President Donald Trump's administration caused an uproar on Sunday (Oct. 21) after it was revealed in a government memo obtained by the New York Times that they were considering a policy that would eliminate transgender recognition by requiring individuals to be defined as male or female based on their genitalia at birth. According to the report, The Department of Health and Human Services is aiming to establish a uniform definition of gender, determined “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable." It defined sex as "a person’s status as male or female based on immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth" adding that a person’s originally-issued birth certificate "shall constitute definitive proof of a person’s sex unless rebutted by reliable genetic evidence.”
The proposed move of defining gender as an unchangeable condition would drastically roll-back civil rights and protections for the transgender community, which includes an estimated 1.4 million Americans. But these attacks on the community are not new to trans and gender non-conforming folk. In fact, Billboard asked 18 musicians and celebrities where they look for hope in this dark political climate and one theme rang true: the community is resilient.
“Centuries of trans people have persisted without the approval or even acknowledgment of the federal government and that is the precise feeling I must mine and have always mined for hope,” explained singer/songwriter Ms. White.
Artists also noted that they are looking toward the upcoming midterm elections for optimism: “My mail in ballot has already been sent in,” shared L.A.-based Ryan Cassata.
Look below to see where 18 trans and gender non-conforming musicians look for hope during these emotionally taxing times.
Gavin Rayna Russom of LCD Soundsystem
Oppression in the United States was not born in January of 2017, it is woven into the fabric of our government, which established itself through the attempted eradication of the indigenous inhabitants of this land and built its empire using the forced labor of kidnapped Africans. I continue to draw hope from the living histories of all those who have survived, thrived and manifested justice while this system tried to erase them. And from god, who created me as a transgender woman not as a mistake but with deep intentionality, who loves me unconditionally, not in spite of my trans-ness but because of it.
Dominique Jackson, Pose
I look to the resilience taught to me by the women whose shoulders I stand on. Those women whose lives enabled us to have a show like Pose. Those women who lived unapologetically in a time where being trans meant death with no justice or even inquiries into their disappearances.
Our community is resilient and we exist in every city, ethnicity, profession, political affiliation, culture, movement and family. It's important that our allies know that in addition to emotional support, what is required of them, is their voice. To speak lovingly and loudly about us to their friends, coworkers and families, especially when it's inconvenient and uncomfortable. We cannot be erased.
Feeling at a disadvantage by the hands of the government is no rare feeling as a minority in this country. Although it may sound cliché the only few things that keep me afloat in life-threatening times like this are art, prayer and friendship.
I find hope by looking at the big picture... the fact that we have been fighting for our rights for decades and decades. Trans people existed before there were laws in place to protect us and we will always exist regardless of what the government may or may not do. We are living in a gigantic civil rights and social justice movement right now. We have made significant changes. I have made significant changes myself. I have seen significant changes. When I came out, the average person didn’t know what the word “transgender” meant. Now I can say I’m trans and people know!
I find hope in all the individuals who have the opportunity to be visible and use that power to make positive change. If we stay out, regardless of gender markers or bathroom laws or military laws etc, we will always exist. The trans community will never be erased. The government can’t erase a community. I was out before there were even anti-bullying laws in my school. I fought day in and day out. I traveled to speak to state officials. I marched in protests. I fought to see change. I will continue to fight. I will continue to be visible. I will continue to use my voice. I will continue to march.
The fight for trans rights and equality is far from over. We will probably fight for the rest of our lives. But we will fight. We will make change. To my community: believe me, it is impossible to erase us. We don’t need the government to validate us to exist. We’ve always existed and we always will. Everybody go out and vote! Use your voice! My mail in ballot has already been sent in!
Nomi Ruiz of Jessica 6
I look for hope in those in my life who live fearlessly in their truth. Those who refuse to sit around silently stewing in their privilege. The ones who reach for hope every morning and chose to live in the light even when shrouded in darkness.
In tense political times such as these (especially belonging to a community of marginalized people), I first remind myself that those opposing views are not a true reflection of the beauty of queer people. Their misperceptions are not founded in any truth, and when you’re able to identify the ignorance perpetuated by these politicians, it only helps to confirm their fears of equality.
Having a strong support system is crucial, because it reminds us that we’re not alone. Having chosen families gives us the power to select the individuals that build us up with love and give us courage when others don’t understand.
But most importantly, I speak up. I make my voice heard. To those around me, to those I encounter on social media, and in the polls.
A headline declaring “You Do Not Exist” feels redundant to those who have always felt so. My hope falters no more from this news than from word of the countless murders of my sisters without outcry or protest. In other words, the Trump administration’s scare tactics scare only the uninformed.
