“The Law Makes Me Feel Safer — We Must Vote No on Prop 1”

By | Voices

EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece was written by Andrea Redeker, a transgender woman and a resident of Anchorage.

As a transgender person, I know all too well the daily fear that will reenter my life if Prop 1 passes.

Anchorage’s non-discrimination ordinance makes it safer for transgender people to exist in public spaces. The law offers us basic protection as we move about the city, from grocery stores and schools to office spaces. The promise of legal protection gives us the assurance we need invest in our communities, offer our employers strong work ethics and integrity, and raise our families safely. It protects us from being fired from our jobs, or thrown out into the street, simply because we are transgender. It has given me the same legal defense against discrimination that every other Anchorage resident gets. It has given me the taste of equality, and has made me feel safer in this city.

Proposition 1 would strip away protections for transgender people and make us less safe.

I have a friend who is a transgender man. He has an amazing wife and a couple of amazing young children. I asked him what he was most afraid of if Prop 1 passed. He looked me in the eye, and told me that he was terrified that he would be forced into a women’s restroom. I asked him what specifically he was afraid of. He brushed his beard, and the look on his face became solemn. He said he was terrified that his children might have to watch their father be beaten or killed by men who saw him enter the women’s restroom, the bathroom that matched his birth certificate but nothing else about him.

His fears aren’t overblown. They reflect a reality that is rarely talked about when we discuss public safety in this city: transgender individuals are victims of violence at alarming rates. I have seen the statistics — that 8 in 10 transgender individuals are harassed in public spaces, a majority have been victims of assault. And in recent years, as opponents of LGBT rights have singled out transgender people with bathroom initiatives like Prop 1, violence against transgender individuals has increased.

For me, these statistics are more than numbers. They are cold and emotionless way of describing the reality I face when I leave my house in the morning. They represent the real lived experiences of too many of us in this community.

One of my transgender friends was assaulted by her client when driving a cab. He verbally abused her, and threw objects at her, while she drove down the road. He did this because she is transgender.

A young transgender man told be about being brutally assaulted in his high school. His head was slammed against his locker door repeatedly until he lost consciousness. They did this to him because he is transgender.

I myself, a transgender woman, survived a brutal assault at my place of work, survived rape, and have experienced a violent sexual assault in a bathroom that matched my birth certificate.

I am not trying to suggest that the backers of Proposition 1 condone violence. But I do believe that the ballot initiative and the violence we experience both stem from the same source: a fear of what is not understood, and a refusal to see us as individuals, who are full and complete as we are, and who deserve to live with dignity.

The non-discrimination law has given us dignity and equal protection under the law. It is hard to describe how that feels. I’m not ready for that to be taken away. Proposition 1 would make us fear public spaces once again, construct our days around using bathrooms only at home, and drive us away from public life. After two years of equality, Proposition 1 feels nothing but demeaning.

As much stress as this election has brought me, it has been incredible to witness the outpouring of opposition to the ballot initiative — from politicians, businesses, faith leaders, and friends, to people who are volunteering hours every week to defeat this initiative and defend my very existence in this city. They remind me that Anchorage is full of people that are driven by love and goodness. They give me great hope that my hometown will defend my safety, uphold my right to equality–that this city will say “No” to Proposition 1.

Anchorage Mother: Proposition 1 Puts My Family in Danger

By | Voices
Cathy Gillis grew up in the “Last Frontier State” – Alaska.  She fondly remembers many adventures of flying into bush Alaska with her father; fishing for wild salmon; hunting; and growing up in a community of people who are independent, strong, and unique.  Being an Alaskan is part of who Cathy is, and she remembers a simple lesson passed down to her by her mother and father when she was a child.
“Cathy, you have to work hard; be honest; and do good for others.  Love your neighbor.”
This guidance has informed Cathy’s identity for as long as she can remember, and it’s a mantra she has used in raising her own children.
“I chose to raise my family here so that my kids would have rich, abundant life experiences,” she says. Unfortunately, the upcoming election in Anchorage could threaten that life experience for one of her children — her transgender son.
Prop 1 is a ballot measure that would remove the nondiscrimination protections currently in place for transgender people, which have been in effect since 2015. Cathy says the prospect of these protections being repealed is terrifying to her family, and threatens the privacy and safety of potentially everyone in Anchorage.
“When people claim transgender people are a threat to public safety, my heart breaks. Singling out one part of our Anchorage community that looks different than the majority, or believes differently, or loves differently, is wrong.  It’s counter to love, and justice, and based solely on fear and misinformation. It is dangerous for my son and all transgender people.”
Since Anchorage’s current protections were passed in 2015, Cathy says she’s felt that her son is safer, and without them, he could face any number of difficult or dangerous situations. Furthermore, she is insistent that once voters can get past the fear-mongering from backers of Proposition 1, they’ll come to see that transgender people like her son are just like everyone else—and equally deserving of dignity and respect under the law.
“His gender identity does not affect his kindness; his work ethic; his compassion, and it shouldn’t affect his ability to live, work, and grow in the community he calls home.  Since Anchorage formalized a non-discrimination ordinance, I’ve been able to breathe a little easier. My kids are the loves of my life, and I want them to reach their potentials in a supportive community.”
Cathy feels as so many others in Anchorage do — that to single out one group, based simply on who they are as people, is wrong and shameful, and most certainly not an Alaskan value.
“It’s time to open our minds and our hearts to the real world; where we breathe the same air, move about in the same spaces, and do the best we can each day. My child, like every child, deserves the rights and protections that come with being a citizen of Anchorage.”
In the end, Cathy is hopeful that the people of Anchorage will do the right thing and continue to protect the rights of transgender people by voting No on Prop 1.
“This is a critical step in making sure that Anchorage remains an amazing place to raise a family.”