A tidal wave?

T-Notes

Almost two years ago, I started assembling a database of items culled off the net. Seventy-five percent of this material is attributable to the painstaking work of archivists over at Transgender News; the other 25 percent comes from a variety of sources: referrals, articles uncovered during research and newsgroups. I’ve tried to arrange the database by major topics and the next step is to cross-reference related items. My original reasoning for creating this database was for use as source material; it always helps to have accurate quotes. Dimensions being so large, this project has now become an editorial behemoth!

One theme is evident: there is an ever-growing tide of trans-related stories getting media coverage. I would estimate over 200 new items per week. Often, more show up in my inbox. This includes politics, legislative and judicial stories, accounts of discrimination, personal anecdotes, education at all levels, the arts and a myriad of other categories.

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I’ve often used the metaphor “court of public opinion” when discussing social change. From what was incredibly slow 10 years regarding coverage of gender issues to what was picking up steam five years ago, has now exhibited major signs of acceleration. The abundance of gender-related media attention is overwhelming. It is likely that many if not most Americans have met at least one gender diverse person. The impressions those encounters create and what people absorb from them and the media are what shape that public opinion.

Recently, the Southern Poverty Law Center published an article on the increase of hate groups. My database concurs. I now have a collection of some 100-plus hate groups as well as 125 people I designate as hate speakers. There are many yet to identify, but I add new entries weekly. Curiously, it seems to be that increased public awareness, as well as the proliferation of legislation proposed all across the country, has ramped up the programs of neo-Christian, so-called family values groups who crusade against their perennial bogeyman, the “homosexual agenda” — which, of course, by the laws of contiguity, includes gender transgression. The modus operandus is typically some variation of the bathroom issue. Evidence collected over the past two years seems to indicate that their campaigns of fear and innuendo are failing.

The ever-increasing wave of media support will eventually help diversity to win out in that court of public opinion. Gender identity inclusive legislation has been passed in the North Dakota Senate and now moves to the North Dakota House. Initiatives are underway in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Maryland although efforts seem to have stalled in Idaho and Utah. There are literally dozens of local jurisdictions working at the local level. Hundreds have already enacted protections. Gainesville, Florida citizens just reaffirmed the city’s gender identity inclusive legislation by a 58-to-42 percent margin. And that was against enormous pressure from local transphobic groups with additional help from outside agitators.

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We are seeing a rapid increase in the number of individuals who have chosen advocacy and/or activism as a personal statement and a raison d’etre. Blogs are mushrooming, as are support groups, and a myriad of gender-focused events. Southern Comfort and Chicago’s Be-all are no longer the only trans-directed conferences. Law schools are more prone to hold legal seminars intended to address trans law and more courts appear to be on the verge of a reexamination of TITLE VII.

As noted above, all this attention is spurring what may be the most down and dirty campaign yet against gender diverse individuals. I’d like to believe that this campaign is futile, since it is remarkably ungrounded in reality. Sadly, hate has it’s own agenda of justification and much education is still needed. Yet, the kind of supportive press we are seeing implies an increase in knowledge and positive movement in that court of public opinion. As this trans-base gels, I suspect that we’ll see some clear trends and indications of where the collective mind has situated itself. And, accurate references will help prevent the kind of revisionism we often see.

— Comments and corrections can be sent to editor@q-notes.com. To contact Robbi Cohn, email robbi_cohn108@yahoo.com.

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