NCTE "Lobby Days" event speech -- Jenny Boylan
National Center for Transgender Equality -- NCTE "Lobby Days" event speech -- Jenny Boylan
The following is the text of a speech given by Jennifer Finney Boylan at an NCTE event on May 14th in Washington DC. Jenny is the author of the national bestseller "She's Not There" ... about her personal journey. This NCTE event was part of their annual "Lobby Days" where participants visit their congress members to discuss issues related to gender justice.
Text of Jenny Boylan's Speech at the National Press Club for NCTE
[This address was given on May 14, 2007, at the National Press Club, at the "Moving Forward Together" event sponsored by the National Center for Transgender Equality.]
Thank you. Look at you all. It’s very cool to see all of you gathered in one spot, all these trans people and their allies.
There are a lot of things I don’t know, but I know this: Tomorrow is going to be a great day.
Lets start by thanking NCTE, and Mara Kiesling and Justin Tanis, not only for the work they did in bringing this event to fruition but for the work they do every day on behalf of our people. Thanks you Mara, Justin.
Let’s also acknowledge our special guests—the gifted actor Jeffrey Carlson, who played transgender character Zoe in All My Children this winter and spring. Jeffrey, it’s wonderful that you’re here, and on behalf of this community, allow me to thank you again for the dignity and grace you brought to that role; in so doing, you brought dignity and grace to all of us.
Let’s also have a round of applause for Professor Julie Nemecek, formerly of Spring Arbor University in Michigan, When Julie was fired this year from her job at the religious college, she said, There is no sin in living in joyful celebration for how God has made you. In the words of the Psalmist, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” by a God who knew me – and who I would become. Julie, it’a an honor to have you with us today.
We also honor today our special guest Susan Stanton, Largo Florida City Manager Emerita. Susan Stanton, who, responded to her firing by deciding NOT to sue the town of Largo, and in so doing, showed exactly the kind of forgiveness and love that was not shown to her. You have been a class act, Susan, and we are all tremendously proud of you.
Well then. A few days ago, I had a somewhat unusual dream. I dreamed I came home in the middle of the afternoon to find my partner, Grace, in bed with Tony the Tiger. The two of them were lying propped up on pillows together. Tony the Tiger was smoking a cigarette. I said, Grace, I can’t believe this? You’re cheating on me, behind my back? With Tony the Tiger? Grace just looked at me and said, What can I tell you honey? He’s grrreat.
Dreams are a fairly common topic of discussion in our house. When you’re the parent of middle-schoolers, conversation around the dinner table tends to revolve around three or four issues, over and over again. Dreams is one such topic. Another one of course being, what are the best superpowers? In this argument, I always come out in favor of the traditional family values of super-speed and super strength, but my boys—who are thirteen and eleven—just roll their eyes and point out that super-strength slows down your super-speed. They argue in favor of Time Travel, and Flying, and the power of what they call Super-Stickiness, which might be the thing that enables Spiderman to climb walls, or which might be something else entirely.
Sometimes I think about the woman I’m married to, Deirdre Grace Finney, the woman who, when she learned that the person she loved was transgendered, said that she would stick by me, that her love for me would transcend the changes I would endure, that whatever happened in the future we would go through it all together, as a family, and I think to myself, well damn. Maybe that’s what they mean by Super-stickiness. Maybe someone like Grace—or my children—or my mother—the conservative, religious Republican woman who, when she learned her child was transgendered said, I would never turn my back on my child, I will always love you—maybe these are the superheroes in my life, and maybe what they have—which you might call super-love, or super patience, or super compassion—maybe these are better superpowers than Time Travel, or X-Ray Vision, or Super Strength.
Maybe it’d be surprising to some of the opponents of the bills we’re gathering in the Capital to support that a person like me has a family at all, that the woman I’m married to and I sit around with our children and talk about super powers, and dreams, and our favorite kinds of dogs, and who would win, Frankenstien vs. Pepe Le Pew? Maybe they’d be surprised that our lives in almost every important way, resemble their own. It might come as a surprise because they may never have met a transgendered person before—at least not to their knowledge—and as a result they have no human face to put to our condition. And that is one of the great accomplishments of this gathering—no matter what happens to the bills we’re here to support: by seeing each of you here the members of Congress are learning that we are human beings, with families and children, and all of the hopes and dreams of other Americans. There is an old song by Robert Hunter about dreaming of the future, of trying to imagine a day years from now, when “things we’ve never seen will seem familiar.” That is surely one of the great victories of these Lobby Days: that all of us—individuals whom some people have a hard time imagining as human---are at last beginning to seem familiar.
