Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, and the genesis of this period of reflection came about in reaction to the murder of Rita Hester in 1998, a Black transgender woman living in Boston.  Her case was reopened by the Boston Police 2006, but the case is still unsolved.

In 2008 in my hometown of Syracuse, Lateisha Green, a Black transgender woman, was murdered by a shotgun blast to her chest by a man who shouted, “Get the f**k out of here, f**king f*gg*ts.” Everybody in Syracuse knows who that man is. But he is walking free today after a convoluted legal process that finally ended with his acquittal by a jury earlier this year.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” and that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”  As we consider what happened to Rita Hester, Lateisha Green, and too many others, as well as the violence that transgender people face every day in every aspect of their lives, we have to recognize that transgender people are fellow human beings and declare that transgender rights are human rights.

In the course of my campaign I have spoken out against violence toward transgender women, and in particular against Black transgender women who are disproportionately victims of this violence. Today I want to reiterate that those who who commit violence and murder against transgender people should be prosecuted and charged with hate crimes.

Economic violence, as well, needs to be confronted. We must push for the enactment of the Equality Act, which would extend the protections of the Civil Rights Act to sexual orientation and gender identity. The Equality Act passed the House earlier this year. We must push the Senate to pass it as well.

Under my proposal for a community-controlled National Health Service, supportive therapies to help people work through gender dysphoria would be covered.  After thorough evaluations by experienced professionals, including psychologists and psychiatrists, gender-confirming surgery would be covered, as would hormone replacement therapy.  As stated in the Hawkins Healthcare Plan, “the system will respect patients’ individual autonomy, allow medical choice and protect informed consent.” Overall, more research and studies are necessary to shed light on these issues.

So what can we do to spread acceptance of transgender rights as human rights?  I suggest the following:

  • Explain that gender is not a fixed binary, and that every person has the right to live in whatever gender identification they choose.
  • Always stand with the oppressed.  Stand with transgender people, or people who are questioning where they fit on the gender spectrum, and unwaveringly defend them against discrimination, whether in the workplace, on the street, or in public policy.
  • Support a better environment of dialog without deplatforming people with initially conservative attitudes about gender.  We can do a better job of changing people’s ideas through education and dialog. The rapid transformation of public attitudes toward marriage equality shows that this approach works.

The ruling class benefits from division within the working class, and speaking out in favor of the human rights of one group should never be to the exclusion of another.  We can’t have working-class unity without eliminating all forms of discrimination and oppression within our ranks. Fighting transphobia is part of building working-class solidarity.

Howie Hawkins 2020

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