The other day, I asked Alexa to play some music while I cooked dinner. Alexa, with her zany sense of humor, started playing “It’s the End of the World” by R.E.M. The first thing I thought was, “Oh, I know Lenny Bruce. He’s a character on ‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel!’” (If you are out of other things to binge, I do recommend this show. It’s on Amazon Prime. Use your mom’s account, she won’t notice.)
The second thing I thought was, “THAT’S NOT FUNNY ALEXA!!” Because, as we all know, the world does indeed feel like it is ending. The cheeky jokes on Instagram might make you giggle for a second, but I’m sure I’m not alone in the crushing anxiety I feel in my chest every morning. First, we have the ongoing pandemic that is Donald Trump. Then, layer on the Coronavirus pandemic. Then, layer on the racism pandemic (which does, of course, predate Donald Trump). Then, the Supreme Court decided that trans people might actually not deserve to be treated like scum and therefore cannot be fired from their jobs for being trans (yay!).
If you are a straight cis white person, this is a lot to process. If you are not straight, not cis, or not white, there are layers to what any of these world-changing events mean. If you are not straight, not cis, AND not white, you should get free anxiety medication for eternity.
I’m queer, trans, and white so I can only view the world through that cocktail of identities. The Coronavirus changed my life, as it did everyone else’s. I am privileged in having a loving family that would happily take me in whenever I need it. I was able to flee my New York City apartment and move into an East Hampton house with a pool and decent WiFi. The Coronavirus gave me the heebie-jeebies, but I was able to wash my hands, wear a mask, and get on with my job while working from home. While privileged, I am also a somewhat decent human being, so I can’t help but wonder about all of the trans people who didn’t have a place to go. If they are lucky enough to have their own apartment, they were stuck there. If they, like so many trans youth, were kicked out of their parents’ house for being trans, where did they go? The homeless trans youth don’t get to wash their hands after touching a doorknob. They don’t get to social distance or go pick up a mask or sew one for themselves out of clean materials. If they get sick, they most likely don’t have health care and can’t expect their parents to pick up the tab. Being trans means every way the world is changing has a special added complication.
As a white trans person, it is also my responsibility to take steps to dismantle white supremacy. When George Floyd was murdered by police officers, protests were organized in Minneapolis and spread to the rest of the country and the world. I talked to my relatives, who were against the murder but also against the looting. I tried my best to educate them that they should actually be more outraged by the murder and the looting should be seen as an unfortunate side effect of justified anger. I also pointed out that Black Lives Matter has been protesting for years, and they had never once brought the topic up for conversation until the looting started. They did not have a response for that. As a trans person, I see it as an integral part of my identity to support the movements of racial minorities, as I myself am a minority. I will not claim to understand the struggle of being a Black person, but I do know that the trans women of color at the Stonewall Riots paved the way for me to have a life that I consider worth living. Nobody was talking about trans rights until they said “fuck this” and threw some stones. Is it unfortunate that some glass was broken? Sure, whatever. It’s much more worrisome that trans lives were, and still are, at risk — particularly trans women of color. That fight is still ongoing, and Black Lives Matter is picking up that fight. The white queer community doesn’t get to pretend it’s not still our fight as well.
While we were walking in protests for Black Lives Matter, wearing masks to protect us from the Coronavirus, the TrumpVirus spread more hate that washing your hands cannot clean away. Trump decided he will try to make it legal for health care providers to deny trans people access to health care. Remember those trans youth I mentioned who already have an impossible time living on the streets with no sinks or masks or safety net to land in? He wants to expand that pool of people so even more trans folks will be at a greater risk.
None of this is okay. None of this is normal.
Then, the Supreme Court hears a case that opens up the possibility to make discrimination based on gender identity illegal for employers. And they take the opportunity to decide that actually that is bullshit. Of course, trans people are not disruptive. Of course, trans people deserve to work. Though it seems impossible due to the whole world-ending thing, the Supreme Court actually decides that trans people should be protected. Suddenly I realize that I’m not the only person worrying about trans youth. The fight at Stonewall never ended and there are still victories.
This Supreme Court decision is amazing for me, though I am pretty sure my New York-based company wouldn’t have fired me based on my gender identity. But I have to keep in mind that my experience is not universal. Not everyone works for a company that cares about social issues. I think back to reading “Stone Butch Blues” and how those beautiful queer people struggled and were beaten, arrested, and raped for wearing the “wrong” clothes. I am so grateful for the generations that came before me. I vow to do my part for the generations that come after me.
In 20 years, we will look back and be confused by how this was ever up for debate. And that decision made me a little curious for what else we can decide as a nation. It made me a little curious about how far the Black Lives Matter protests can go in terms of changing people’s minds about how discrimination and racism is bullshit.
Despite the step forward that we took with the Supreme Court ruling, it sure f*cking feels like the end of the world as we know it. I do not feel fine! But I do feel curious, and as someone’s therapist was quoted as saying on Twitter (where I get all of my mental health tidbits), being curious is enough. Change is happening. And I’m curious how this end could be a beautiful new beginning.