by: Alexandra Cavallaro
I don’t know about you, but election night felt like a lesson in information management.
I sat with two of my friends in their living room and my wife on video chat, with three electoral maps open, my Twitter and Facebook feed constantly ticking, and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Silence fell only when she announced a call or prediction. I was definitely in a state of total and complete information overload and I knew it. But I couldn’t get enough. There was too much at stake and maybe, just maybe, if I kept track of thousands of pieces of data all at once, it would be okay.
And it wasn’t just the presidential race. There was Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts, Claire McCaskill in Missouri, Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, four ballot measures on marriage equality and, of course, Tammy Baldwin. As a lesbian woman, I can’t quite articulate what it means for me to see an openly gay woman elected to the Senate. We could sit here for hours and take an inventory of a long list of accomplishments for the LGBTQ community and all of them would be meaningful. But as someone who still looks around and wonders, despite these accomplishments and visibility, “where are the people like me?” as one who still has to consciously seek out representations in film and books, this feels enormous. There is a woman like me in the Senate. THE SENATE.
Hours after this momentous victory, however, a Facebook friend reminded me that Representative Baldwin withdrew a transgender-inclusive ENDA. As a result, she has been criticized as trans-phobic and hailed as a savvy politician. She has been characterized as throwing trans people under the bus and making a smart political move. Based on her speech, I want to—no, need to—believe the latter. She says, in her House speech, “…we should be acting on an inclusive ENDA, covering both sexual orientation and gender identity… People have asked why I pressed for and insisted upon bringing an amendment to the floor and maintaining the option to withdraw it without a vote. The reason is simple: I believe that those who will be left behind by this bill deserve to hear, on this House floor, that you are not forgotten. And our job will not be finished until you, too, share fully in the American Dream. So at the moment at which the closing arguments are made, I will withdraw this amendment, with a commitment to my colleagues and all American committed to equality of opportunity and ending discrimination, that I will do everything within my power to make this measure whole again.”
This image of wholeness and her words, “you will not be forgotten” remind me on this momentous occasion where the work needs to happen. That a politician withdrew a bill because it wouldn’t pass with protections for gender identity means that we still have a long way to go. We must continue to fight for the visibility and protection of the trans members of our community. We cannot continue to allow their exclusion, marginalization and invisibility. We must not forget them in the push forward, because doing so has fractured us in the past and will continue to fracture us in the future. In these next four years, let’s continue to move forward and to amass more victories: more visibility, more legal protection, more marriage equality. But let’s do it with all of us, with the wholeness of our community. Until that time, our job will not be finished.
Let’s take a moment to celebrate this victory. And then let’s get back to work.
Alexandra Cavallaro is a reader, a writer, a baker, and a knitter of many socks. She has way more books than she has clothes, so prepare to see this outfit again. She loves thinking about food politics, queer issues, and the miracle that is language.
Currently, she’s working on her PhD in Writing Studies/Rhetoric, but in her free time she enjoys being a bleeding heart liberal feminist killjoy. And knitting many socks.