April 29, 2016 by Guest Blogger
“Trans Rights Are Human Rights” by Ames Simmons
My name is Ames Simmons, and I proudly serve on the Human Rights Campaign Board of Directors here in Atlanta. I’m so excited about this weekend’s gala on April 30th, and want to tell you why I’m so committed to HRC. My first introduction to HRC was attending a gala in 2002. My company was a corporate sponsor, and my colleague encouraged me to join him at the event. I had no idea then how important to me HRC would grow to be.
I grew up in Atlanta. I’m a born and raised Southerner, just like many of you. I know firsthand what it’s like to be LGBTQ in the South. The reality is… it’s harder here than everywhere else. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to live and breathe if I were out west or up north? One of the times I feel it most, is how we must end every sentence with “sir” or “ma’am”.
The reason for that is that I identify as a transgender person. A doctor assigned my gender as female at birth, so for the first 38 years of my life I outwardly identified as a woman. Recently I began taking steps to transition my gender to being a man. Every time I go into a store or an office where someone greets me as “ma’am” or “miss,” it feels like little paper cuts.
Identifying as a member of the trans community is not an easy space to occupy. But I know that giving voice and visibility to my gender identity is important. People need to hear personal stories like mine, have faces and names. I wanted to share this with you, because – despite all of the incredible success we’ve had over the past few years – I’m worried about the fights that remain.
All of these “religious freedom” bills like HB 757 in Georgia, like North Carolina’s HB 2 – that legislation scares me. Those bills are targeting me. And that’s why I’m writing this blog post, because we have to fight those bills. We have to fight right here at home, in the South, not just for you and me, but also for LGBTQ people who can’t move someplace else. Those are the people I’m fighting for. We have to make it safe for everybody to be who they are, right here at home.
We’ve seen progress in the past several years, and we are where we are today in large part because of HRC and its members. Our organization has so many initiatives to bring about equality not just for lesbian, gay and bisexual people but also for transgender people, and we need your help. We cannot mistake our progress for victory. We’re facing an intense backlash of rabid anti-equality, anti-LGBTQ legislation that could set our progress back by decades. We know that our country can change – the South can change – and that our biggest fights remain ahead well beyond marriage.