Monday’s presidential inauguration was a Good Gay Day. With mentions of Stonewall and gay and lesbian “brothers and sisters” Obama thrilled many in the LGBT community. But not all. There was a conspicuous absence of the “T,” and one little girl really noticed.
Eleven-year-old Sadie Croft is making headlines all over the world due to her letter to President Obama about his omission of a specific name-check for trans Americans.
Said Sadie in the letter (h/t to TransGriot which has a picture of the actual letter itself):
The world would be a better place if everyone had the right to be themselves, including people who have a creative gender identity and expression. Transgender people are not allowed the freedom to do things everyone else does, like go to the doctor, go to school, get a job, and even make friends.
Transgender kids like me are not allowed to go to most schools because the teachers think we are different from everyone else. The schools get afraid of how they will talk with the other kids’ parents, and transgender kids are kept secret or told not to come there anymore. Kids are told not to be friends with transgender kids, which makes us very lonely and sad.
When they grow up, transgender adults have a hard time getting a job because the boss thinks the customers will be scared away. Doctors are afraid of treating transgender patients because they don’t know how to take care of them, and some doctors don’t really want to help them. Transgender patients like me travel to other states to see a good doctor.
It would be a better world if everyone knew that transgender people have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else. We like to make friends and want to go to school. Transgender people want to get good jobs and go to doctors like they are exactly the same. It really isn’t that hard to like transgender people because we are like everyone else.
Sadie socially transitioned in kindergarten and has now left behind home schooling to attend public school. Sadie’s mother told the Huffington Post that while Sadie has indeed faced discrimination and prejudice in her life, she has not let it affect her. Indeed, her mother talks about how she must be on her guard because Sadie will strike up a conversation with everyone, often opening with the line “Hi, I’m Sadie, my favorite color is pink, I’m vegan, and I’m transgender. Who are you?”
Sadie’s extraordinary letter speaks in succinct terms of the state of transgender rights in the US. What’s more, it suggests an issue that is fundamentally a problem in the wider public’s understanding of trans rights: the errant notion that mentioning the gay community covers the trans bracket. It does not. Sexual orientation has, in this sense, nothing to do with gender identity and though the communities are wrapped in the LGBT package, it is not to suggest that catering for one letter automatically helps the other. Where gay rights and transgender rights are concerned there is a divergence that cannot be addressed without careful attention.
And it seems the Obama administration has a fundamental issue to deal with when it comes to transgender rights. The administration has so far declined to issue an executive order that would prevent federal workers from being discriminated against on grounds of sexual orientation and, crucially, gender identity. The precedent is there, and though it certainly would not replace legislative action it would be a tap on the shoulder for state administrations to wake up and see the facts of the discrimination perpetrated against trans people and actually do something about it. But the administration says no. Legislative action should be the focus.
The hard truth is this: House Speaker Boehner has near amnesia as to his previous Job Creation mantra, and he is on record as stating that he wasn’t even aware of the Employment Non Discrimination Act, the legislative remedy that would at last enshrine job protections in federal law for LGBT people. House Republicans are incredibly unlikely to bring the bill to the floor as they have more important things to do: like taking America to the edge of yet another fiscal crisis and trying to repeal Obamacare. Despite overwhelming bipartisan support among the public, ENDA isn’t likely to get the attention it deserves any time soon.
An executive order is a short term, imperfect fix, but it is within easy reach. And yet the administration still demurs.
We might sit here and say Obama doesn’t have time to name check everyone among the Alphabet Soup, as it is sometimes called, and certainly Monday’s inauguration was a day for rhetoric, a day to set out a vision.
Yet in omitting trans people Obama raised doubts whether his administration can truly see the trans community and recognize their plight. The time for words, then, is past. The time for meaningful action is here. Obama must sign the executive order or throw his presidential weight behind ENDA and have it become law. Better yet, he must sign the order and advocate for ENDA with the presidential deportment that won a second term.
Any less and Sadie and millions of children like her will go on believing that they are not worthy of a mention.
Image credit: Thinkstock.