Why WE Can’t Wait Either
by Cheryl Courtney-Evans
posted Jan. 17, 2012
Yesterday was the Dr./Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday; it was a national holiday, resulting in celebrations, remembrances, and excerpts from his speeches repeated virtually everywhere in these United States (and some places abroad).
As I listened to the recitation of one of his literary offerings from his “Letters from a Birmingham Jail”, that concerned “Why we can’t wait”, I thought about the lesser known equality promotion Rev. King did for the Gender Non-Conforming (GNC; aka LGBT) community (as we know, he and Coretta both spoke up for us on many occasions), and I couldn’t help but consider how this piece could relate to the transgender community and how still today, too often we still find ourselves at the very bottom of the “totem pole” of society.
So just as Rev. King enumerated the reasons “Why we can’t wait”, I’d like to share with you all the reasons WE as a transgender community can’t wait either…after all, patience is suppose to be a “virtue”, right? Additionally, we’ve also been told by other GNC advocates (most notably [usually] the LGB segment), “Let us get ‘ours’ first, then we’ll address ‘yours’…”, with regards to equality/rights…(yeah, riiiight). The obstacles to “quality of life” are numerous for the transgender community, and for lower income/African American transgenders, standing as we are at the intersection of race and gender discrimination, almost insurmountable…
WE can’t wait, when young transgenders (who come to their realisation of their gender identity at ever younger ages, it seems) find schooling a battlefield of bullying, sometimes to the extent of death, and not finding nearly enough protection/assistance from school authorities (and too many times censure from these people).
WE can’t wait, when we stop to realize that of all demographics, transgender individuals have the shortest life expectancy; few are expected to reach the age of retirement  (that is, IF they find a job to retire from).
When we’re stopped for minor traffic violations, and find that it results in offensive altercations with law enforcement and too many times going to jail, because of the ‘gender marker’ on our driver licenses, WE can’t wait.
WE can’t wait when, as in Atlanta, GA., we find ourselves homeless, yet cannot find shelter because available facilities are trans exclusive or hostile.
WE can’t wait when no matter what our education or capability, we are disallowed employment (making livable wages); that our wages too often must be “supplemented” by commercial sex work (or that is the sole income; no alternative).
WE can’t wait, when too many of our number find that the only way to “stablize” their existence is to become chronically ill and receive government benefits to survive (also decreasing life expectancy; some through the infecting disease, but also due to ‘cultural incompetency’ on the part of health care providers with regards to the transgender community).
We know that when we dress to leave home on any given day, we MUST be “on point” in our appearance, or we stand the very real chance of verbal or physical abuse, by others, and profiling/arrest by police (those who are suppose to be charged with “protecting & serving”), so WE can’t wait.
So…although patience may be a virtue in many cases, many places, WE, the transgender
community, CAN’T wait for tolerance, acceptance and last (but definitely not least) EQUALITY…our very lives depend on it.