Sunday, January 4, 2009
I went to high school in Fredericksburg, Virginia. In the spring of my junior year, my biology teacher asked several of us to go to the Rappahanock River and capture lamprey eels to dissect in class. Catching eels is easy during the spring spawning season. The eels, like salmon, swim upstream in fresh water rivers to lay their eggs. They feed on other fish by attaching their suction like mouth on their prey and chewing. The best place for our hunt was at the damn just west of the city. The eels would gather at the base of the damn until they found the fish ladders to get past the man made obstacle to their spawning migration ensuring the survival of the species. After we got over the initial fear of touching these slimy looking creatures, we simply grabbed the eels and put them in a bucket of water. It was not as bad as it sounds after we go used to it.
What does this have to do with Transgender and Gender non-conforming? I thought you would never ask.
Transgender, Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian people love acronyms. We have GLBT, LGBT, LGBTQ and the list keeps going. I would like to introduce a new acronym to you. It is EELL or Equality through Education, Legislation and Litigation. Like the fresh water eels, equality for Transgender people is an upstream struggle, but it has to be done to ensure Transgender people, as well as all others, gain the civil rights guaranteed to all people by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights of the United States.
Like my lamprey eel hunt when I was a teenager, there are many who find the hunt for Transgender EELL to be uncomfortable. An individual may be shy or may feel they cannot change society. On the surface, it appears to be overwhelming and frightening. People ask how can they change the minds of so many people. To be effective, it is done one person at a time and one day at a time using the (ready for another acronym?) KISS method or "Keep It Simple, Silly."
This is one way how EELL works. Equality Virginia is sponsoring Lobby Day on Tuesday January 27 from 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM. This is your chance to become equal citizens by educating your legislators about Transgender needs and issues so they can legislate fully inclusive bills and we can litigate for our rights. It is really simple and organized even if you have no lobbying experience. You will be teamed with experienced volunteers. You will be briefed on bills and speaking points which are relative to Transgender rights. It will also give you the training, experience and information to educate others about Transgender needs and issues. One person can make a difference.
If you do not live in Virginia, every state has some form of Transgender Equality organization that sponsors a lobby day. We have the National Center for Transgender Education - NCTE at the national level. NCTE's Lobby Day in Washington, DC is on April 26, 27 and 28. NCTE is a very credible organization. They are working towards a fully inclusive ENDA in partnership with The National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce. Both organization are also working on fully inclusive hate crime laws.
In summary, using EELL can be uncomfortable for some people as was capturing lamprey eels in the Rappahanock River. It gets easier every time you use it. Remember, Equality through Education, Legislation and Litigation is a tried and true method for civil rights movements. Focus on one person or one group at a time. In solidarity, Transgender people and Gender non-conforming people will acheive our goals for equal rights.