We reached out to transgender community members across the United States, to find out what’s in their minds as we head into the midterms.
The direction the country is going is a primary concern, with most concerned that the struggle for transgender rights today is more about holding onto what we have versus seeking new victories.
“My biggest concerns going into these midterms are trying — as hard as we can — to regain some control over at least one of the houses of congress to slow the pace of the attacks on trans people’s rights to exist safely in public,” said one nonbinary person from Delaware when asked what she was most concerned about this election.
They added, “We are scared, and we are angry, and we are right to be.”
“Basic survival for transgender and gender non-conforming people is really the only issue on my mind,” added Jillian Hanlon, a transgender woman from upstate NY. “These are scary times we live in.”
“At this point, my politics are triage – whatever I can do to minimize harm to *any and all* marginalized folks, that’s where my vote goes,” summed up Jane S., a trans woman from Memphis. “Idealism is out the window, because there are no perfect candidates, and we can’t let perfection get in the way of survival
For most asked, the issues were simple, with concerns about passports, health care, and employment amongst the key issues.
“When I think of what issues impact trans people in particular and how they may be shaped by the midterms, I think of… federal judicial appointments, immigration and asylum policies, employment law protections, access to healthcare and insurance coverage for trans related healthcare, and administrative policies and procedures vis-a-vis transition (e.g. passports, TSA, social security),” said Spencer Bergstedt, a trans man living in Washington state.
“Conservatives, especially religious conservatives, have made it clear that they want us to cease existing,” Hanlon added. “Bathroom bills are a back door way to criminalize us. The attacks against trans students by the Department of Education are designed to make it impossible for TGNC youth to exist in the educational environment. The current difficulty in trans and gender non-conforming people in having their passports renewed is an attempt to police our identities. And all are only made possible by a lack of any kind of explicit statutory framework.”
“The attacks on trans [people] serving in the military (how many of us can survive, get a job, and get affirming healthcare), on our ability to be supported and affirmed in public schools, and the broader attacks on our healthcare,” added the aforementioned nonbinary person from Delaware.
“I’m deathly afraid of trans being re-declared a pre-existing condition and for ALL healthcare coverage (even non trans related) being denied once again. And at the most fundamental level, the scant protections we get from Title IX being overruled and erased. The broad attacks on our rights from every angle possible, fueled by the extra-empowered evangelical conservative front are gaining speed, and when more attacks on the federal level succeed, they will be followed by thousands of related attacks on local fronts.”
The makeup of the Supreme Court was weighing heavily on those asked too, given its potential impact.
“Regardless of what happens to Kavanaugh, we’ve lost the Supreme Court. We have an increasingly authoritarian and unchecked Executive branch. Without an independent Legislative branch, all will most certainly be set back decades, if not lost entirely,” said Hanlon.
“I’m disappointed by the rightward lean of the Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeals. The GOP blocked Obama court picks that I considered centrists for political purposes only. It is apparent that they are trying to stack the cards against people they consider rightfully marginalized. Apparently we are ground zero in the culture war.” said Diane Strano, a trans woman in Pennsylvania.
There were also plenty of local and state issues on people’s minds, though many still tied into the broader struggle against the erosion of trans rights.
Elizabeth Toni Clair, a trans woman from Colorado, worried about her state in the wake of Trump administration attacks, and is hoping the state retains a democratic governor.
“For transgender people the state has had it pretty good the past few years going back to Governor Bill Ritter who signed 2008 signed the Anti-Discrimination Act and laws that made public accommodations possible. Governor Hickenlooper opted into Medicaid expansion and gave a lot of people access to medical care. The current candidate for Governor, Jared Polis, is an out and open gay man and I can’t say what he will or won’t do for transgender Coloradoans but I’d bet on keeping the blue streak going,” Clair said.
Jenn Dolari, a trans woman from Washintgon, felt similarly about her own state.
“Generally, I’m always concerned about healthcare, given I’m diabetic. However, as a trans woman in Seattle, I’m mostly worried about bathroom bills — anything that really undermines trans rights. We’re lucky in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve got a ton of protections. It’s not perfect, but I’m very, very, very worried about having those protections whittled away.”
One final — and important — thread that many shared: this isn’t solely an issue of transgender rights, but the rights of several groups are a concern going into the midterms.
“We cannot work on any intersectional issues if we do not exist. And yet reproductive freedom IS bodily agency – the freedom to transition. Economic and racial justice also affect our ability to exist, especially for people of color,” said Hanlon.
Riley Johnson, a trans man from Florida, summed it up this way, “I live in a place of privilege as a white, straight-seeming, male-seeming person, but I know many among us are not as lucky. Trans women, nonbinary folks, and basically anyone who is a POC, immigrant, or Muslim have much more at stake. I feel like my job as a privileged person is to fight tooth and nail alongside those who are under attack in a deeper way.”