I will admit listening to President-elect Barack Obama's victory speech and getting a little tearful. It was moving, powerful and optimistic. He stayed true to his overarching message of Hope, and a hope that for many in the transgender community had all but flickered out. I will also admit that I did not vote for him - or any presidential candidate this year - as I have adopted the philosophy that I will not support "promise" only "deed". To that end, I did not find where he had acted on our behalf - with the only exception of the inclusive Matthew Shepard Act.
His stated belief of one man/one woman for marriage - while supporting a "separate but equal" process for gays and lesbians - gave me pause. Just as his reasoning behind that position citing his Faith. This is not a commentary about his former paster, Rev. Jeremiah Wright as I understood and appreciated the fiery minister's declaration of "God Damn America". But his church was not Open and Affirming - the United Church of Christ's formal declaration of embracing LGB and T souls in the congregation. Indeed, Rev. Wright held some views that could be termed homophobic. I've yet to encounter the homophobe who miraculously embraced transgenders.
So I offer up this message to the pending President. You said "Yes We Can". Will you? Yes, we do have Hopes. Our hope is for passage of the Matthew Shepard Act so that we may be safer in our lives. Our hope is for passage of an inclusive ENDA so that we may provide for ourselves and our families. Our hope is for abandonment of the Read I.D. Act so that we may maintain full citizenship rights in this Land of the Free. Our hope is for proper medical insurance coverage and mental health reform so that we may obtain affordable, appropriate physical and emotional care. Our hope is for a leader and a government that honors our dignity, respects our authenticity and desires our talents.
Sorry to say, I won't be holding my breath. First, there are many Democrats still around from the early, heady days of the Clinton presidency. Shortly after assuming office, the Clinton administration, with a Democratically controlled House and Senate, obligingly embarked on a number of liberally minded intiatives - some with some success and some with utter disastrous results. Remember "Hillary's Health Care Plan"? In two short years, the GOP overwhelmed the balance in Congress and we have been paying for that ever since. Until today. It would be politically appropriate for President Obama and the new Congress to adopt a "go slow" approach for some issues. But one of those issues is likely to be Our Hopes.
Second, election results in California, Colorado, Florida, Arizona and some local fights, show that LGB and T issues may still be a bit politically toxic to touch. Thus, there is an additional reason to, perhaps push Our Hopes to the back burner for awhile. And I fully expect the bulk of LGB issues to predominate whatever efforts that are undertaken - specifically the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (thank you Mr. Clinton!) and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (again, thanks Bill). After the ENDA betrayal in 2007, you think Our Hopes will even remain on the back burner - or, once again, get shoved under the bus?
I will remain hopeful, for a loss of hope leads to despair. But I will be realistic in my expectations as well, for hope that is betrayed is even worse. The next step will be action, not the offer of more "hope". Yes you can...now Do.