The first Democratic presidential debate of the 2016 season was an exemplary example of civil discourse compared to what the American public witnessed with the GOP’s presidential debate. And none of the candidates — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Senator of Vermont Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, former Governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee and former U.S. Senator of Virginia Jim Webb — trounced on each other.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon, and Dana Bash quizzed the Democratic field on their views on a number of topics: marijuana, climate change, income inequality, NRA and gun reform, immigration and “Black Lives Matter,” to name a few. As CNN’s moderators exhausted their laundry list of questions, none sadly were focused on LGBTQ issues.
I was shocked, especially with two of the moderators not only being openly gay, but also advocates of LGBTQ justice — Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon. I wonder in celebration of June’s historic Supreme Court ruling — Obergefell v. Hodge — that legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states and then Caitlyn Jenner’s (formerly known as Bruce Jenner), coming out moment on the cover of Vanity Fair, do our elected officials, as well as most Americans, now feel our struggle for civil rights protection is over? Or is it the thought that our concerns are now included and can be resolved in broader issues, like income inequality, immigration, and “Black Lives Matter”?
While the intersection of the above-mentioned issues might give you a cursory depiction of the struggles of trans sisters of color, it won’t, however, convey the day-to-day “state of emergency” this demographic group struggles with to stay alive. With transgender homicide on the rise (rose 11 percent from 2013 to 2014) the issue of trans violence needs to be made central in this presidential campaign.
For example, Kiesha Jenkins of Philadelphia is the 18th and recent African American trans sister murdered this year. And Melvin of Detroit, an African American gender non-conforming brother who wore female clothes, was recently found fatally shot and killed. I want the Democratic presidential hopefuls to be as invested in LGBTQ lives lost to police brutality as they are about “Black Lives Matter.”
We all remember the death of Sandra Bland while in police custody this summer. With the focus of police brutality on African American males, the reality of unarmed African American women being beaten, profiled, sexually violated, and murdered by law enforcement officials with alarming regularity is too often ignored.
When Bland was found hanging from a noose made of plastic bags in her Waller County, Texas, jail cell, the coroner’s report corroborated the police’s claim, stating there were no obvious signs of such a violent struggle. But like Bland’s family and friends, I, too, cry out foul play. And it’s because of Waller County’s long and prideful history of keeping Blacks in their place, including lynching.
But police brutality isn’t just a Black thing, at least not in Texas. Just two hours south of Waller County, a gay White man, Jesse Jacobs, 32, died while in custody at the Galveston County Jail. While serving a 30-day DUI sentence, Jacobs was deliberately denied his Xanax medication for anxiety. By the time Jacobs was rushed to the hospital after suffering a seizure — something common for those forced to abruptly go off Xanax — he was dead on arrival.
I know most of the Democratic candidates have taken legislative measures to support the LGBTQ community. In 2013, Chafee signed into law a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, making Rhode Island the last of the New England states to obtain marriage equality.
“I’ve had a great record of supporting LGBT issues,” Chafee said. “To me, it wasn’t only a civil rights issue, it was also an economic issue, and we genuinely want a tolerant society if you’re going to attract the best people in the military.”
In May 2014, O’Malley signed the state’s transgender rights bill. The measure prohibits discrimination in housing, unemployment, credit and use of public accommodations. Sanders has a perfect score of 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s latest Congressional Equality Index. And Webb, well, like Clinton, recently evolved to support marriage-equality.
I didn’t feel fully spoken for in the presidential debate. I needed to have heard their support of my issues while most Americans were tuned in watching.
Rev. Irene Monroe is a Huffington Post blogger and freelance journalist.