Just a few years ago, I probably wouldn’t be saying this. I know I wouldn’t. But as I look out from my window, I’m seeing a different Community in St. Louis than I did just a year ago. Last year at this time, ‘Maine’ was a huge issue to Marriage Equality for the local gay and lesbian community here, much as the anti-discrimination policy in Kalamazoo, Michigan was to me. The James Byrd-Matthew Sheppard Hate Crime Bill Law was seen as a huge deterrent to hate crimes despite a state version already here on the books in Missouri. I saw it just a bit more, a nuance not seen by the “L’s & G’s”, that being Transgender individuals being recognized and protected as people by the Federal government. Real huge.
In the last year, I have traveled to a variety of Trans* and LGBT* Conferences across the U.S., Lobby Days, both state and national, even prowled to Kansas City in the auto several times. In fact, I have traveled farther in the last year than I did in the last ten years of my career in the aerospace industry, during which career I had previously traveled coast-to-coast and back again several times, and everywhere else in between. What most people don’t realize is that I left the Community in very late 2006, said I was burnt out and needed to take a Sabbatical. Which I did, to transition and so I hid for two years. And when I did come back, there was something different in the view.
What I have seen since I came back into the Community, is a strong, dedicated group of individuals and organizations working on ways to bring Equality. No, we are not working on the same things, heaven forbid, we all have our personal priorities. How possibly could anything thing get done, without a little bit of drama? I see a group leading the charge on Marriage Equality. I am working on Trans* Issues. I see a group working on Anti-Violence. I am working on Trans* Issues. IBID. But that sounding a bit unfair, I do work on Community issues, working with other groups and individuals. As they work with me on Trans* Issues. We got Gender Identity/Expression added to the City of St Louis’ Non-Discrimination Policy. That took a bit of teamwork. You know, ‘Unity.’
As I have said many times unabashedly, I am annoying and underfoot. That’s how I work. I’m the Trans lady that started yelling ‘ENDA’ while most everyone else was yelling ‘Remember the Maine.’ They yelled louder, well, so did I! But what I see now is the St Louis regional Community working their way down the Road Called Equality. I challenged Pride St Louis to make PrideFest 2010 even more inclusive to the Trans* Community than it already was, and they took it, made some changes, rolled it up in a nice package and handed the challenge right back to me. Uh. Okay. And PrideFest reflected that in the number of Trans* individuals that turned out in record numbers. I got emails from “L’s & G’s” stating they had never seen so many Trans* individuals at PrideFest. Unity.
And as I go through the ‘Events’ listings on FaceBook, I see all kinds of Community and Equality projects. I see events for Marriage Equality, Repeal of DADT, fundraising for youth, for HIV education, for Equality organizations, to help a specific person, to counter-protest Hate. And I see all sorts of people working these things. And the people are the LGBTIQA*. No longer is it just entertainment, but instead, social justice for all. Wow. Unity. Yes, we have our issues, we have our drama. But could we live together without it?
Oh yeah, do you know the word ‘Unity’ is embedded in the word ‘Community?’
Robyn Carolyn Montague