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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Testimony Delivered By Carrie Davis

Gender Identity Project Counselor Speaks Out on Int. No. 24

I'd like to take a few minutes today to speak to the NY City Council as an advocate for our communities through my role as a counselor at the Gender Identity Project at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center. I am also speaking in my role as a founding director for the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA) and a director for the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE). But, most importantly, today I am speaking as a woman of transexual experience.

Many people feel it is their privilege to judge me on my appearance. Like most trans-people, my body seems to be a political act. This not because of my sexual orientation. This is because of the way I look and because of who I am seen as.

In this process I have struggled to maintain my identity. Because of that process, I have been denied jobs. I have been denied housing. I have been denied services. I have been harassed and abused. I have been beaten and raped, and I have had my children taken from me.

Everyday I work with organizations that process statistics. These indicate that almost 2/3rds of all trans-people are victims of discrimination and that trans-people may be 15 times more likely to be murdered than non-trans-people. Yet the random hardship, terror and violence that many trans-people experience on a daily basis, is also used against our communities. It is used to routinely deny transgender-identified individuals jobs, services, benefits, schooling and housing.

Still, I consider myself fortunate to be able to be here today. Through my work I am required to be a spokes-trans of some sort. It has become my job to be an "out" woman of transexual experience. But when I am beaten and raped by someone who cannot accept the fact that he is attracted to me; or when I am
hosed down with water on the street by youths washing their car; or when I am confronted, pushed and shoved by men wandering the streets on a Saturday night; or surrounded and shouted at by 20 people on the A train; at those moments, my status as a counselor and spokesperson offers no protection. At those moments I am not being attacked and abused because of my sexual orientation. At those moments, I am subjected to that terror because of the way I look and because of who I am seen as.

When, for nearly two years, I was denied countless job interviews, or housing by real estate agents, it was not because of my sexual orientation. Instead I was refused these basic and necessary accommodations because of the way I look and because of who I am seen as.

And when I am denied physical access to my two children, I am not being denied this simple and basic parental right because it is in my children's best interest. I don't endure this loss because of my sexual orientation. I have had my children taken from me because of the way I look and because of who I am seen as.

That part of me that contributes and nurtures is continually erased and obstructed. Still, I cannot see how it is in anyone's best interest that the complex components that make me who I am are suppressed and obscured by a society that prefers more simple oppressions and expressions. And I cannot see how it is in anyone's best interest to deny that transgender employees, lovers, spouses, and parents exist. And none of this will, in fact, erase the reality that we, as trans-people do exist, that we cannot be erased and that we can touch and can affect those around us.

Still, the result is plain and obvious to those that look and are willing to listen. The politics of attraction and power will always obscure the situations of those that cannot afford to, or are unable to speak for themselves.

And so I, and my brothers and sisters, have lost most of the privilege that our culture claims we are all entitled to. Instead we have learned to be afraid to change jobs, to fall in love, to take the subway, to go into different neighborhoods, to walk to the store and to go to the emergency room. And this fear is not because of our sexual orientation. We are afraid because of the way we look and because of who we are seen as. We are afraid because we are seen, and identified, as trans-people.

It is time to take steps to end this oppression. The legislation being discussed today is a first step in a long journey toward social and economic justice for the trans and gender-different communities. Remember, as Lillian Smith wrote:

"Our right to be different is, in a deep sense, the most precious right we human beings have."

Thank you

Carrie Davis
Counselor, the Gender Identity Project (GIP)

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