I loved this letter from the father of a trans man to his senator about ENDA and thought you all would, too.
Dear Senator Alexander,
I was on an airplane this afternoon, minutes from landing in Nashville, when my cabin neighbor just happened to utter his first words to me saying, “That’s the one thing I like about real books over E-books. You have to turn yours off and I can keep reading.” He went on tell me how interesting his book was (I think he noticed that I was reading John Irving’s new novel, “In One Body” which has gay, bi-sexual, and transgender characters throughout the story – It makes you think from another perspective for a change.). My new pal was reading, “You Are Not So Smart”, which deals with something called confirmation bias (Our brains resist new ideas, instead paying attention only to findings that reinforce our preconceived notions. That’s what the blurbs say, anyway).
When I got home, I found an Email explaining that you had not yet made up your mind on your position with regard to employment equality issues (ENDA) and that I needed to send you a letter before day’s end. Well, I thought, What’s to make up? Lamar Alexander is a smart man. He understands equality. He’s an American just like me. He’s seen exactly the same things I’ve seen growing up in the mid south. My grandfather was the County Judge of Hopkins County, KY many years ago, and I remember clearly walking into the court house with my dad, seeing three restrooms. One for Men, one for Women, and one for Colored. That didn’t make a lot of sense to me even then. Later, I started public school, and on my first day in the first grade in 1958, there was a bomb scare. As it turned out, it happened in conjunction with the fact that in 1958, the black kids would be going to school with the white kids for the very first time. Well, I wouldn’t have known that school wasn’t interrupted like that every day because in both of those cases, I had no preconceived notion of any need for bombs and extra restrooms and two separate drinking fountains. I simply didn’t know yet that I was superior to the black kids I played with.
I guess when you think about it, there was a time not that long ago when men decided that their right to work and earn good money was ample for the maintenance of society. Their right to vote was all that we needed to keep this great country running smoothly, so why should women vote and have equal pay? They didn’t really need it. At least, they never had before.
So, I started thinking about all the things you and I have in common, and whether I really needed to write this letter. After all, you and I are close enough in age that we both remember when the very idea of having women in the military was nothing short of laughable. We can look back now and see how crazy that seemed to us because we had a preconceived notion that we didn’t need to go there. Why question it?
You and and I are both white southern males. We’re not female, but a lot of people are, so they may have a different slant on how life works for them. You and I are not black or gay, but a lot of people are, so they might also experience things in another light. You and I are not transgender, but a lot of people are, and they may be faced with discrimination and ridicule every day of their lives. They may even be looked at as freaks by the same people who come up to you and me and slap us on the back and tell us how great it is to see us. We may not know this goes on and on for some people every single day, if we suffer from confirmation bias. If we have a preconceived notion that it’s all really okay just the way it is, and everything will work out fine without specific fully-inclusive language in our anti-discrimination laws, we may not need to be sure that everyone is treated equally in the workplace or in our society in general. You and I don’t have to worry because we’ve probably never missed a job, or lost one, or been persecuted or bullied at work because of who we are or because we have differences we can’t do anything about.
I’ve heard you make lots of speeches and I think you’re saying exactly what you believe. I’m spoiled in the same way: I never have to watch what I say because I’m a straight, white, cisgender, well-to-do, average, southern guy. I just wanted to send this letter anyway, because we have so much in common. Life is great. I know you’ll vote carefully.
Respectfully yours, Green Daniel, Hendersonville, TN
Green Daniel managed and produced his ex-wife, Gretchen Peters, an award winning songwriter who has written songs for some of the biggest names in country music for almost 30 years since moving to Nashville from Boulder, CO. Green is currently writing and producing music, and pursuing his career as a visual artist. Their only child has been in the process of transitioning from female to male and now lives in the state of Washington. Green is on the board of the Nashville chapter of PFLAG and Gretchen has written several articles about transgender issues for Huffington Post. Although Green and Gretchen are now divorced, they work together to support their son in his journey. Green belongs to the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition and have become friends in recent months. They are, without a doubt, amazing SOFFAs and allies.