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This Trans Woman Is Marching With a Message


Kristen Browde on the long road that will bring her to this weekend's historic Women's March.

For me, the direct path to this march started in November 2015, when a band of transphobic trolls in Houston managed to overturn that city's antidiscrimination statute. But when, only a few months later, the same brand of radical Christian extremists pulled a legislative sneak attack in North Carolina to pass and quickly sign into law the notorious House Bill 2, the right-wing war on equality plainly had more than registered with me.

As more and more attacks on LGBT equality were launched across the nation, I quickly passed my personal point of no return. The anger that had flared in me with the fear-based lies spread in Houston became white-hot, and the need to fight back was not just plain, it became urgent. It was part of that same visceral reaction, producing an irresistible urge to stand up and raise my voice against something so palpably wrong; staying silent was no longer an option.

I'm a 66-year-old lawyer, someone who's lived with remarkable privilege that persisted even after I came out as transgender. Traveling to Washington, D.C., for the Women's March on Saturday fulfills part of an obligation -- a debt of honor I owe not just to those whose fierce struggles to live out loud paved the way for my coming out, but owed even more to those who now are dealing with the internal struggle every LGBT person knows all too well.

The first time I remember feeling this way was when, during my college years, fellow students mobilized in 1969, '70, and '71 to protest the war in Vietnam. But back then I was thinking as a reporter, an observer rather than a participant. Back then I channeled my understanding of the foolishness that the nation's elected representatives had led us into away from personal expression. My desire was limited to being where the action was so that my reporting would be what I saw rather than an analysis of others' impressions of events. It took 42 years, until 2013, when I finally left the news business to break free from the restraint of public neutrality.

During my years as a reporter, I'd gone to law school. In my spare time, I opened my own practice, and, call me a "social justice warrior," but the line about "changing the world, one case at a time" had stuck with me.

And when I finally admitted, first to myself and later to the world, that I am transgender, I admitted to myself that there was no longer any reason to hold back. Indeed, there was every reason not to.

Thus, like so many others -- hundreds of thousands of others -- I knew I could not sit by quietly and let an unqualified and erratic huckster, elected by a minority of voters and less than 25 percent of the nation, get away with imposing a pseudo-Christian version of Sharia law on the rest of us by claiming that he had a mandate to do so. He and his dominionist fellow travelers have nothing of the kind.

In the original script for the movie Kinky Boots, the character Charlie Price starts from a position of forlorn acceptance of adverse conditions, in the belief that he is powerless to prevent the decline of the factory he inherited from his father. And while there is certainly a similar foreboding that many of us feel when faced with the gloating forces of right-wing thugs who won their unexpected victory last November, I see this moment -- and the Women's March in particular -- as an opportunity to change that feeling. This is a chance to reenergize those who feel hopeless in the face of almost certain difficulties, and most of all to deliver an unmistakable message to Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

That message is simple. When we, the opposition, the majority of this nation, stand together, there is a lot that we can and will do. We are neither going away nor will we be quiet, subservient or compliant with their outrageous and unconstitutional attempts to reshape the United States as a religious kingdom in which kleptocrats can roam free.

So on Saturday January 21, 2017, I march to deliver that message, the same message that we heard in the words of the LGBT heroes of North Carolina who rose up to oust the architects of HB 2: We are not this. We will not stand for this. See you in D.C.

KRISTEN BROWDE is a New York-based attorney.

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