I mentioned that my family spends some of our time around the dinner table talking about our dreams, but sometimes we talk about the dreams that other people have. This spring, my younger son, Sean, the fifth grader, had to pick a famous person from history to do a report on, and after some research, he finally narrowed it down to Abraham Lioncoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. We downloaded the “I Have a Dream” Speech from the internet, and talked about it at the dinner table. I imagined my son heading into school with his Maine accent and a black suit and tie and a fake mustache and saying these words to his fifth grade classmates: I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day… little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
One night, the four of us we were talking about the usual stuff at dinner—about whether bloodhounds drool too much, about which of the Presidents on Mt. Rushmore correspond to which of the Beatles, about who would win, The Incredible Hulk, or Abraham Lincoln, about which is better, super memory or super comedy—one night, in the midst of all this, Sean looked up at Grace and me and said, Why did Martin Luther King say he wanted to dream?
And we said, well, it’s good to dream, dreams are what make us human. Being an English professor, of course, I didn’t think it was inappropriate to quote Robert Browning to my eleven year old, and said, “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for.”
To which, of coure, my son replied, “Whatever.” And asked more pointedly, why didn’t Martin Luther King want to wake up? It’s a good thing to dream, he said, but at some point, don’t you want to wake up, to get out of bed and step out into a world where those dreams are at last coming true?
As I think about all of us—transgendered Americans in this room and across the country, I can’t help but think that my son is right, that while our dreams give us courage and hope, that it is also surely time that we all wake up, and enjoy our rights as American citizens, in a country that respects our diversity, our courage, and our strength.
And so I say to you:
I want to wake up in a country where transgendered people are seen as human, where our curiously gendered lives are seen as one more variation in the rich tapestry of experience, as something not to be shocked by, but as something to be celebrated, and honored, and understood.
I want to wake up in a country where Americans understand that transgender people come in all shapes and sizes and embodiments, where to be a cross dresser or a transsexual or a drag queen or trans man or genderqueer is seen as simply another way of being human, a person endowed by the creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these rights are life, libery and the pursuit of happiness.
I want to wake up tomorrow.
I want to wake up in a country where coming out as transgender is not seen as the end of the world, but as a beginning, where the lives of people such as ourselves are celebrated, where we are seen as precious, vital parts of a democracy, where we have the right to earn a living without fear of being fired for what we are, where we have the right to get married to the people we love, where the President of the United States will reach out and shake our hands and say that he is proud of everything we bring to the American experience. I want to wake up.
I want to wake up to a land where transgender veterans, who have risked their lives for their country, can return to civilian life and get the resources they need from the Veterans Administraion, where they can be offered medical care and therapy and solace, a country where transgender veterans can be given the help they need, when they need it, just as they helped us, when we needed them. I want to wake up.
I want to wake up in a country where qualified, hardworking Americans will never be denied job opportunities because of the sexual orientation or their gender identity or expression, a country where every individual will have a fundamental right under Federal Law, to be protected from discrimination. I want to wake up in a country in which the thirty-three states at present where a person can be fired because of her sexuality have to change their laws. I want to wake up in a country in which the forty-two states in which a person can be fired because of her gender identity have to change their laws. I want to wake up in a country in which men and women are judged not by what they are wearing, or whom they love, but by the content of their characters. I want to wake up.
I want to wake up to a county in which crimes against transgender people will never be excused by anybody, ever, for any reason. I want to wake up in a country in which the United States Senate joins the House of Representatives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, the National Sheriffs Association, the Police Executive Research Forum, and 31 state Attorneys General in supporting such legilslation. And I want to wake up in a country in which the President of the United States says that if such a bill reaches his desk, he will sign it into law.
Tomorrow morning, when you open your eyes, you will wake up into a country which is changing, one human face at a time. And in so doing, you will also answer for my family another one of those questions we ask around the dinner table, namely, who is the best superhero? And what does it mean to be a hero?
I you ask me, the best superheroes are the transgender people in this room and all across America. In your grace, your courage, in your unquenchable desire to make this a better country, you are all heroes.
It is an honor to be here with you all, fighting this fight. With all our super powers tomorrow—super love, super compassion, and yes, even a little bit of super-stickiness, I know that in the morning, we are all going to wake up to a better country, and to a better future.
Tomorrow is going to be a great day.
Jenny was also on AMC & Oprah
In the above speech, Jenny Boylan makes reference to Jeffrey Carlson's portrayal of a transgender character on the soap opera "All My Children" ... Jenny appeared in a special episode of AMC as the moderator of a transgender support group. Jeffrey is currently rehearsing to star in the Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of "Hamlet" (in DC).
Jenny has also appeared on Oprah, and other programs, to discuss transgender issues.
Jenny has reported (on another website) that this year's NCTE "Lobby Days" has been very successful. CNN was on hand at the event featuring Jenny's speech.