In my lifetime -- and I'm only 45 -- I have seen human beings walk on the moon; the first openly gay man elected to public office in America; the fall of the Soviet Union; the first African-American elected (and reelected) president of the United States; the U.S. military open its doors to open service by lesbians, gays, and bisexual people; and now the demise of legalized federal discrimination against same-sex couples.
Today, many are asking what should be the next battle for activists, leaders and even journalists in the LGBT community. I'm asking myself that question -- and another one. Underpinning the idea of priorities for LGBT activism is the question of whether I will actually see full equality for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people in my lifetime.
To that end, one crucial part of the answer to "what's next?" can be found in a cliché Hollywood movie scene involving an all-too-common stereotype:
A lesbian, gay or bi teen runs away from an abusive, oppressive or religiously overzealous home situation to arrive in the big city. She or he is forced to survive by prostituting. Who is the teen's immediate savior on the streets: the person who shows her or him how not to get hurt or killed, or even just stiffed by a john who won't pay? Right out of Central Casting, enter the good-natured, tough, streetwise transgender character (male-to-female, naturally).
Truly a caricature, she is older than said runaway and often of a minority race. She is likely nicknamed after something edible. Fruit, candy, and alcoholic beverages are popular.
But whether she's called Coco, Burgundy or Lollipop, the transgender character in the quintessential runaway film is always there for the kid. Sadly, she usually takes a beating or is killed in the line of self-appointed duty saving the "L," "G" or "B" teen.
But, while only 8 percent of Americans say they know a transgender person, the fact is that transgender children, youths, men and women are everywhere. I'm confident in estimating that at least 99.9 percent of them do not share a nickname with a food or drink. In fact, none of my trans friends fits the Hollywood mold I just described, except in one incredibly significant way: They have always fought alongside lesbian, gay and bi people for our rights when there was no direct benefit to them as transgender people.
Let's celebrate our #DoubleRainbow victories today, tomorrow and all through the summer. This is our Summer of Love. But let's also remember the "T" in "LGBT." The fight for their rights has only begun.
The Colorado Division of Civil Rights did hand an important victory to our transgender siblings this week by mandating that a Colorado school district allow an 8-year-old transgender girl use the girls' restroom. Presumably the ruling will apply to all public schools in the state. Similar cases regarding safe access to gender-segregated facilities are unfolding across the country.
Nevertheless, transgender Americans are still not allowed to serve in the U.S. military. They face discrimination in the workplace, housing and education. In fact, the problem is so insidious that, as the Transgender Legal and Education Defense Fund (TLDEF) puts it, merely showing up at school can invite violence for transgender students.
In the new frontier of the post-DOMA, post-Prop. 8 world, there are two immediate battles that raise the question of wether our community can walk and chew gum at the same time. Of course we can, and we have done so in the past. While we fought for treatment and fairness for people living with HIV/AIDS, we also fought for our basic civil rights.
Now we need to continue to fight for marriage equality in all 50 states. And, naturally, we must pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). I believe the moment is almost at hand when ENDA will be signed into law and marriage equality will prevail across the nation.
Today it almost seems inevitable that employers and states will soon be barred from openly discriminating against individual members of the LGBT community with regard to hiring and marriage, respectively.
But I believe that LGBT journalists, activists and leaders can and must do more to include transgender Americans in our future victories by always asking ourselves a simple question as we do our jobs. That question is this: "Have I included the 'T' in 'LGBT'?"
Revelers march on University Ave. in San Diego's Hillcrest neighborhood in celebration of the United States Supreme Court rulings striking down DOMA and Prop. 8, Thursday, June 27.