Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Pam Bennett, an American advocate for the LGBT community, politician, military veteran, and blogger. Hello Pam!
Pam: Hello from Annapolis, Maryland U.S.A. Happy to be here.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Pam: Asking a politician (former, but never say never) to say only a few words is like asking the sun to not shine too much today. My first thought every day is that I am the luckiest person on earth. The job I do is a lot of fun, enhanced with wonderful co-workers and bosses who care about their employees.
I live on a beautiful little peninsula, southeast of Annapolis, in the Chesapeake Bay. My cat, Boo, loves sailing on my boat. All of this is what I think of each morning because I also temper my happiness knowing that so many transgender people around the world cannot even dream of my world. I have had a great life, too many downs, but a lot of ups to make it interesting.
Monika: You are a very active politician. Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Pam: Transgender women are making a difference in politics. Our track record is still more losses than wins, but over time we will succeed. Each one of us who runs builds a world where other transwomen can run, and win. We are breaking trail, my biggest issue is that there was no one behind me in Colorado to take up the big T and advance where I had not. We have to have women willing to be leaders. I am always available if a transwoman wants to talk about running for office.
Monika: You ran for the Council seat in Aurora, Colorado. Why did you want to be a city councilwoman?
Pam: Serving is something in my genes. The military was one form of serving, something many civilians might not understand. The various jobs I worked at during my life have all been producing something for America and the world. And, as my transition therapist, and Veterans Administration psychologist, put it, I am a classic politician – someone who is a combination of Type A personality with a Super-Ego. I enjoy talking and meeting people, and just helping them. My city, Aurora, had a place for a Progressive person on city council, I thought it was me, not enough voters did though.
Pam: This is an excellent question, one that I have wondered about since 2010 when he put out an executive order giving transgender people the same employment protections (not rights!) as other protected classes (a legal term for minorities and women) in the federal government. I tend to think there has been more of an unspoken support compared to the need to “evolve” on gay marriage.
|Campaign Kick Off 2007.|
Pam: The Democrats tend to be more supportive at the start. Republicans may change later, or they may not. Republicans can have one behaviour in public, but undermine you in private. The vocal support to the world, but passing legislation to isolate and harm in politics.
Democrats in politics are usually waiting to see how you are doing. My volunteers were great. They wanted a strong Democrat to win the election so they worked hard. One of my campaign managers said that when I address people, one on one or a large group, they spend a few minutes trying to figure who or what I am, then after five minutes they are mine and do not care about my gender.
Monika: The American politics is based on the interaction with different interest groups that wish to pursue their specific goals. How successful is the transgender community in this respect?
Pam: Poor. It is a question of who writes the checks. Transgender communities must rely on others, for almost everything. Adding us on to the G-L-B, is still being fought by many gay and lesbians. What is important to our cause of equality, safety and freedom is impressing on politicians that all are only as equal as the least of us.
We have many allies in public service who will work for us. We have to support them in any way we can. The most important and visible is for trans people to run for office. A face, a name and a real campaign is great advertising. A real campaign is running on the issues, not equality. Equality should be a given by any LGBT politician, it is not an issue for the voters.
Monika: You have been also involved with The White House Project advocating the higher participation of women in politics. How important is this project?
Pam: The sad is the WHP is fini. What it did for woman cannot be understated. In Colorado, which is where I am most familiar with, many women learned how to get over their hesitations about running; they learned how to run for office and they won. There are a couple of start-ups trying to duplicate WHP, they do not have the leadership or the money. Maybe it is something I might help with.
Pam: Some of my best buddies are Army vets. The military is something best lived as an officer; I was not an officer. Back in the early 1970’s when I was in Vietnam War was shutting down, but I was still supposed to have orders to go when I tore up a knee. That delayed things for a while, but there was still the White House and members of Congress along with the Pentagon wanting for us to go back in to “save” the country, I was supposed to have orders for that. At the time I was still proving “I am a guy” so although being trans was in the brain, I worked very hard at blocking it. If I stayed in I suppose something would have happened to get me discharged out. I learned a lot in the military, much of it is a discipline to work and take the mission.
|Pam on her boat.|
But, on the other side we are being employed. We are being portrayed on television and in the movies as real people, not monsters. We have more protections in more states, life for us is improving. I believe improving faster than I would have guessed ten years ago.
In Washington, D.C., transwomen are always subject to assault and murder. The local media covers these better now, especially pointing out how high the crime rate is against us. Other cities are slowly coming around.
I did not care for or trust HRC before and I am still waiting for them to do something that I can say they are helping us. Various lesbian groups have issues with women who were born with the wrong parts, but I can live without their judgments, other transwomen feel they need to fight, I say go girl, go.
Right now the push is for state level and federal level elected office. We have transpeople in high government positions, but those are appointed. The toughest fight is to run for office and win. The money people will support anyone but trans. But, to break new ground and provide an equality solution for an area, I do not see anyone at this moment. Maybe if I decide to poke my head into politics again I might have better vision.
|Boo sailing the Chesapeake Bay.|
Boo is her sea cat. She loves sailing.
There are about six other women’s names on the boat, all crossed out. I have a lot of loves, just not current and not here. I did try dating once I moved to Maryland, but none have bloomed.
Many people have asked me to write about my life, they find it fantastic and inspiring. I try to explain that a lot of trans people have written theirs and we all have something similar. The body was not right and we did something about it. I enjoy writing, however, I think an autobiography too early means writing a new one if you keep living. Which may not be all that bad.