In a world in which there’s “nothing new under the sun,” something is, at least as relating to transgender people. In December 2016 the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) released the results of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS). Never before had such a study been conducted with the trans demographic, a study with as much detail and as much response, and unlike any previous survey, the USTS examined the area of political participation. The survey found that much of the time those politicians attempting to represent trans interests in the broader spectrum of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organizations too often miss the mark when it comes to the interests of transpeople. Any political candidate courting transpeople needs to take notice.
The USTS was intended to serve as a follow-up to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) conducted in 2008 with results released in 2011. The former survey had produced impressive results with 6450 trans respondents. The new survey dwarfed the former with 27,715 respondents.1 The new survey examined many areas covered by the former survey and more. One of these extras, “Civic Participation and Policy Priorities,” appears as the last regular section in the USTS.2
Till now, nobody had given much attention to the political makeup of the trans demographic. Many have simply believed that if a person is trans that person must be a staunch Democrat. This stereotype, taking the form of the “No True Scotsman Fallacy,” often manifests in social media and can become the grist for attacks on individuals by transgender trolls.
An example was demonstrative, in a Facebook post which asked transgender respondents, “Why do you hate Caitlyn Jenner so much?” The answers came in with more partisanism than substance, ranking in this order: (1) she’s a Republican, (2) she’s rich, and (3) she got away with murder after a crash on Pacific Coast Highway in 2014 despite authorities having not determined in an investigation that such evidence existed to recommend her being prosecuted for a crime.3 Worse yet, one insisted without actual evidence that she had bought off authorities who would have otherwise prosecuted her when in fact she had simply settled a wrongful death claim out of court, a civil action that operates under different legal rules than criminal prosecution.4
One might think from this level of eagerness to impugn her character that no other trans Republican exists in the public arena. Clearly this isn’t true. Not only do trans Republicans exist, it’s wrong to presume that a transperson must be a Democrat. The statistics make this clear:
“Half (50%) of respondents identified as Democrats, 48% identified as Independents, and 2% identified as Republicans, compared to 27%, 43%, and 27% in the U.S general population, respectively (Figure 18.8).5 Respondents who did not identify as Democrats or Republicans wrote in several political parties and political movements, including Socialist or Democratic Socialist (4%), Green Party (2%), Libertarian (1%), and Anarchist (1%). For comparison with the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll, these respondents are included as Independents in Figure 18.8.”6
While the Democrats had been the major party to reach out to transpeople, we must not ignore that half of transpeople have either felt alienated by Democrats or disagree with them on the grounds of political philosophy. The statistic in this case reveals that Democrats do not have the ideological monopoly on transpeople as often presumed, and that the appeal of the Democratic Party must be earned in each election cycle.
The USTS also examined which way transpeople lean regardless of party affiliation:
“Those who identified as Independents were also asked whether they lean more to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. Overall, 79% in the sample reported that they were Democrats or lean towards the Democratic Party, 4% were Republicans or lean towards the Republican Party and 17% were Independents who do not lean towards the Democratic or Republican parties. This compares to 44% in the U.S. population who are Democrats or lean towards the Democratic Party, 45% who are Republicans or lean towards the Republican Party, and 11% who are Independents and do not lean towards either party (Figure 18.9).7 When asked about their political views, more than half (55%) of the sample described themselves as ‘very liberal,’ 27% selected ‘liberal,’ 15% selected ‘moderate,’ 2% selected ‘conservative,’ and only 1% described themselves as ‘very conservative.’”8
Leanings, of course, are far more volatile than party affiliation. At the time of the survey we saw widespread condemnation of LGBT peoples from the Right who at the time reacted with wrath against the idea of same sex marriage. The Supreme Court ruling in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) occurred on June 26, just prior to the time the USTS opened. The issue of same sex marriage had become an obsession for American debate, marches, and protests on both sides of the issue, a quarrel that ensued well after the decision. The survey took place in a milieu in which the “conventional wisdom” of the time presumed that LGBT interests only consisted of the marriage issue.9
The Republican Party had at this time become the party of Evangelical interests. By the 2016 Republican Convention, with the rise of anti-transgender legislation through so-called “bathroom bills, anti-transgender sentiment would be written in its platform:
“We emphatically support the original, authentic meaning of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. It affirmed that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” That language opened up for girls and women a world of opportunities that had too often been denied to them. That same provision of law is now being used by bureaucrats — and by the current President of the United States — to impose a social and cultural revolution upon the American people by wrongly redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories. Their agenda has nothing to do with individual rights; it has everything to do with power. They are determined to reshape our schools — and our entire society — to fit the mold of an ideology alien to America’s history and traditions. Their edict to the states concerning restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities is at once illegal, dangerous, and ignores privacy issues. We salute the several states which have filed suit against it. “10
Such sentiment had clearly alienated transpeople from the Republican Party. In another year, once Republicans may evolve to something different, then we would see a rapid shift in transgender political leanings, followed by a shift in actual party affiliation.
