Watching President Joe Biden take the oath of office, address the nation, pay his respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and walk into the White House, I hoped there would be some sign that he saw me, too. At the end of Wednesday, it came.
As part of his first afternoon at work, Biden signed 17 executive orders, among them one restoring protections for LGBTQ+ Americans in the workplace in support of a recent Supreme Court decision, Bostock v. Clayton County.
It included these powerful words: “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.” This is a big, welcome deal. As The Daily Beast reported last week, 12 states are currently considering legislating against trans kids’ access to health care and sports.
“Biden’s Executive Order is the most substantive, wide-ranging executive order concerning sexual orientation and gender identity ever issued by a United States president. Today, millions of Americans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their President and their government believe discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is not only intolerable but illegal,” said Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David. “By fully implementing the Supreme Court’s historic ruling in Bostock, the federal government will enforce federal law to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, health care, housing, and education, and other key areas of life.”
As an American, I feel encouraged, hopeful, and relieved that the Trump era is over. But one wonderful executive order, while welcome, cannot right so many wrongs. As a trans American, I remain traumatized and need to see the change to believe it.
Biden’s inaugural speech was inspiring, uplifting and struck the right tone to heal a broken, divided nation. But where he excelled in calls for unity, President Biden failed me in not even mentioning LGBTQ citizens who helped get him elected. Surely, there was room for one reference in such a stirring address? Even Donald Trump stumbled his way through the acronym in accepting the Republican nomination in 2016.
Then again, look how that turned out for us.
I don’t want to piss on this wonderful moment. I cried as Kamala Harris spoke those historic words only said by men until now. I cheered as Amanda Gorman used words to lift our spirits. I rocked as Lady Gaga and J.Lo sang our nation’s songs. And Biden’s address was indeed moving.
And the point is, we need to look not at his words, but his deeds. What he does will be far more important than what Biden said.
He appointed Rachel Levine, M.D., as assistant secretary at HHS. If approved, she’ll be the first transgender government official confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
He appointed Pete Buttigieg as secretary of transportation. If confirmed, he’ll be the first gay American ever confirmed to a Cabinet position.
He’s promised to end the ban on transgender members of the U.S. Military. That, initially, was promised as a “Day One” commitment. Now, it will happen, as NBC News reported, “the coming days and weeks.”
He’s promised to stop efforts by the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice to prevent transgender female student athletes from competing as girls and women.
He’s promised to press Congress to pass the Equality Act, which for the first time in U.S. history would finally fulfill the 18th century promise of equal rights and justice for all.
But when? When will all this happen?
Yes, I recognize COVID-19 must come first. Yes, I want our nation and our leaders to be secure from the threat of homegrown terrorism. And yes, there are so many horrible, horrible things Donald Trump did, even in his last days, that Joe Biden must now undo. I do not dismiss the significance of that executive order, and what it will hopefully mean for so many.
I am fortunate to be white, to have lived with male privilege for four decades and to have both a roof over my head and food security. I work six part-time jobs to make that happen. But as a member of a marginalized group, as an advocate for Black transgender women who are targeted for violence in increasing numbers, as a friend to non-binary and gender non-conforming people who need understanding and support, I am out of patience. I’m not going to apologize for being impatient.
We all know this feeling: pressing the elevator button even though it will not bring the elevator car any faster. Being late to get somewhere and encountering red light after red light. Waiting for someone who isn’t responding to texts and calls. Looking down the tracks or up the road and not seeing the train or the bus we’ve been waiting so long to arrive.
C’mon, Joe! Where is my train?