By Jensen Matar, ACLU of MS Transgender Education & Advocacy Program Coordinator
I woke up two Sunday mornings ago to countless emails, missed calls, texts, and social media notifications from frantic and hurting community members. I was being asked the same question over and over: What do we do? It didn't take long to learn what had happened. The community I so proudly work for and identify as part of was being targeted once again.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Trump Administration have proposed redefining the words sex and gender under Title IX. The new definition would threaten the very few protections that transgender people have. If passed, about 15,000 Mississippians and 1.4 million Americans that identify as a gender other than the one they were assigned would be forced to live with an identity that is not theirs. Essentially, in the eyes of the government, transgender and gender non-conforming people would not exist.
What the government fails to understand is that being trans is not a choice of existence. You cannot undo someone's identity. You cannot erase people from existence. And, you cannot make anyone feel inferior without their consent.
Transgender people are valuable, and we deserve far better than what we've been given. We are just as valid as anyone else. We just ask for equal respect and protections like everyone else so that we can live productively, equitably, and with integrity.
Pain may last for a night, but joy always comes in the morning. I will take time to respond to my hurting community in Mississippi, encouraging them to take action. We have work to do. Transgender and allies alike can help in this fight.
Stand with us in solidarity by telling a transgender or non-binary person that they are worthy and loved. Post trans positive content on social media. Defend us in the face of transphobia. Encourage your employer and school to enforce trans affirming policies. Contact your local and state representatives in support of civil rights for all. Share the "I Too Am Mississippi" storytelling videos. Donate to the ACLU of Mississippi's Transgender Education and Advocacy Program. VOTE.
My name is Jensen Luke Matar. I am transgender. I am a Mississippian. And, I #WontBeErased.