As LGBTQ+ people and our allies continue to celebrate Pride throughout the summer, we have been pummeled with an avalanche of laws passed in more than 20 states targeting LGBTQ+ youth, their parents, and our community more broadly.
These relentless assaults, dubbed “anti-woke” by hard-right politicians, cruelly strip trans youth of essential healthcare, trigger invasive child abuse investigations against their parents, ban any talk of LGBTQ+ issues through high school, and much more. They seek to destroy the very notion of an inclusive society that respects personal autonomy, embraces mutual support, and espouses equality and equity for all.
The attacks aren’t only against trans people – they unleash a sweeping assault against the broader LGBTQ+ community. They also include laws that effectively prohibit abortion in many states, bar discussions of anti-Black racism and diversity in public schools and universities, and ban books – a veritable grabbag of draconian and deeply misguided measures. Amidst this cascade of disasters, anti-trans legislation stands out for its viciousness.
The hard right has used gerrymandering and anti-democratic practices to establish overwhelming control in many state legislatures, and cynical politicians have engaged in a seemingly endless competition to outdo each other with their shameless pandering to manufactured culture wars. This has made it easy for us to feel powerless to respond.
But as the singer and activist Joan Baez once said, “action is the antidote to despair.” In fact, there is a role for each of us to play in fighting back. Our community’s elders have a special role in protecting our youth. We bring decades of accumulated wisdom in how to persevere in the face of enormous oppression and tragedy.
And yet, as we step up as allies against anti-trans attacks, it’s important to do so with humility and a recognition that communities under attack must be the leaders of their own liberation. At SAGE, we say “nothing about us without us,” meaning the battle for trans liberation and trans equality must be driven to the greatest extent possible by trans leadership, with robust support from a broad swath of allies.
That’s why SAGE has sought guidance from the leadership of three highly respected national trans organizations. We’ve learned that trans movement organizations are laboring valiantly – and struggling – under the constant siege of political attacks; that they need resources to determine the best paths forward at this critical juncture; and that there is a great need to support the building of even more powerful, collaborative activism and leadership across trans communities and groups.
As an organization and as a community of elders, SAGE is committed to being there for our trans community members and colleagues. We struggle with resources like all non-profits. But we know we can do more, and part of that is transferring resources to trans leadership to support them in guiding us in how to be good allies.
That means support that comes without onerous restrictions, limitations, and guidelines – support that is grounded in our commitment to build equity by transferring resources and power to communities that are marginalized and under attack.
In this spirit, and as an act of solidarity and Pride, last month, SAGE donated $75,000 to the three leading national trans organizations to be deployed in a project or projects of their collective choice to help the trans community fight back and lead the way for the rest of us.
We know that this is a small contribution relative to what’s needed. We are committed to doing more, including supporting LGBTQ+ elders ready to step up to the plate for trans young people and trans people of all ages, and expanding SAGE’s 24/7 Hotline to respond to the explosion in requests for help from trans elders in more conservative parts of the country.
We share this story not to seek validation for this modest step. We know it’s past time for each of us – as individuals and organizations – to declare our intention to act in ways that we haven’t previously.
We are living in uniquely dangerous times, with the forces of hate and intolerance on the march in many states. Over many decades now, our elders have taught us that in the face of such prejudice and bigotry we are called to be our most powerful, our most fearless and our most determined selves.
Inspired by our elders, we encourage others to figure out their own uniquely powerful and fearless ways to do more. We at SAGE will continue to do all that we can, arm in arm with trans community members and with all people of goodwill. Right-wing zealots and their political allies have underestimated the fortitude of our resolve.
The proponents of hatred don’t understand what their drumbeat of oppressive measures will unleash in response. In this season of Pride, let’s join together and show them that they will never be able to drive us back into society’s shadows.
Michael Adams is CEO of SAGE, the country’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ older people.