disheartened by the participation of my fellow Ts. One other T spoke up somewhat and another did some campaigning. Myself, I was in the press, made speeches, did a fundraiser, canvassed, phonebanked and even did a TV interview. And yes I am proud of my work here. However where were my fellow Ts? I am a soon to be 61 year old retired federal employee, private contractor for lawn work and house cleaning and a substitute teacher. And I am OUT. EXTREMELY.
Every time I speak before a political group, be it city commission, lobbying, etc, I introduce myself as a transgender activist. And that's what I am. Now not everyone needs to be or has the temperment to be an activist. However I do believe if we are to gain equality and the acceptance that comes with it, we need to be OUT. Once we are out, the questions are answered. " Oh, he/she/they are Trans." The more people know us, the more they realize we are just like them. We just had to overcome the difficulties of being born the wrong gender.
In my case, I know many folks who are straight or GLBT but not too many Ts. The reason I believe this to be the case is many Ts are afraid to come out. We are where gays were 30-40 years ago. We need to catch up and catch up quickly. How do we do that? Let people get to know us and see we are really just like them. And how do we do that? By being out.