by Mira Lazine
Imagine yourself waking in a body that just fundamentally feels wrong. Imagine carrying on with an identity that is not your own. Imagine feeling this way every single day of your life until it becomes normal for you, until it’s something you feel forced to accept.
Now imagine that you finally figure out why you feel this way – you finally begin to understand the reasons you’ve been dealing with this since you were born, with answers beginning to unfold around you as you finally complete the giant puzzle that’s been in front of you for years. You try to pursue resources, and eventually find doctors and clinicians who specialize in patients who feel as you do, who can help you finally embrace an identity that feels right, have a body that feels like your own, and who can grant you the life you’ve always wanted.
You then find out that there’s no way to reach any of these specialists.
The nearest ones are hours away, requiring a commute that could cost you your job. You feel hopeless but try to reach out to people around you to see if there’s anyone else like yourself, or to see if they can help you finally feel happy. It takes days upon days, weeks upon weeks but you finally gain the courage to come out to family and friends, to try to seek others around you – only to be met with bigotry in response. You’re told it’s only a phase, that your perception of your identity and your feelings that you’ve dealt with your whole life are wrong because no one else saw signs – signs that you’ve been seeing for an eternity. You find no resources around you. Everyone else like you is in hiding. Most therapists or doctors, at best, will evade the treatment you know you need, and, at worst, will try to “fix” you. It feels hopeless, with little end or salvation in sight.
This is how transgender individuals in northeastern PA feel every day. There’s minimal resources around here. The best we have specifically for trans people being a yearly health conference which, while certainly a good thing, undoubtedly doesn’t advance much for trans rights.
We have no LGBTQ+ shelters – neither for youth nor adults – nor do we have any particularly reputable clinics or therapists to help trans individuals. Instead, upon a web search, it’s easily found that many proudly support labels of being a “Family Counselor,” something that, for trans individuals, sounds major alarms about them potentially aiming for conversion therapy. While there’s been undoubted advancement in queer rights around here, as detailed by Ky McGinniss and Em Maloney in a separate Anthracite Unite piece earlier this year for Pride month, it’s only very minimal. Non-discrimination laws are important, but they don’t cover all the grounds to prevent bigotry, especially since they weren’t universally praised – many were voicing opposition, such as in Stroudsburg, and with entire county councils – not just cities – rejecting anti-discrimination bills due to ‘religious freedom.’ This of course isn’t a particularly large surprise – NEPA has a particularly conservative culture, with what happened to Gary Campbell being an accurate representation of LGBTQ+ rights in the area. With advocacy for corporal punishment against children, racist mayors, transphobic county commissioners, and even transphobic businesses in places like Scranton that have anti-discrimination rules, there’s not much boding well for us around here. So what’s to be done?
What’s needed currently is a large sum of activism for LGBTQ+ individuals, especially trans people, in NEPA to help fight back. There’s of course plenty of people who are currently aiming to do this, such as Dee Culp, NEPA Trans Health, Electric City Socialists, and most notably Queer NEPA. While these individuals and groups are undoubtedly going to be crucial in the fight ahead, we’ll need more individuals on our side. There’s a greater need for more activism, more campaigning and more individuals in the battle forward, and it certainly won’t be easy. Aiming to establish valid healthcare around here, reliable shelters for LGBTQ+ individuals, and to change cultural norms is a difficult task, one that LGBTQ+ individuals all over the globe have been aiming to accomplish for decades.
But it certainly isn’t impossible. With the aforementioned activist groups, there’s been a greater prevalence of LGBTQ+ individuals beginning to take a long needed stand. There’s been unity with working class, racial, gender, and immigrant liberation movements, signaling a promising start to a far more just future.
We have a fight ahead of us to be sure – not just at the local level, but the national. With the Trump administration working to reverse trans rights and define us out of existence, a difficult road looks to be paved ahead. Yet, with major pushback from transgender people and our allies, much can be said about a potentially promising future for us if we fight back with all that we have.
What the future holds for trans individuals in northeastern PA is unknown, but if we work hard enough together we can make it an optimistic one.
Mira Lazine is a young transgender writer aiming to provide a leftist perspective on NEPA’s current politics. She advocates pacifism, environmentalism, social justice, and reviving extinct words, in spite of her lethologica. You can read more of her writing here: https://medium.com/@undergroundsocialist.