“They are targeting our community because the perception is that we are the weakest link. What this attempt misses is that we are not alone.”

By October 17, 2017Voices

Denise Sudbeck remembers how isolated she sometimes felt growing up in Maine, before she moved to Anchorage and before there was really any sort of public knowledge about transgender people. Denise is a transgender woman, but when she was younger she says she had no one to communicate that to, and it left her feeling very alone.She says Proposition 1, which would eliminate non-discrimination protections under Anchorage law that keep her safe in public places like restaurants, retail stores and hospitals, has brought those feelings of isolation rushing back.

“During those years, I was certain that I was alone. It wasn’t safe to talk about being transgender,” she says. “This ballot initiative would make that worse. Not only will it not make public facilities any safer for the general population, it will make them more dangerous for transgender people like me if we experience violence.”

“During those years, I was certain that I was alone. It wasn’t safe to talk about being transgender. This ballot initiative would make that worse. Not only will it not make public facilities any safer for the general population, it will make them more dangerous for transgender people like me if we experience violence.” —Denise Sudbeck

Denise says she has heard the fear-mongering rhetoric from people who want to roll back these protections. They’re questioning her integrity and her dignity, she says, and as someone who has served her country in uniform, it really stings. She is a Vietnam-era veteran of the United States Navy, and also served as part of the Naval Security Group with the submarine service.

As LGBT people have become more visible in society, she’s felt better able to live as the woman she has long known herself to be. Non-discrimination laws like Anchorage’s, as well as the US Military’s evolving policies on allowing LGBT people to serve openly, has helped her feel more comfortable.

“I never told a single soul I felt much more myself living as a woman, not until 2010,” Denise says. “The word transgender wasn’t available to describe any of us through those earlier years. A big part of the fear was that somebody could be blackmailed. When there are no more secrets, there is nothing left to manipulate anybody.”

“They are targeting this part of our community because the perception is that we are the weakest link. What this attempt misses is that we are not alone. Many others will stand in solidarity with transgender people and that means everything.”

With Proposition 1 on the ballot in April, however, she is acutely aware that the progress the whole LGBT community has made—and that she’s made personally—could start to unravel. It’s not a coincidence, she says, that anti-LGBT extremists are targeting transgender people in Anchorage.

“They are targeting our community because the perception is that we are the weakest link,” she says. “What this attempt misses is that we are not alone. Many others will stand in solidarity with transgender people and that means everything.”

If you’re one of the growing number of residents of Anchorage who support preserving non-discrimination protections for our transgender friends and neighbors, sign the Fair Anchorage pledge to vote against Proposition 1 in April.