From submitted testimony to RI Senate Judiciary
In the last ten years or so, I have come to know many transgender individuals — people who understand deeply that they were assigned the wrong gender at birth — and I am both honored and humbled to say so. Beyond the friendships I now enjoy, knowing these folks has been a learning experience for me, broadening my understanding of the world and the ways people live their lives.
I’ve learned about the practical aspects: the ways people transition, the ways they get on with life afterwards. The stories are amazing, wonderful and terrifying, and my hat is off to anyone courageous enough to undertake such a profound journey. If this is not something you’ve ever thought of, you can scarcely imagine what it takes to change one’s gender.
Myths abound. The whole community is cloaked in a sexuality that makes many among us uncomfortable. But the reality is that this has very little to do with sexuality. It is much more basic — more fundamental — than that. Still, we think of drag queens, or we don’t think about it at all. We think of them as just that: Them.
The fact is, they are just like anyone else. My transgender friends and colleagues wish for nothing more than to be able to live their lives in peace, to be who they really are. But every day, so many transgender people face harassment the likes of which the rest of us cannot imagine, just for being who they are… for living their lives honestly.
For many, this has been a lifelong struggle, often keeping their true identity a secret to avoid being ridiculed, rejected, assaulted, or worse. And still they do it. They have to. More than one person has said to me, “It was either transition or kill myself.”
The first time I encountered someone whose gender was unclear to me, I wondered what to do or say, or even think. Truth is, I had never really given it much thought. But that was a long time ago, and I have learned a lot since then. Now I realize that, first of all, it doesn’t matter what I think – it is none of my business! Second, if I really want to know something, I can just ask. And because I am asking in a respectful way, coming from a desire to know who they are, no one has ever been offended by my inquiry. Just the opposite; I’m likely to encounter a warm, appreciative and welcoming response. So I am an ally, and proudly so.
My heart breaks to hear stories of hate crimes committed against transpeople. Personally, I think that if the world were made up of trans men and women, it would be a lovely place.
So who cares whether you understand it? It is entirely possible to respect someone or something even if you don’t completely understand it. And, if you were expected to go through life as the wrong gender, you might appreciate a little respect too. You’d probably also appreciate having the protection of the Hate Crimes bill behind you.
Please, Senate Judiciary Committee, extend this bill to include language that would protect transgender people.
Kim Stowell Providence