Dear Trans Friends,

It’s been a long week, huh? We spent most of Monday and Tuesday on pins and needles, hoping beyond hope that the latest Republican plan to break our health care would bleed out on the floor (it didn’t). This morning, Trump saw an opportunity to sink the knife deeper and attack us head-on, proclaiming that we would be banned from military service. Even those of us that wouldn’t even consider enlisting understand why this is frightening: at its essence, Trump’s statement implies that we are not capable of doing our jobs effectively. That our wellbeing is an unnecessary burden. And over time, politicians, pundits and the folks who swear by conservative radio will see us as burdens, too.

I spent a solid hour staring at the ceiling, crying my eyes out, imagining all the worst-case scenarios that might befall us in the future. I thought about my friends in Canada and the U.K., brainstormed escape plans that ultimately went nowhere, and honestly wondered if I even had a future in a world this cruel and hateful.

Then I pulled out my phone, scrolled a bit further, and saw Chelsea Manning’s response. For her whistle-blowing, she was thrown into a maximum-security prison and mistreated. Talking heads took turns scoffing at the notion that she should receive the care she needed. Yet here she was, free after seven torturous years, writing the equivalent of a sarcastic eye-roll followed by her trademark call to arms: “#WeGotThis.”

It’s a sentiment that fits us like a glove. We refuse the labels they slapped on us when we were too young to decide for ourselves. We endure the insults and threats thrown by our own flesh and blood. We walk up to employers, old acquaintances, social media, even the clerks at the local bank, and we claim our identities on an almost daily basis. Some of us feel uncomfortable with terms like “courageous,” as we wouldn’t have lived long without transitioning, but there is an unmistakable strength in cheating death through being yourself in an unkind society. Even folks who can’t safely out themselves at this point in their lives have an unmatched fire within: they find other ways to express themselves and stay true to who they are.

We’re a force to be reckoned with on our own, but put us in a room together and watch what we can accomplish. Our predecessors were the force behind Stonewall, throwing bricks and forwarding the rights of queer folks everywhere. Whenever a worthwhile protest takes place, our kindred are often out in front, leading the charge for a better tomorrow. In our spare time, we write, make music, build games, and support each other’s work when we can afford it. Some of you are the most amazing people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing: even in your quiet moments, you put most cis folks to shame.

I’m not saying we don’t have fights ahead of us. Every time Republicans scapegoat us in front of their teeming, hateful audiences, we’re left to deal with the ensuing shitstorm, and Trump stirs shitstorms up like nobody’s business. But a bunch of elderly cis men and women have nothing on us. Whenever they try to throw us into the corner, our claws come out. Our spines have been tested and molded through decades of struggles: theirs have the rigidity of butter left in the sun on a hot summer day. With our rights on the line, we will fight with a ferocity that sends them scampering into the shadows. They picked a fight with the wrong crowd, and once the dust clears, we’ll be the ones left standing.


Always Yours,

Jennifer Unkle