But the USTS determined something which at this time would have been quite unexpected to many. The issue of same sex marriage proved to be more a gay and lesbian issue than a trans issue. In fact the issues du jour: same sex marriage and military participation fell to the bottom of the list of priorities for respondents:
“One-quarter (25%) reported that violence against transgender people was the top policy priority for them, and more than half (54%) reported that it was one of their top three priorities. Fifteen percent (15%) reported that health insurance coverage was the most important priority for them, and 11% reported that racism was the most important policy priority for them (Table 18.4).”11
Exactly where did same sex marriage fall in this survey? Only 1% and the same turned out to be true for open military service for transpeople. When asked how important marriage recognition is, 55% considered the issue very important, 32% important, and 13% not important compared to violence against transpeople in which 94% of respondents considered the issue very important, 5% important, and 1% not important. Open military service fared worse with 49% of respondents considering the issue very important, 33% important, and 18% not important.12
Clearly, those issues that suffused politics at the time of the USTS were not the issues most salient to transpeople. It’s not hard to see why. While the focus of transpeople had for years been expressed in the International Transgender Day of Remembrance and the Trans Murder Monitoring Project to give a loud voice against the ongoing murders of transpeople in hate crimes, the issues of same sex marriage and open military participation were for transpeople a side show directed by the leaders of the LGBT Alliance, of which transpeople have long been poorly represented.
If, therefore, the LGBT Alliance would remain as a force for change on behalf of transpeople, the platform of those politicians and activists must actively address the reality transpeople face. While same sex marriage may impact the heterosexual marriages of transpeople in states that do not accept us as genuinely heterosexual, and open military participation may allow trans service members to serve without fear of expulsion, these have not been top priorities. Pursuing them is like fishing for sardines while ignoring the tuna.
Even the current legislation in many states directed against use of rest rooms by transpeople miss the point. It never was about the safety of women and children. It was about facilitating religio-political pogroms. Virginia’s bill calling for transpeople to use the rest room according to the assigned sex on original birth certificates amount to a campaign of exposure to those inclined to violence against transpeople and transwomen most particularly, followed by malicious prosecution by those who lie in wait.13
But LGBT representatives have only recently taken broad notice of this aspect with respect to malicious legislation such as has recently been introduced in multiple states. By focusing so heavily upon marriage too many have overlooked the undercurrents of hate crimes that have been perpetrated upon transpeople, the very ones who most often live on the front lines because the facts of our transitions follow us every moment of every day and often mark us as targets of exploitation and abuse.
By no means can such representatives remain silent. When a nation fosters violence through public policy, either these representatives must stand up vigorously against them or stop calling themselves activists and representatives. For those of us who are transpeople, our stance is logical, necessary, and resolute. Time will tell if others in the LGBT Alliance will take this to heart, or show such indifference that the T must go its own way, simply because it has no other choice but to do so.
- James, Sandy E.; Herman, Jody L.; Rankin, Susan; Kiesling, Mara; Mottet, Lisa; and Anafi, Ma’ayan. The Report of the U.S. Transgender Survey, USTS Full Report (December 2016) Web: http://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/usts/USTS%20Full%20Report%20-%20FINAL%201.6.17.pdf . Retrieved December 17, 2016.
- Ibid, p. 231,f.
- (n.a.) CAITLYN JENNER NOT CHARGED With Vehicular Manslaughter or Any Crime (September 30, 2015) Web: TMZ: http://www.tmz.com/2015/09/30/caitlyn-jenner-not-charged-vehicular-manslaughter-car-accident/. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
- Dillon, Nancy. Caitlyn Jenner settles wrongful death suit brought by stepchildren of widow killed in chain reaction car crash (January 28, 2016) Web: New York Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/caitlyn-jenner-settles-wrongful-death-suit-article-1.2512911. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
- James, Herman, Rankin, Kiesling, Mottet, and Anafi, p. 237, reference to Gallup Poll. Party Affiliation (September 9-13, 2015) Web: http://www.gallup.com/poll/15370/party-affiliation.aspx.
- p. 237.
- Ibid, p. 237, 238 with reference to Gallup Poll. Party Affiliation (2015, September 9–13, 2015). Web: http://www.gallup.com/poll/15370/party-affiliation.aspx.
- Ibid, p. 238.
- OBERGEFELL ET AL. v. HODGES, DIRECTOR, OHIO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, ET AL. No. 14–556. (Argued April 28, 2015—Decided June 26, 2015). Web: Supreme Court.Gov: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-556_3204.pdf. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
- Republican Committee and Staff. The Republican Platform of 2016 (2016) Web: GOP Convention: www.gopconvention2016.com. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
- James, Herman, Rankin, Kiesling, Mottet, and Anafi, p. 239.
- p. 239.
- Michaelson, Jay. New Anti-Trans ‘Bathroom Bills’ Could Require Original Birth Certificates to Pee (January 5, 2017) Web: The Daily Beast: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/01/06/new-anti-trans-bathroom-bills-could-require-original-birth-certificates-to-pee.html. Retrieved January 10, 2017.