The Fight for Trans Justice at the Texas Capitol and Around the Country
Even as a new crop of anti-trans bills move forward, there is no doubt we will win the fight for trans justice in the long run.
Across the country state legislatures are using their limited resources to double down on their attacks against the trans community. Leading the way this spring is Texas where Senate Bill 6 (“SB6”) has passed the Senate and is now pending in the House.
The bill, a carbon copy of many of the most egregious parts of North Carolina’s infamous House Bill 2, bars transgender individuals from using restrooms and other single-sex spaces that match who we are and prevents localities from extending comprehensive non-discrimination protections to trans individuals.
Opposed by thousands of leaders across Texas, the business community, the sports community, and fair-minded people throughout the state and across the country, the bill nonetheless is gaining traction.
Like so many of these measures it is animated by a powerful few who propagate lies about transgender individuals and systematically work to place trans lives at risk by attempting to erase the very core of who we are as human beings. By so doing, these bills and the conversations around them send the horrible, dangerous and untrue message to young trans people that they are not worthy of living safe and healthy lives. These bills also send the message to trans people and to the people who might hurt us that our bodies and existence pose a threat to others. With the bodies of trans people already precariously situated because of individually-perpetrated and systemically enforced violence, these messages risk lives — most acutely, the lives of trans women and femmes of color who face epidemic rates of murder, HIV, and incarceration.
These attacks are cruel. They are dangerous. They must stop.
But even in the face of these cruel attacks, so many brilliant and beautiful transgender Texans and allies continue to rise up and fight back.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to travel to Austin for All In for Equality Day at the Capitol. Over a thousand of people showed up to the steps of the exquisite Capitol building — a building so deceptively beautiful that for a moment you can forget some of the horrible things that go inside its walls. Those who stood proudly together came to make clear to their state’s lawmakers that they would not stand for any piece of legislation targeting the LGBTQ community.
Fierce activists took the podium to speak their truth to the powerful lawmakers who seek to have them silenced. Tony-Award winning actress, former Grey’s Anatomy star and LGBTQ activist, Sara Ramirez, flew in to show support for the amazing organizers. She opened her remarks with a selection from “You Have More Friends Than you Know,” a song by Mervyn Warren & Jeff Marx.
On the hot steps, before the beautiful crowd, she brought us all to tears:
“We feel, we hear/ Your pain, your fear/ But we’re here to say/ Who you are is ok/ And you don’t have to go through this on your own/ You’re not alone/ You have more friends than you know.”
She then spoke about being a bisexual, Mexican-Irish American, immigrant, woman of color and her dedication to stand in solidarity with her trans family facing attacks in Texas and across the country. In five minutes she brought so much beauty and joy to those steps, it galvanized an already motivated crowd to keep showing love and support for one another and the long fights ahead.
After her remarks, Sara introduced and brought to the podium, the visionary Houston-based Ana Andrea Molina, a trans latina activist who founded Organización Latina de Trans en Texas (OLTT). OLTT works with the trans latina community, providing support, outreach, volunteer opportunities and power building. Molina rallied the crowd with a call for solidarity and resistance in the face of repression. She recalled the principles that led to the founding of the United States — principles of resistance, freedom, and revolution — and urged us to take action to reclaim a country that reflected those principles for all of us.
And later another trans woman of color visionary spoke to the crowd — the Houston-based Black trans woman activist and writer, Monica Roberts. Roberts has long-been a leader of trans advocacy and a documentarian of trans history on her blog, TransGriot. She spoke about Texas’s history of repressing Black votes and attacking those who are seen as different. Her call to us — show up and vote; get rid of the lawmakers who would take away your freedom and your rights, she urged.
It was a day of solidarity, of family, of love. It was a day that stood in stark contrast to everything that SB6 is and represents. From Sara to Ana Andrea to Monica, it was a reminder to all of us that women and femmes of color will be and have always been the leaders of this work. For the rest of us, our job is to support, listen, follow and care for them. The labor can be thankless and draining and it all must be shared and appreciated. When we show up together like yesterday in Texas, it is energizing, powerful and transformative.
There are ten weeks left in Texas’s legislative session and the fight will be relentless. And sadly, this is not the only fight. This week lawmakers in Arkansas may vote an anti-trans criminal bill into law and many other bills are pending across the country. People are dying because of these bills. People are dying because of mass deportations, criminalization of poverty, and excessive policing. People are dying because we take away health care, food assistance, and other life saving programs. People are dying because we teach each other to fear difference instead of to find inspiration from it.
Yet, even in these moments that can feel so hopeless and desperate, those with the least rise up to care for everyone; they rise up to remind us that resistance, collaboration and caretaking will give us a path forward. People like Ana Andrea Molina give their entire lives to helping their communities. People like Monica Roberts work tirelessly so that the Black trans community in Texas and across the country is never forgotten.
As I have said before, lawmakers can take away our rights but they cannot take away our fight. And what I saw today, on those steps in Austin, in the halls of the Capitol, is proof that we will win. There is so much creative, beautiful, energy for our resistance. Sara’s beautiful voice echoes in my heart and I will never stop hearing that perfect refrain: “You’re not alone.”
And it is true — we carry the spirit and strength and path of our ancestors and those who work alongside us today.
Onward, my family. Through whatever the coming months and years may bring, we transform together. You’re not alone.