From Jesus A. Hernandez, assistant professor of nursing at Queens University of Charlotte, in response to “I fought for civil rights. It is offensive to compare it with transgender fight” (May 20 For the Record):
As Mr. Clarence Henderson explained in his letter to the editor, every human struggle for dignity, equality, justice, inclusion, access and pursuit of happiness is unique.
Slavery of Africans, the Holocaust of Jews, and the continuous global struggles of women for safety, equality and opportunity are some of the lowest points of human existence that must never be forgotten and must be given the reverence that they deserve.
As a gay Latino who chooses the Christ path to God, I cannot fully understand all of the struggles of those who are different from me. To say that all are oppressed equally would also be far-reaching, as people of color continue to disproportionately bear the brunt and consequences of racism, marginalization and disempowerment in our society.
But what I do know is that whenever one person is denied dignity and full human rights, all of us are diminished from reaching our full potential. As humans we constantly struggle to overcome fear of the other. We find comfort in that which resembles us and often choose to affiliate with those who best align with our own identities and intersections.
But the examples of creation point us towards diversity, not uniformity, as being the norm, as we note the many species and variations that surround us in both flora and fauna. Humans also express great biological and cultural diversity. The best way to try to understand others and decrease our fears is to listen to experiences, perceptions and meanings of those different from ourselves with compassion and the intention to find what not only makes us different but what also makes us alike.
What I understand of transgender persons is that their mind and soul do not conform to the gender that they were assigned at birth based on external appearance of genitalia. Evidence tells us that human sexuality and gender identity are very complex and there is still much to be learned.
Most children can state their gender identity by the time they are 3 years old. “I’m a girl” or “I’m a boy” and for some “I’m not sure yet.” How difficult it must be when your mind tells you that you are one gender while others insist that you are another. Who am I to assign the race, gender identity or sexual orientation of another?
I remember fantasizing about marrying a boy as early as 6 years old. For others to say that sexual orientation and gender identity are choices rather than an inherent trait like race goes against our best evidence. And what if each these traits were a choice, who is to say that all persons don’t have the right to choose their own identities? To tell others that they must conform to what is perceived to be normal by some is a violation of their right to self-determination. HB2 is a violation of human rights and must be defeated in its entirety. We must also continue to listen with compassion to different voices and perspectives, like those of Mr. Henderson, if we are to increase our understanding and respect for each other. Even though much of what he wrote differs from my perspective, I can find common ground in his passion to advocate for African Americans and his personal struggle for dignity and equality.