Monica Roberts

We're Paying Our Dues- So When Do We Get The Privileges Of Membership In American Society?

Filed By Monica Roberts | April 15, 2010 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: April 15, GLBT issues, Monica Roberts, race, racism, taxes, trans issues

TodayFDR fireside chat.jpg is April 15 as many of you perusing this post are aware of. With the midnight deadline looming to get that check mailed off to the IRS, depending on whether you owe Uncle Sam or are waiting for a nice refund from the Feds, you have mixed emotions about today.

But I'm going to focus on another aspect of taxes. I was driven to ponder it based upon a quote I recently read from an October 12, 1936, speech President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered.

He stated during that Worcester, MA, speech that "'taxes, after all, are the dues we pay for the privilege of membership in an organized society."

Well, if that's the case, to paraphrase FDR, when am I and my African descended trans peeps going to get the privileges of membership in American society for the dues we've been paying into it?

It's been a four decade long battle for transpersons in the United States just to have our humanity acknowledged, and even that is questionable depending on when and what day of the week you take a hard look at it.

For trans people of African descent, we continue to fight a multipronged battle not only just to get that recognition in our own community, but inside the white-dominated GLBT one as well.

There are days I ponder where we are in the overarching scheme of things as African descended trans people in this country and across the African Diaspora and wonder, is it ever going to get better for us?

Tax Day.jpgMy sisters and Latinas are not only paying our federal, state and local taxes, but paying in blood by taking the brunt of the anti trans violence casualties. Unfortunately our sacrifices haven't been translated into significant representation in the leadership ranks of the BTLG organizations that purport to represent trans concerns.

And far too often the political agendas these organizations adopt and pursue don't address our pressing concerns for jobs, jobs, jobs.

When there's money that needs to be raised or melanin is needed for a photo op to show the diversity of the TBLG community, our phones ring off the hook and the e-mails and text messages freely flow.

But let it be a situation in which people need to be hired for leadership in a GLBT organization, testify at a congressional hearing, get invites to the White House or need someone to speak to the media on trans issues, no e-mail or text messages come our way and our phones are silent.

Our taxes paid in many cases have not translated into the political jurisdictions in which we live doing the right thing and passing laws to protect us.

Thanks to the odious tag team of Janice Raymond and Jesse Helms, low-income trans women since the 80's are barred from using the Medicaid/Medicare system our tax dollars help fund to pay for SRS.

I have yet to see passed the ENDA bill that address our most pressing concern as transpeople of color and give me and every transperson residing inside the United States a fair shot at obtaining gainful employment.

We only just witnessed a few months ago the passage and signing by President Obama of the Byrd-Shepard Hate Crimes Act.

And our lives are disrespected, mocked and treated as wedge issues and political footballs by our so called allies and our enemies.

So I ask the question again I posed at the beginning of this post.

We're paying our dues. When do we not only get the privileges of membership in American society enshrined in the Constitution, but a return on our significant investment in it?

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Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | April 15, 2010 10:33 AM

Thank you. I've been saying for years that LGBT Americans have an equal tax burden and an equal or greater scrutiny from law enforcement, yet we have fewer rights than other Americans. In other words, we have all or more of the responsibilities of other citizens in society but not as many rights and privileges. Even in the gay community, trans persons are treated in too many cases as an embarrassment, to be trotted out for entertainment like the drunken uncle at a wedding or to swell protest and petition numbers when it is convenient for them to do so. I can only imagine adding being African American to that already overwhelming burden. When I hear someone who is against civil rights for my community, I tell them I'll shut up when I don't have to pay taxes or follow traffic laws anymore.

I've never quite understood why DC doesnt get the concept of "no taxation without representation". If my money's good enough for them, why isnt my voice?

Some day this country will learn that you have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | April 15, 2010 12:22 PM

Well said. Wish I could be so concise.

Amen Margaret and Sean.

We did fight a war for independence over that very principle. And I believe it's a talking point we need to hammer home.

Conservatives seem to get these issues when framed in fiscal terms.

It's interesting that in a previous article, Davina Kotulski pointed out what makes gay people "unequal" when paying takes is that they can't get married. Where as trans people consider being unequal because we can't get a job. Again we start seeing repealing DOMA as a much higher priority to gay people then passing ENAD. Go figure.

Agreed, Monica. Good point.

It's not all gay people though. Here in Indiana ENDA is a higher priority than repealing DOMA too. I think it can be broken down into "those with employment protections already" and "those without."