I feel like other people are always noticing the things that I’m supposed to find amazing before I do. I’m from the USA and this has been a year for those kinds of things. Some of them were hard to miss. Our Attorney General spoke openly against discrimination on national television. Our president called on all of our schools to end discrimination in public school bathrooms.
But when the president gave a state of the union speech last year, he mentioned fighting for the rights of “gay, bisexual and transgender” people. That seemed like an obvious thing for a democrat to say. Apparently it wasn’t.
Then this year at the Democratic National Convention a trans woman named Sarah McBride was scheduled to speak. I’d seen her TED talk, so I already knew I liked her, so I was looking forward to seeing her speak. But I didn’t think it was capital I “Important” that she was on the list. Well, apparently she was the first openly trans speaker at a US party convention.
I read about that before I saw her talk. I still couldn’t bring myself to be moved by that fact during her speech. Her discussion of her late husband, and his fight with cancer was moving. Her personal victories and hard work that led her to that stage in the first place was inspiring. I was definitely motivated by her speech, but the fact that she was the first open trans person at such an event was only a tiny part of it.
I think change can be underwhelming after it happens. We think about it a lot, and we talk about it a lot, and then when it happens we ask “what’s next?”
I remember the buzz around the iPhone and the promise of all the things we would be able to do with the Android phone. It was exciting. This was a new frontier that would change computing forever. Smartphones did that, and a lot more we didn’t see coming. But I’m kinda bored with my year old smartphone now, there’s some new bells and whistles on another one I have my eye on. And that’s not because my phone isn’t amazing, or that smartphones didn’t accomplish all that we wanted them to – it’s because it’s a normal part of our lives now.
Which is fine, but as long as we’re underwhelmed by change I think we’re likely to keep being bitter. Some of those accomplishments I talked about above sailed over my head. But they were actually huge. And the fact that they were not really that newsworthy to me is even better! The idea that trans people are taking the freedom to be who we are, and that we are assumed to be people with legitimate needs and legitimate identities is getting so widespread that it’s starting to be obvious to every day people.
So, the next time you’re worried that things are moving too slow and that society is just terrible, remember two things. One, you’re probably at least partially right, and we have a lot of fights to go. But don’t forget the second point. You’ve probably been ignoring the clear evidence that things are suddenly so much better that it’s hard to even notice the trans person on the speaking schedule.
By Michelle Kopp (@saerynk)