Just the other day I posted on LinkedIn about a story that popped up on my news feed that caused me to experience a rather intense case of déjà vu. The article, from The Washington Post, spoke to how transgender rights have emerged as a growing political “flash point.” As I read the headline, I could feel the knot in my stomach growing larger, and larger. It was happening — again!
The transgender community was being hauled out to be publicly flogged in the town square to the delight of those who seek to undermine, and yes, eradicate our right to equitable and fair treatment in all facets of our lives. Sadly, this has become a tried-and-true tactic because it’s an easy way to score points with a segment of society that is intent on further marginalizing an already maligned and vulnerable group of people that I proudly count myself among.
While the distress and the knot in my stomach may feel the same, its root cause is different. What isn't new is that the transgender community finds itself caught in the middle of a quickly escalating political firestorm. For those of us who lived through the long slog that was ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act), you know exactly what I'm talking about. The name has changed — it’s now called the Equality Act — but it has apparently retained all of the lightning rod properties of its earlier iterations.
What's new — and very disturbing — is that the targets have changed. Now the opposition has taken direct aim on trans kids and trans athletes, many of whom are of middle school and high school ages. An eye-popping 37(!) bills across 20 states have been proposed in state legislatures that would ban transgender girls and women from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity. One such bill has already passed in Idaho, and another was just signed into law by the Republican governor of Mississippi, Tate Reeves. All of which is casting a rather dark and lengthy shadow on the Equality Act — just as it being taken up by the Senate.
The trend line of the opposition’s tactics should be obvious by now. First there were all sorts of invalid arguments about same-sex marriage. When that didn’t work, they moved on to what bathroom a transgender person should, or perhaps more appropriately, should not use. And we all know how that turned out (hint: not well, North Carolina). So now, apparently, they have taken aim at trans athletes because . . . why not? It’s just another example of a false, fear-based narrative whose sole objective is to “engage” a larger number of people to the opposition’s broader anti-LGBTQ agenda.
Will my community ever not be trotted out like the proverbial punching bag by those that fear our very existence in society and attack our right to live our lives authentically at whatever age and on whatever playing field, court, or track we choose? It's beyond tired. It's hate-filled, discriminatory, deeply flawed . . . and it’s an attack on authenticity.
And that is why, among other things, I decided to write my book. And that’s why I think it is right for precisely this moment in time the transgender community finds itself in. I am proud to share my stories with the world in the hope that it can raise up the many in my community that feel they do not have a voice, for they all have a right and a need to be heard.
I learned a long time ago that there is immense power in our personal stories. Stories of triumph over tragedy. Stories of courage, of loss and of renewal. When these stories are multiplied and raised up into the public’s consciousness it creates a collective voice that cannot and will not be ignored.
And it’s this wholly authentic voice that most scares those that seek to oppress the transgender community at this inflection point in the battle for our survival that is the Equality Act.
Stephanie Battaglino (StephanieBattaglino.com) is an internationally recognized author, speaker, workshop presenter, trainer, and workplace diversity & inclusion consultant. Her book, Reflections From Both Sides of the Glass Ceiling: Finding My True Self in Corporate America, is part memoir, part cautionary tale of what it is like to experience a career on both sides of the gender divide – at the intersection of gender identity and gender inequality. Battaglino is also on PFLAG's national board of directors.