Centuries of trans people have persisted without the approval or even acknowledgment of the federal government and that is the precise feeling I must mine and have always mined for hope. The cowardice of the president in proposing the eradication of trans people is not a shock to me, and shouldn’t really be to anyone. But I suppose many people scratched their heads at Trump’s election while the rest of us knew all along.
My siblings are strong, and I find hope in them; they think we are pencil, but they’ve spent generations attempting to erase ink.
I find hope in my community, and especially in those who have been fighting for our rights all this time. It helps to know that my generation and I are not alone in this darkness. I enjoy a lot of freedoms stemming from the sacrifices of others from the past, specifically within the trans community. I find strength in knowing that because of them we are able to organize and band together now more than ever and stand strong. This strength brings me the most hope.
I look to my allies, friends, friends of friends, family, fans and those who believe in love, freedom and equality to stand up for trans lives, by voting. Trans people are being violently killed! “Make America great again” shouldn't mean “make America hate again!” #Translivesmatter
In this dark political climate I look to all the queer founding parents and I think to myself “They got through this. They have fought way worse monsters.” Truth is, the trans community has paved a lot of the way for the queer community and people try to erase that within the community itself. Trans POC are constantly targeted and made out to be dehumanized. People like to look at people under the trans umbrella as if they’re weird. In my opinion, the only people here who are weird are those obsessed with policing someone’s identity and existence. That’s not only weird, it’s weak. If you’re only way to be powerful is to pick on the smaller more marginalized communities, you are pathetic and should be aware that even when the trans community goes nowhere, you’ll feel extremely stupid. But other than that I’m just writing a lot of music and expressing myself. People try to silence me all the time and challenge my philosophy but I’m not here to make people like me or feel comfortable. I am a non-binary person under the trans umbrella and my existence is valid. I give myself that validation. Nobody can change that for me or any of us.
I look for hope and informed passion with in my community. I immediately flock to see what the trans and GNC artist and activist leaders I love and respect are saying. I turn to them for guidance, information, and inspiration. Thank you Alok, Shea Diamond, Justin Vivian Bond, Bamby Salcedo and many more for always using your platforms to shine light.
Indya Moore, Pose
I look for hope in the power of voices from people who find appreciation in trans people, whether it be in fandom/standom, love, art, or social relation.
I look for hope in the empathetic voices of my colleagues these issues do not affect and people of power and privilege who have had contact with me, to speak up and show the same love and support they demonstrate working with me to secure us with their ethical support, when it isn't about their benefit but ours.
I look for hope in my own ability to articulate the validity, significance and truth of our existence, and in the integral voices of journalists, news media and organizations, covering the protection of human rights. I look for support in my spiritual anchor, my God, the science of spectral humanity and in the enforcement of the cardinal principle of modern international law: the right of a people to self-determination (commonly regarded as a jus cogens rule), or put simply our existential fundamental right of being (as recognized by the United Nations).
I see hope in my community, I see hope in my allies, and most importantly, I see hope in myself. Something I learned throughout my transition after years of battling vast differences with my family, is that absolutely no one can take me away from myself; no one can take you away from you. My community is so strong; I’ve seen trans youth go through more hardships than many grown adults. I have hope because I know my community, and I know that nothing can break us, we are born fighters.
Within myself and the ancestors that made space for me. We mustn’t give up. We’ve always been here and will always continue to be.
I look to my peers and to younger generations to help define and embrace an updated understanding of gender and sex so that we can move past the archaic definitions that the Trump administration is clinging to.
The idea of sex and gender as distinct is still a relatively new concept (though not a new reality, of course) in Western culture. This idea and a lot of the language we use today to describe our own gender identities (trans/GNC/non-binary, etc.) only really started being developed in the 1960s, 70s and onward by academics and feminist theorists. We are still very much in the midst of a paradigm shift (culturally, philosophically, scientifically, and even legally) regarding gender and sexuality and clearly a lot of work still needs to be done to introduce these ideas into the mainstream and have them be understood and accepted.
It will take artists, educators, politicians, activists, journalists, entertainers, and many regular people to help make this happen and create a safer world for trans/GNC/intersex/non-binary folks. In the meantime, I think we should look to each other for support and urge those who can to support organizations that help address the medical, financial, and safety needs of trans/GNC people outside the government system.
I look for hope in the citizens of our country. I believe that the way to change hearts and minds is to connect with people on a personal level. And if we as a community continue to be visible and refuse to back down, there is no way we will be silenced or pushed into the shadows.
Angelica Ross, Pose