Oregonians are fond of saying, “If you don’t like the Oregon weather, wait five minutes,” describing the inconsistencies of the climate in the Pacific Northwest. This mirrors the political climate for trans/gender diverse people in 2017.
It is hard to know whether to feel optimistic or sob, to run at the problems head-on screaming or hide. It is certainly daunting when we look at the situation from the top down, when those who seem to hold the most power are repealing protections and rights. It can create the feeling that we are impotent to do anything to change it.
When we look at what is happening on the Oregon state level, and the local Lane County level, the forecast is a bit more optimistic.
On a local level, Lane County’s Trans*Ponder has been hard at work assisting trans/gender diverse people through changing and challenging times. Trans*Ponder offers direct support services in accessible locations free of charge to the trans/gender diverse community and allies; offers spaces for community to gather and support one another; provides education to the larger community through trainings and events; and provides advocacy in a variety of settings to help remove barriers for trans/gender diverse people to get basic needs met.
Trans*Ponder is a labor of love born out of necessity in 2012, founded and led by trans/gender diverse folks. When Trans*Ponder started, there were no community support groups outside of some insulated student groups, and no trans/gender diverse organizations taking on the education, training and advocacy elements needed to create safer public spaces.
Lane County has shown itself to be more ignorant than hostile to trans concerns for the most part, and since 2015 Trans*Ponder has delivered more than 50 trainings and program evaluations to local agencies and businesses. In 2016 Trans*Ponder gained its 501(c)(3) nonprofit status to expand its services and potential reach. This could not have come at a more timely juncture.
With federal and conservative state attacks on trans/gender diverse people, allied states are pushing back and stepping up to create policies, bills and laws to protect the community. In Oregon, bisexual Gov. Kate Brown signed into law HB 2673a, the first stand-alone transgender bill in Oregon’s history. Oregon has also become the first state to offer a third gender marker — “X” — on state-issued identification, indicating gender non-specified. The Oregon state health plan continues to cover transgender-related health needs. Our state healthcare system is definitely clunky; however, it remains in place.
The federal government continues to remove protections put in place during the last administration for transgender/gender diverse citizens, most notably youth, going so far as to ban us from military service. President Donald Trump has tried to break up with the transgender community on the military’s behalf via a series of tweets (who does that?!). This cavalier and nonchalant approach to discrimination has given permission to conservative states to push anti-transgender legislation through, and in this year already we have seen 16 transgender homicides in the U.S. — ALL trans women of color.
There is “No Pride For Some of Us Without Liberation For All of Us,” says Micah Bazant, transgender artist and social justice activist. This message is essential, and cuts deep across race, class, sexuality, gender identity and ability. It is the most pronounced where these factors intersect. These are the areas where the most work needs to be done to stop dismissing this violence, and it is up to all of us to do it.
Trans*Ponder — started as one person, then two, then four, etc. — served the local community effectively for four years while unfunded, fueled by the hard work and dedication of a few people who saw what needed to be done and committed to doing it. This political climate can be daunting, and the change comes from acting locally.
Trans*Ponder finally has a physical space to centralize our work at 541 Willamette Street, Suite 407a, and continues to fundraise as we aspire to create a gender center to house community projects. Trans*Ponder hosts a minimum of three consistent monthly events with many special events throughout the year. It offers name, gender and ID change logistical/financial support and consolidates verified trans/gender diverse supportive resources. It works with Basic Rights Oregon on the state level as a trans voice in shaping legislation, and it is part of a rapid response network for at-risk youth.
The group works with the school districts, offers advocacy for individuals medically and in the workplace, provides training to local agencies, is developing a Trans Active Fitness Program and continues to develop a people of color advisory board to better support trans people of color in the community.
Now that you see what needs to be done, will you help us do it?
Oblio Stroyman is the executive director of Trans*Ponder. Pronouns: they, them, theirs. You can find Trans*Ponder at the website transponder.community.