HRC has a long history of contension with the transgender community. Because of this, it should come as no surprise that at what is, to date, probably the most important development for the fight for marriage equality, that contension once again arose.
At the Supreme Court hearings, where many gay rights supporters had gathered, a transgender pride flag was placed near the podium. HRC reps asked that the transgender flag be removed, claiming that “marriage equality is not a transgender issue”. HRC is claiming that this did not happen and it is not their policy, however people who were actually there say otherwise. (1, 2) One person even claims that the HRC reps continued harassing the person over this flag.
Anyone who thinks that marriage equality doesn’t effect transgender people has NOT been paying attention. Courts repeatedly rule that heterosexual marriages between a transgender and cisgender person are not legally valid, because the transgender person is “really” their birth sex. I’ve seen it claimed that in same-sex marriages that take place before the transgender partner transitions (by which I mean a trans woman marrying a cis woman, or trans man marrying a cis man) will still be valid after the partner’s transition- however I have not seen anything that makes it clear that they would not face problems. Also, when my financial aid department believed that I had legally changed my sex, I was told that I had to apply for financial aid as “single” as the federal government would not acknowledge my marriage- which suggests that legal transition does, in fact, impact your marital status.
The most heartwrenching thing about the marriage situation for transgender people is that these cases almost always come up only when the cisgender spouse dies and their family wants to deny the transgender person what any widow/er has a right to. Instead of being allowed to mourn the death of their loved ones in peace, transgender people are thrown into the public spotlight and have their entire lives and relationship torn apart by bigots. This has happened as recently as 2010 to Nikki Araguz, the appeal to that case is still ongoing. The exact argument against her is that she is “really” a man, and since same-sex marriage is not legal in Texas, their marriage is invalid.
But “marriage equality is not a transgender issue”.
I’m sure that some people would justify this by insisting that all of our problems will go away once same-sex marriage is legal, so transgender people should shut up, sit down, and stop trying to have our problems acknowledged. This is not an acceptable solution, though. Marriage law effects transgender people in ways that it does not and will never effect cis queers, and this needs to be acknowledged.
Marriage equality IS a transgender issue because it is an issue that effects transgender people.
Meanwhile, the HRC symbol is being spread far and wide across the internet as THE symbol for marriage equality. “Equality”? This is an organization that has repeatedly actively excluded transgender people, cutting us out of bills that would offer us protection from discrimination and acknowledge hate crimes against us. But their symbol stands for “equality”. That’s a laugh.