By Sophie Kachur
(Ed. Note – The following is a transcript of remarks made by Ms. Kachur at Monday’s Falls Church City Council meeting on the occasion of the Council’s adoption of a proclamation declaring this Transgender Awareness Week and Nov. 20 as Transgender Day of Remembrance. Ms. Kachur is a public meetings assistant for the City of Falls Church.)
“It’s hard to say the right thing. We know the right thing, but it’s hard to actually say it, especially on an issue like this which is so nuanced. It’s difficult to decide how much we want to give away to the world, in fear of how it may be twisted against us. Do we quietly support in hopes that we won’t face pushback from a prejudiced world? Or do we unequivocally stick up for our values? I think it’s better to try, and make mistakes along the way, than to be silent.
So I’m going to try.
I’m not trans myself, but as a member of the queer community. I have a deep affinity and connection with the trans community. I know that coming out is a hard decision, and being out is often a harder experience. And I know that it shouldn’t be something that distinguishes the queer community, especially trans people, from others in society any more than saying you’re from Fairfax County versus the City of Falls Church. But that is not the case. In the world we live in, we know that being trans often comes with a lot of pain. And through this proclamation we acknowledge that. We recognize the violence that society inflicts on transgender people and we honor the memory of those we’ve lost to transphobia and bigotry.
At the same time, we cannot forget the joy and beauty of the transgender experience. The pain I’ve just mentioned doesn’t come from being trans, but from the lack of understanding and inability to accept trans people as equally deserving of life and autonomy. The trans experience itself is amazing.
There is nothing more fulfilling than watching another human being discover who they are and come into their own. There is no one way to be trans and there is no one journey to becoming who you are meant to be. Through the varying experiences our trans community members have we are reminded of the beauty of diversity. The more we cherish the diversity of gender and gendered experience, the more opportunity we give to our community members to be who they are without a second thought. Not only do we welcome trans community members when we defend their right to live here, but we welcome and free everyone who lives in this community from the shackles of the traditional gender binary system. And that’s one of the most beautiful things about the trans community. The fight for their rights brings not only peace and power to their cause, but acceptance and freedom for all gender identities and expressions, trans, cis, or otherwise.
So finally, I want to ask you to imagine the reactions you expect to receive from this proclamation. Namely, the negative, because that is what I’ve heard the most of in crafting this document.
Think for a moment about your worst fears of who may hear this and what they may do, but think not as a servant of the City of Falls Church, not as a Council member or representative of the community, but as an individual. Imagine yourself as one person bearing the brunt of societal rejection of who you are at your core. Can you carry that weight alone? It is one thing to stand up to transphobia as a united community, and another to face it alone, as a personal attack. And so while we may face bigoted responses, I want to highlight that we will face them together. This proclamation demonstrates that as representatives of the city, as a workplace, and as a whole community we will help lift the weight from our trans community members who for so long have carried it alone.
This isn’t the end. This proclamation is not the solution to our problem, but a stepping stone on the way.
If we said nothing, this hate would continue to exist. And even though we are saying something now, this hate will continue to exist. The fight for trans rights has been going on for decades in the United States and won’t soon be won if we continue to take half measures and backslide into silence. This region is making progress, from the Falls Church City School Systems’ commitment to serving its students with respect and dignity regardless of transphobic and hateful legislation passed from above, to the welcoming leadership City-led programs are run with that respects the gender identity of all participants.
With this proclamation we encourage these measures, and commit ourselves to continuing to do the work that will ensure Falls Church is a welcoming and inclusive community that thrives with the acceptance and involvement of all its residents.”