There are many reasons to vote and many critical elections impacting Southwestern PA. It is easy to give in to the sense of inevitability or futility and not bother to turn out, but that’s exactly what our opponents want to see happen. The act of voting IN SPITE of the odds is an act of defiance and a demand for visibility, even if it is just a tick on someone’s polling data that nudges them a bit in the next election cycle.
Cynical much, Sue? Yes, I am. And I have documented years when I succumbed to cynicism. I’m not proud of it, but I’m glad for another opportunity to shake it off and do better.
I’m motivated although non-inspired this year. There’s no rock star candidate and most of the races impacting me personally are uncontested. But I know that the ten minutes I spend going to my polling place, signing in and casting my ballot are critical. And here’s why.
I’ve found examples of two candidates, one in PA and one in Maryland, using the noxious “bathroom bill” language to shore up support for their campaigns. They are using our transgender sisters, brothers and neighbors as bait to lure out haters with fear, misinformation and outright oppression. The “bathroom bill” surrounds non-discrimination laws which protect the rights of transgender people (and others including lesbians like me) in the workforce, with regard to housing and with public accommodations. The bills do not protect the decision of cisgender heterosexual men in dresses to use women’s bathrooms.
The laws simply acknowledge that transgender people are people who have the right to use the bathroom associated with their actual gender identity – to pee in peace.
The “bathroom bill” tactic is used to exploit age-old fears of men waiting to snatch up innocent women for their sexually depraved uses, implying that women are helpless victims in their own bathrooms and that transwomen are not really women at all.
To those of us who know better – who understand that transfolk face the real threats in the bathroom situations – this is ridiculous fear-mongering. The problem is that it works. It taps into latent fears and ignorance among the average person – fears fueled by media and the lack of contact with the trans community (or even the larger LGBTQ community.) Trans people are very much “othered” in our society. Closeted leaders in all sorts of roles stay silent while the misinformation spreads.
How will this play out? Extreme rightwing Republicans are elected and continue to use this fear mongering when they legislate. Socially conservative Democrats lose their resolve and we start having conversations about focusing on sexual orientation now, casting gender identity and gender expression to the wayside to create legislation that’s “passable.” That seems to be what the Post-Gazette is endorsing. We also stop talking about protecting actual vulnerable, oppressed groups (like queer people) and start talking about the oppression of the Christian majority in the US.
And then? Then they come for us. Don’t think for a second that being white, cisgender and middle-class will buffer you forever or in every situation. You are foolish if you do. Being married won’t help you keep your job, protect your kids in school or buy the home of your dreams in an outlying county.
This is unacceptable. The battle for non-discrimination protections in Pennsylvania is going to be fierce and it requires all of us – LGBTQ and allies – to stand firm for inclusive legislation. It requires that we be visible, that we defy their expectation and that use every tool at our disposal to push back with the relentless, insistent acknowledgement that we have human rights, too.
This November – it requires you to vote.
If you are an ally to the trans community – it requires you to vote.
If you know someone who has been harassed in a bathroom because of their gender expression – it requires you to vote.
If you think there’s #MoreThanMarriage required to create a more equal society – it requires you to vote.
Like I said, my own races are rather predetermined. The only vote I’ll cast that’s up for grabs is in the Governor’s Race, but I sure want Tom Wolf to win so I”ll vote. But I’ll also add another solid progressive voting record to my community and even more canvassers will show up in the spring for the next primary election. That’s fine.
I’ve stood in the bathroom while people eyeball Ledcat in her gender neutral clothing, trying to figure out if she’s a man or a woman. It has never escalated to more than a few side glances, but we are both well aware that it could. My friend S was confronted in an Eat n Park bathroom with her then 5-year-old son while helping him to wash his hands. He witnessed the whole thing even though she defused it pretty quickly. So I have no illusion that the “bathroom bill” rhetoric isn’t going to have an impact in the larger queer community. Of course it will.
Here are a few voting guides and other links that might be useful.
Gertrude Stein Political Club of Greater Pittsburgh – click on Slate Card to see their endorsements
Keystone Progress PAC endorsements (statewide)
Steel City Stonewall Democrats endorses in the primary only so some of this is not relevant based on the outcome of the primary, but still worth including.
Planned Parenthood of PA voters guide on reproductive health issues
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette endorsements (updated regularly so keep checking back)
Find your polling place in Pennsylvania
I hope you’ll make the right decision. A lot of people are counting on your one vote.