Dear President Biden,
Sir, you walk into the White House having been dealt a difficult hand: A pandemic that has killed over 400,000 Americans. An insurrection. A group in Congress who openly thumbed their nose at the concept of American democracy.
You are getting a small taste of what being a transgender American has been like under the leadership of your predecessor.
The last four years for my community and me have been hell, Mr. President. We have been under siege. We have not bowed, but we are weary.
Whenever the previous administration found itself in a tight spot, they used trans Americans as a punching bag. They fought against me and people like me on employment, health care, serving our country, and living our lives as ourselves.
Some of the most targeted among me and mine are what the late trans activist/hero Monica Roberts called “our younglings.” Transgender youth are being kicked around in statehouses across our nation right now.
Kids who want to play sports in their communities, schools and colleges are being told that they can’t by a fleet of paid, professional transphobes. These people rise up claiming to “defend freedom” while they are demeaning somebody’s child to cultivate political power and raise campaign cash.
Those paid, professional transphobes filed a lawsuit in my state, Connecticut, last year. They willfully demeaned and misgendered two high school girls in my state who are Black like me, trans like me, and love to play sports like me. These bullies were supported by your predecessor and his grievous Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. She even went as far as to try to bully thousands of Connecticut kids, cis and trans, because of the transphobic policies the previous administration sought to implement.
I read the news wires and see 17 states trying to put together laws to discriminate against transgender youth In some states, those seeking exclusion go as far as calling loving, affirming parents “child abusers” and caring medical professionals “criminals”.
Earlier this week, I covered hearings on two of these bills in Montana. In March of last year, the neighboring state of Idaho passed a law that would ban transgender student-athletes from competing for their schools, colleges and universities. Thankfully, a federal judge ruled for an injunction of that law.
Yet, the transphobic bullies were at these hearings in force and they would demean and misgender without apology. One of them, the Idaho Republican legislator who introduced the law that Idaho’s governor signed last year, referred to a transgender woman who was a proud student-athlete at the University of Montana as “he,” and did so with clear intent.
Mr. President, you stated that trans rights is “the civil rights issue of our time”. You said throughout last year’s campaign that you will “flat out change” the anti-trans policies of the previous administration. The ban on trans people serving in the nation’s armed forces will be thrown out on “day one”. The protections thrown out by the previous administration will be brought back. You put the Equality Act on the list of policy priorities in the first 100 days of your term.
You know and I know that all of these promises have to go through the process. You still have to deal with the House, the Senate, that person from Kentucky , and that majority right-wing judiciary. Your field of fire is limited when it comes to what state legislators, backed by K-Street transphobes, are trying to do.
Yet, Mr. President, there is one place where I know you can make a serious difference. You have the bully pulpit, and my community needs it.
That bully pulpit can boost a new Secretary of Education to protect, not reject, trans youth. That bully pulpit can call out legislators, officials, and television pundits who consistently demean transgender people to try to scare Americans into supporting discrimination.
That bully pulpit can signal-boost a Raquel Willis, a Kylar Broadus, a Chris Mosier, a Chase Strangio, an Elena Rose Vera. I hope you make it point to invite them and other leaders in our LGBTQ communities into the Oval Office and listen to what they are telling you.
I’d love to hear the bully pulpit speak out against the “malarkey” of people complaining that it’s just “too hard” to remember and respect someone’s pronouns.
In a way, you’ve already gotten off to a good start. As I write this, I see that you have chosen Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine for nomination as an assistant secretary for health within the Department of Health and Human Services . Dr. Levine has shown grit, smarts and heart throughout this pandemic crisis. I’m looking forward to seeing her help shape a real national response to COVID-19.
That’s the bully pulpit at work.
That bully pulpit is needed to send a clear message that when we stand up for every American, across all the spectrums of who we are, that’s what makes America great.
Sir, transgender people have always fought bullies and we shall continue to do so. It would matter a great deal to have the bully pulpit of the president of the United States behind us and behind the greater cause of human rights for all Americans, at all places, and at all times.