Spotlight on UCLA: Mara Keisling on the Trans Movement
On Monday, The Williams Institute, cosponsored by the LGBT Studies Department of UCLA and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs Department of Social Welfare, hosted speaker Mara Keisling. Keisling, a self-identified trans woman, is an active advocate for the trans community as well as being the founding Executive Director of the National Center of Transgender Equality. Along with moderator Jody Herman, Keisling described the nature of the trans movement, some of her work for the community, and the general successes and goals of the movement.
Keisling identifies one reason for the success of the trans movement due to the proceeding human rights movements, such as the Civil Rights Movement and previous LGBT movement. Since these proceeding movements helped create a system in which progressive movements may flourish, the trans movement has been able to gain many successes in its undertaking. Keisling also cited the movement’s decentralized organization as a factor of its success, as the movement may be broken into three sectors: Public Policy, Public Education, and Support. Each sector compliments the other two, allowing the movement to continually strengthen and grow.
Another significant factor the trans movement’s quick success and momentum is the movement’s lack of focus in its lobbying and advocacy, preferring to work on multiple projects and issues simultaneously. This lack of focus provides many achievements for the movement, further increasing the already fast moving momentum. Keisling contrasted this gaining momentum with what she believes to be an imminent decline of the LGBT movement, due to the movement’s focus on marriage equality. Though Keisling does support marriage equality, the LGBT movement is quickly being solely associated with the issue, and once the issue is resolved the movement will lose its momentum. She uses the Women’s Rights Movement, and its focus of abortion, as an example of a once prominent movement utterly declining.
One important mission of the trans movement has been in changing government policies for gender classification on government issued identification, allowing easier access to change the gender on such identification. This goal to change policies is especially important with Social Security, as the agency notifies employers of mismatched gender, effectively outing trans employees. Along with the change in identification policies, the movement is working to amend the classification of transgender people in government employee discrimination policies, making it illegal to actively discriminate against trans people due to their status as trans. By starting with government agencies, the change will eventually occur in civilian employee and employer relations as well.
Though the trans movement has achieved a lot in a relatively short period, the movement has much work to do, in both policy and social settings. Yet, Keisling expressed optimism that the movement would maintain its momentum and continue its achievements.