Your Turn: Why Congress needs its first transgender representative

Your Turn: The LGBT community has not been heavily involved in politics. But that must change, if we want policies to better reflect tolerance and acceptance.


Why have transgender individuals and the LGBT community struggled to earn the same fundamental rights as everyone else?

While the American public approved of gay marriage, it was a long battle to win the right for everyone to marry the partner of their choice in the eyes of the law. Interracial couples faced a similar battle more than a half-century ago.

Gay marriage was an essential step for transgender individuals to be treated as equal, to be respected by our government in a nation that had discriminated against us for … well, forever.

When small victories at the state level were made for any marginalized group in our community, we experienced enormous challenges from the highest offices in the nation, followed by laws that annulled these progressive policies, much to our despair.

Why policy remains in the dark ages

Marriage, drinking fountains and bathrooms have been battlegrounds for equality for the past 100 years. It’s not going to change anytime soon unless we make some changes at the highest levels.

The reason that our public policy seems stuck in the dark ages is that those in position to create the laws are many times elderly, conservative and religious.

Grandpa doesn’t realize that transitioning is even possible, much less the obstacles one faces toward acceptance by employers, the medical community and the state. He doesn’t care because we don’t come up on his radar, and most of us see little value in trying to educate him.

But Grandpa’s voice and vote are heard and valued by his political representatives, and our laws reflect this.

The reason for so much opposition in Washington is because the LGBT community has not been politically active in the past. We are under-represented in positions of power, we are not seen as a voting bloc, and historically we have not funded political causes.

It’s time to get politically active

If you want to change the face of the nation to one of tolerance and acceptance, then the LGBT community is going to have to become more active in politics. We were fortunate in our fight to secure the right for gay couples to marry. We can make even more significant strides if we work together.

This is not to say you need to run for public office, although I do encourage it. It does mean that the LGBT community needs to start openly supporting candidates who are friendly to their causes by volunteering for campaigns and donating money.

If this is not possible, then start speaking out and being a voice for change. Educate Grandpa.

If you want this nation to be a better place, you’re going to have to work for it. That’s is what I am doing.

My name is Brianna Westbrook. I am a transgender woman, and I am running for the House of Representatives in Arizona’s District 8. I urge you to help my campaign or one in your district for candidates sensitive to our issues.

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