Looking back at Transgender Lobby Day 2014
With sweaty palms and an empty stomach, I sat in Representative Frank Lobiondo’s office on Capitol Hill waiting for my appointment to begin. I nervously twiddled my thumbs as I looked around the office filled with South Jersey memorabilia and reminisced about my childhood in Egg Harbor Township. The Congressman has been representing my district for almost as long as I’ve been alive, and I was minutes away from speaking to him about an issue I cared about: Transgender equality. As I sat there, I reviewed my training until I heard:
“Hi, I’m Frank.”
I had never lobbied before, so participating in this year’s Transgender Lobby Day was a first for me. Immediately, I was impressed with how well organized the Lobby Day was. While the actual lobbying took place on Tuesday, July 15 the event was actually two days long. Monday, July 14 was a mini-conference in which different speakers educated activists on best practices. On the second day, over 200 activists from across the country—and even some from outside the U.S. — applied their learned skills to speak with Congressional officials about the need for legislation to protect transgender people.
Beyond its focus on lobbying Congress, Lobby Day itself was an opportunity to build a queer community and a chance to share our stories with one another. It was a space to also express the pain that comes along with queerness, specifically within the trans* people of color community. As I learned firsthand at Lobby Day, while society lumps us all into one category of LGBT, it is important to recognize the subtle differences between each of our distinct identities and also within each of those letters—“L” “G” “B” and “T.” Differences of opinion are not uncommon especially when qualities such as race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status among others are incorporated into the conversation. As Parker Hurley from the Trans People of Color Coalition during Lobby Day said, “We do not exist in single issue movements. We are not single issue people.” These disagreements are hard to avoid in communities with such broken histories – histories that are filled with so much suffering, but together we can move past that pain to build a stronger, more inclusive movement.
As one of the organizers who helped prepare for Lobby Day, I spent many late nights in the Task Force office making hundreds of phone calls and writing countless emails. The hard work continued up until and through Lobby Day itself. The environment behind the scenes was always high energy with no time to even think about slowing down. As participants attended different sessions, other people prepared food, printed handouts, and even continued to secure appointments with Congressional leaders.
I am so grateful for everyone I got to work with for Lobby Day, and want to thank those who gave me the opportunity to help. Thank you to everyone who put in so much hard work to make the Transgender Lobby Day a success. All of the hard work paid off.
Victoria Kim, Creating Change Intern, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force