How I Got Trans Rights on Bernie Sanders Radar. And You Should, Too.

Bernie Sanders in NYC @ The Town Hall

Bernie Sanders in NYC @ The Town Hall

All I wanted for my birthday this year was two golden tickets, Bernie Sanders was hosting a “Meet & Greet” in NYC. Since May, I’ve had this strategy of using Sanders to get transgender civil rights national attention during the 2016 election. To be honest, I’ve had a lot of failed actions (good ideas, lack of participation) so I never planned for this to actually go anywhere. But I really support Bernie, he seemed like our best chance for equality and like it or not — he’s on an express train to the white house.
So I started Transgender Advocates for Bernie Sanders to ensure we were a part of the political conversation before it was too late and we became forgotten. I wouldn’t understand how important this was until I marched with People for Bernie at NYC Pride.

Even in the age of Caitlyn Jenner, you wouldn’t know being transgender has anything to do with the LGBT community from where I marched. Not one trans flag, except for the Bernie logos. I felt like I was intruding with my morbid sign about my trans female friend being raped in a Westchester male prison around mostly straight, cis people feeling the burn. But after I met some people, we started breaking out into the usual stock Bernie chants: minimum wage, money in politics, free public college. Then Katherine Brezler starts chanting, “Trans lives matter!”

Something that would’ve never happened if my GF and I weren’t there. And it had an impact. This is when I realized the power of a single activist, to change an entire atmosphere.

Over 1,000 People Gather for Bernie

Over 1,000 People Gather for Bernie

But when I entered The Town Hall, I quickly realized I wasn’t going to meet him by chance (or at all.) I came for nothing but a speech. Which would be okay if it wasn’t for the fact that I spent $100 for the tickets alone and promised my contributors that I was coming here with one mission: to talk to Bernie Sanders — directly, about trans rights. So I took out my DSLR and blended with the press effortlessly.
It frightens me how easy it was to get right next to a presidential hopeful without being touched by one security guard. (See below)

People Waiting Outside For Bernie

People Waiting Outside For Bernie

After confronting Senator Sanders on stage, he walked away in a hurry and kind of ignored what I was saying. I was regretting not shutting it down but focused my efforts on making sure he wouldn’t leave this city without knowing my name. So we drilled him 3 more times that day.

By the time we got the Late Night with Colbert, he was practically running away from us. As a supporter, that kind of hurts. But as my girlfriend said, “we’re changing the course of his reality.” And as an activist, that was the most important thing, Bernie knew I was there and wasn’t going away easily.

Just like that, less than 2 weeks later, Bernie Sanders stands alone in tweeting support for trans housing rights. Yes, I get it, he’s always supported LGBT rights. But he’s never really talked about the T specifically, no one does. We literally have different issues, more complex and often dangerous issues. Marriage is the least of our concerns, especially with crippling poverty. The only statement Bernie has ever made about trans people was in an AMA when asked about discrimination in the military, which isn’t really the highlight of transgender liberation.

So where do we go from here? As transgender activist Lourdes Hunter said, “what you call progress … to celebrate and revel in what some call a baby step and it was nothing but a tweet… not a piece of policy, not that he hired 15 trans women of color to run parts of his campaign, not that he stood up against the violence that happens everyday to black trans women…NOPE, a tweet got y’all all excited.” This is a promising step for Sanders. Hell, it’s more than Hillary’s done, she completely ignored #BlackTransLivesMatter activists when confronted.
But we deserve more than 140 characters.

Before you close this tab, take action now:

TWEET: at Bernie Sanders and his press secretary (@SymoneDSanders) with #NoMoreWaiting, attaching a personal story about why trans rights are important
SHARE: the article went from 400 to 1k shares in 2 hours, it’s now over 7K which is more than most of their stories. Our numbers may be small, but we’re connected
DONATE: let’s show Sanders we’re paying attention, when you donate to his campaign make sure you write “transgender civil rights” as your issue of interest
PARTICIPATE: hold all presidential candidates accountable, confront them on the campagin trail, do what you have to: jump on stage, knock shit over, as long as you are heard
MAKE IT VIRAL: reblog on Tumblr, sign up for the thunderclap & never relinquish your power

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

#OccupyWeedStreet & transgender activist. Founder of Trans Port. I'm addicted to science and narrative. Opinionated based on observation and reason. #LITAC

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