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Pink Haven Coalition: Working for Trans Liberation (Pt.1)

Understanding the history of bigotry and state-sanctioned violence inflicted upon transgender and gender diverse people in the United States.

By Rev. Laura Randall on June 28, 2024

In Part One of this two part essay, we come to understand the history of anti-transgender sentiment in the United States and the need for organizations like the Pink Haven Coalition to serve as a defender of freedoms for trans and gender expansive people. 

Thirty-eight states currently have anti-transgender legislation on their books—the number of new bills grows daily. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is tracking 522 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in process in several state legislatures, most of them anti-trans laws.

The misinformation and disinformation surrounding these bills—attempting to legislate trans and queer people out of existence—are abhorrent.Because of these laws, trans people in the United States now meet the definition of Internally Displaced People, or IDPs, by the United Nations. Hundreds of thousands of trans people and their families have already fled their homes to safer states, with more than a million considering doing so, according to a recent Data for Progress survey.

Early last year, an organization led by trans activists approached UUSC and asked if we could help trans folx relocate to safer states. 

They saw the work UUSC is doing with congregations in supporting asylum-seekers through the CAPAS program and wondered if UUSC had the networks, infrastructure, and desire to support a different kind of asylum-seeker—ones driven from their U.S.-based homes and communities. 

In this work with trans activists, we are in coalition with other progressive faith organizations, mutual aid groups, and others who are saying, “No, I won’t let this happen, not on my watch.” 

We are working together to create networks of safety and direct support for trans beloveds and their families who need to relocate, access healthcare across state lines, or stay as safe as possible where they are. We decided to call this motley crew the Pink Haven Coalition.

What brought us to this place where trans folks are being scapegoated by the right and states are actively trying to legislate them out of existence? A myriad of factors, to be sure, but one of the most prominent is the rise of fascism and authoritarianism in the United States. The Rev. Jim Foti addresses this phenomenon in his 2023 award-winning Skinner House sermon, “Resisting Tyranny.” 

He wrote, “Under fascism, you have an autocrat who believes in the cultural superiority and political supremacy of the country he leads. And he believes in the use of his concentrated power and unlimited violence to uphold the country’s supremacy and its purity against perceived internal and external threats. In 1930’s Germany, the made-up threat was the Jewish community; right now in our own country, transfolk are the made-up threat of choice. It is no accident that the percentage of Jews in Germany in 1933 and the percentage of trans-identified adults in the U.S. today is nearly identical. The strategy of demonizing a tiny, often misunderstood minority, and using religion to do so, is another tactic right out of the authoritarian playbook. Tyrants always punch down for political gain.”

The non-binary poet and activist, Alok Vaid-Menon,writes, “The best way to eliminate a group is to demonize them, such that their disappearance is seen as an act of justice, not discrimination.”

But trans, non-binary, and gender expensive people have been chosen as the political scapegoat at this moment in time, not just because of their numbers compared to the cisgender population of the United States. It is because of the power they hold: The power to topple a patriarchal system that absolutely depends on binaries and hierarchy.

From the moment we take our first breath, our lives begin to be defined by the anatomy perceived by those around us. “It’s a boy!” or, “It’s a girl.” Three words begin a cascade of rules, perceptions, and expectations. As we grow, maybe these expectations seem perfectly comfortable. Or they only chafe sometimes. Or maybe they are utterly suffocating.

And the really insidious trick of enforcing a gender binary, of believing that reality is only black or white, this or that, is that we soon learn to police ourselves. We become the wardens of our own prisons because we have been so instilled with the fear of what will happen if we don’t.

In Part Two of the series, we delve a bit deeper into the concept of trans identities. 

Image credit: Shutterstock (Bob Korn)

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