My gay agenda by Jennifer Finney Boylan.

PROVINCETOWN, Mass. — My wife and I spent the morning riding our bicycles to the beach. It was a beautiful day. Seals dived in the surf, a couple played Kadima with their grandchildren, and Deirdre and I lay in the sun.

We celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary this summer. Our sons are in their 20s now. One is working as an actor. The other is an engineering student, researching the effects of lasers on glass. Both of them called us that day, to say hi, and that they loved us.

Meanwhile, in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott opened a special session of the Legislature, during which Republicans will attempt to portray me, and transgender people like me, as sexual predators. The legislature is expected to vote once again on a bill to restrict which bathrooms transgender Texans can use.

In the evening, Deirdre and I had fish tacos at the Beachcomber. At a certain point I got up, used the bathroom and looked in the mirror. A worn-down but grateful middle-aged woman looked back. I headed back to my chair.

Somehow, during my time in the ladies room, the republic had failed to collapse.

I hear a lot about the "gay agenda" in my work as an advocate for L.G.B.T. people. Sometimes I hear that we are agitating for "special rights."

Which — let's be honest — is true. I do want special rights.

I want the special right, for instance, to not be beaten or murdered by ignorant bigots. At least 15 transgender women have been killed so far this year for the crime of being themselves.

I want the special right not to be fired from my job. In 28 states, it's perfectly legal to terminate an employee because you don't like the gender of the person that he or she is in love with. In others, gay employees are protected, but trans ones aren't. In some states, it is even illegal for local governments to pass or enforce anti-discrimination laws.

I want the special right to not be homeless. In this country, an estimated 1.6 million young people experience homelessness each year; 40 percent of them are L.G.B.T. A third of the homeless queer young people ran away from home because they faced physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

I want the special right to be able to turn on the television, or go to the movies, and see, maybe just once, a person like myself on the screen. I mean someone other than a murder victim in a crime show, or a straight, cisgender actor getting a trophy honoring his bravery for pretending — ineptly — to be someone like me, or trans people being interviewed on talk shows as if gender transition is something as distant as the moon and they are transsexual Buzz Aldrins.

I want the special right to open up the newspaper and not have to read one more clever "think piece" in which the humanity of people like me is held up for public debate.

What I want above all, is the special right to be left alone, and to be considered half of just one more unextraordinary American couple — just as the two of us were as we sat at the bar watching the ocean and drinking our beers.

You'd think that most of this would be common sense — that protecting American citizens from violence and unemployment and homelessness would be something we'd all agree upon. You'd think that respecting the privacy and humanity of some of the country's most vulnerable souls would be a common goal.

But then, maybe you didn't know that in the last six months the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services have already withdrawn or revised policies or proposals meant to protect L.G.B.T. Americans. Maybe you didn't know that the governor and lieutenant governor of Texas feel that the state is so endangered by the prospect of leaving transgender people alone that they felt it necessary to call a special session of the Legislature to enshrine discrimination against us into state law. Maybe you didn't know that Vice President Mike Pence has said that gay parents like me bring about "societal collapse" and the "deterioration of marriage and family."

But you should.

Speaking of family, July 29 through Aug. 5 is Family Week here in Provincetown, an event sponsored by the Family Equality Council to celebrate families like mine. Society-collapsing events will include a 5K road race, an ice cream social and kickball.

There's a monument here, near the tip of Cape Cod, a tower that honors the Pilgrims, who came to this country seeking … well, special rights. The special right to worship as they pleased; the special right to be free from want; the special right to be free from ignorance and fear.

Just shy of 400 years later, L.G.B.T. Americans and their families still seek that freedom.

Jennifer Finney Boylan, a contributing opinion writer to the New York Times, is a professor of English at Barnard College and the author of the novel "Long Black Veil." This article appeared on July 24, 2017.


July 24, 2017

Addendum. America needs this gay agenda to be America's agenda. Share and support it!

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