With 17 measures on the California ballot, control of Congress up for grabs, a host of local races and a critical choice for president – it’d be easy to say there’s a lot at stake for this election. For me, there’s even more.
I am a new mother. I have a beautiful 11-week-old daughter and a wife I adore. And I am a transgender woman.
As Nov. 8 approaches, I think every day about the freedoms riding on this upcoming election. For the transgender community, our lives and identities have literally become a wedge issue designed to polarize Americans for or against us, so much so that I believe my family’s future and safety are at risk.
I have always voted, but this year my vote takes on added significance as I think about the daughter that I am raising, and the family I provide for. It’s terrifying to think we have a major party candidate who’s been advocating violence and encouraging fear of the unknown and the misunderstood.
This election holds the potential for two very different futures for my family and my community. One where our voices will be heard, our victories sustained and where we will be at liberty to take steps toward true equality. The other holds fear and persecution, and the potential to backpedal on issues critical to LGBT social justice and equality.
In California, a state with the strongest LGBT civil rights protections in the world, my gender identity is still not understood by many people and most certainly carries a stigma. Not a day passes that I don’t hear a story about a member of my community being denied housing, employment or even fired for living their truth. Even with the LGBT civil rights protections in California, the truth is that we are not afforded the same rights and protections as other Californians. So I am voting so that everyone can work and provide for our families.
States like North Carolina have shown us that the fight to end discrimination against the LGBT community is far from over, and that every victory we have won over the past decade is not yet secure. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the legalization of gay marriage and the recent transgender case to reach the Supreme Court are important milestones for our community. And to potentially have a president who does not see us as equals, or even as human beings, could mean the unraveling of every one of these accomplishments.
In raising a family, my wife and I want to live in a community that supports us and our daughter. Across the country and even here in California, transgender people are still being murdered and targeted for being who they are and that affects our loved ones. In this election, we have a choice to make regarding the kind of communities we all want to live in. Do we let the forces of hate take control of our neighborhoods and cities or do we stand on the side of love and acceptance and work toward building a better world for our children and future generations.
At the end of the day, I am a pretty basic woman. I want to live my life, be a good neighbor, be a part of the community and pursue opportunities so that I can contribute and provide for my family. Gender identity shouldn’t prevent any of those things for me nor should it for others in the transgender community. We all deserve the liberty to pursue what makes us happy.
Equality is very much at stake this year. Whether it is advances the LGBT community has made with marriage equality, nondiscrimination protections, or access to healthcare, all of these things are on the line in this election and we must fight for them. This country holds the promise of freedom to live, work, play, and worship free of discrimination for every citizen. We have not yet reached that potential, but we can certainly bend the arc of justice in that direction in the coming days.
This year I am voting for family and the ability to take care of my loved ones. I am voting for opportunity and economic empowerment so that all people have a chance to live their lives to the fullest. And I am voting for progress so that our victories stand and the promise of a more fair and just future is something all of us can celebrate in.
Allison VanKuiken is one of Equality California’s two program directors. She lives in California with her wife and daughter.