Allow us to speak optimistically for a moment in an otherwise very dark world – with the recent election of Joe Biden, the Black Lives Matter movement, and more legislation that protects LGBTQ+ individuals being passed, the world is at least finally becoming increasingly aware of the institutionalized marginalization of minority groups. Though change often seems to be happening at a snail’s pace, and hateful rhetoric and actions are still far too common in the world, we are living in an era of progressiveness that is opening up more opportunities than ever before for marginalized groups. Examples? A record number of black women were elected to U.S. Congress in the November 2020 election. Kamala Harris was elected the first-ever female vice president in 2020, and the first African-Asian American woman at that. Newly elected Delaware state senator Sarah McBride is now the highest-ranking openly transgender individual in the United States. After winning the race, the 30-year-old tweeted, “I hope tonight shows an LGBTQ kid that our democracy is big enough for them, too.”
Needless to say, this long list of “firsts” makes us hopeful for the future and points towards a generally more accepting culture in the coming years. According to research done in 2018 by Pew Research Center, Gen Zers were found to be progressive and pro-government. Additionally, most see the country’s growing racial and ethnic diversity as a good thing, and they’re less likely than older generations to see the United States as superior to other nations. This data is enough to keep us hopeful that policies will become more progressive in the coming years, and support people of all backgrounds, races, genders, and sexual orientations.
Acceptance is something that we not only value, but place a great deal of emphasis on enacting at Hello Prenup. After all, the idea behind the site was to create an alternative to traditional prenup drafting methods. The pronouns “they/them/their” used to describe a transgender individual don’t have much case law behind them as they have rarely (if ever) been used. When we were creating HelloPrenup, we thought about how much more intimidating that can make the prenuptial agreement drafting process for a transgender individual. In addition, there is the cost associated with drafting a prenuptial agreement, especially in states like New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania or Illinois where attorney’s fees tend to be higher than other parts of the country. As things are now, the average middle-class person might be hesitant to drop potentially tens of thousands of dollars on a traditional prenup (accounting for the hefty cost of attorney fees and negotiations). Our goal is to destigmatize the concept of prenups, set people up for healthy marriages, and make prenups more affordable and accessible.
With this inclusionary ideology in mind, we strive to be a mindful business that supports the pillars of diversity and inclusion. One way that we have worked to do that is by offering prenup drafting services with the option of non-gender-specific pronouns. Individuals who do not identify with “she/hers” or “he/him” can instead be referred to throughout the legal document with the pronouns “they/them.”
While this may not seem especially significant, transgender individuals, in particular, have seriously had their rights threatened these past four years under the Trump administration. To deprive transgender people of their civil liberties, the administration has worked to narrow the definition of gender as strictly biological and determined at an individual’s time of birth. Access to bathrooms has especially been a hot button topic that you’ve likely heard about over the past few years. Under President Barack Obama, legislation was created which allowed children in US public schools to use whichever bathroom matched the gender they identified with. This legislation was met with legal backlash from a significant number of states, and the Trump presidency completely rolled back the ruling. If you’ve noticed an uptick in non-gendered bathrooms in public areas, you can accredit this to certain facilities combatting this attack on transgender rights, and working to be more inclusive.
In 2019, the Trump administration rolled back another Obama-era policy for transgender people – their ability to serve in the U.S. military, and receive transition-related healthcare while enlisted. While the administration tried to get around calling it a “ban”, the policy did effectively prohibit transgender individuals from enlisting after April 2019, while simultaneously barring already enlisted individuals from certain healthcare policies. If you reside in the United States, you are already familiar with how astronomical healthcare expenses can be. Individuals transitioning genders have to upkeep hormone therapies, etc. which can be extremely costly if not covered by insurance. Because there is so much discrimination and ignorance surrounding transgender issues within our society, many are not sympathetic to a transgender individual’s healthcare needs. Sadly, this legislation only further proves the lack of awareness and empathy towards this topic.
As our policy makers have failed us on transgender inclusion as of late, the transgender community is slowly but surely becoming better represented in the media. Just as recently as 1981, the first prominent African American trans model, Tracey “Africa” Norman, had her career ruined when it was discovered that she was in fact transgender. A biographical piece by The Cut revilatized her career in 2015, and in 2016 she and Geena Rocero became the first two openly transgender models to grace the cover of Harper’s Baazar magazine. While Norman re-entered a more accepting 21st century world, transgender individuals still hesitate to “come out” publicly. A relevant example is Umbrella Academy and Juno actor, Elliot Page (previously known as Ellen Page). He just publicly came out as transgender and listed his pronouns as he/him. In his statement, he admitted to being, “scared of the invasiveness, the hate, the jokes, and of the violence’ that he may face moving forward.” This shows that even for individuals with immense star power and privilege, being transgender in our current society can still be a very scary ordeal.
So, what is the significance of pronouns amid all of this? Even if it is done unintentionally, it’s all too easy for individuals to make assumptions about a person’s gender solely based on their name or appearance. This assumption perpetuates the idea that those identifying of a specific gender have to look or act a certain way. By becoming aware of someone’s preferred personal pronouns, we can create a more inclusive and respectful environment for intersex, transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people. Not utilizing preferred pronouns can be blatantly oppressive to these individuals. Along the same grain, sites and services refusing to provide a “they/them” option insinuates that individuals who wish to utilize these pronouns do not deserve opportunity to do so, effectively making them feel even more excluded. The more that our culture encourages individuals to normalize sharing personal pronouns (whether at the office, during events, at the doctor’s office, or in other situations), the more inclusionary our society will feel to transgender individuals.
It was only within the last 50 years (1975) that Minneapolis, MN was the first US first city to pass trans-inclusive civil rights protection legislation. Just a year later in 1976, the Superior Court of New Jersey ruled in M.T. v. J.T. that transgender individuals may marry on the basis of their gender identity, regardless of their assigned sex at birth. In a decision somewhat related to post-marriage discrepancies and issues that a prenup could address, this landmark case found that the plaintiff, M.T., was entitled to receive spousal support after her husband, J.T., left her and stopped supporting her financially. The court ruled in favor of J.T., deciding that her marriage was valid and she deserved support, in part, because she’d had sex reassignment surgery.
Clearly, the late 70s was a hallmark time for transgender legislation. Transgender woman Renée Richards would fight to compete in the 1976 U.S. Open as the United States Tennis Association began requiring genetic screening for female players. She challenged this policy, and the case eventually went to the New York Supreme Court in 1977, which ruled in her favor. This would become a landmark case for transgender rights, and Richards herself became an icon and spokesperson for transgender rights in sports.
Additional visibility for transgender rights would come from a tragedy that shook the nation. In 1993, transgender man Brandon Teena was brutally raped and killed in Nebraska. As a teenager, Teena was diagnosed as suffering from a severe “sexual identity crisis”. Because he had not yet undergone sexual reassignment surgery or hormone therapy, Teena was referred to by many members of the media as a lesbian post-mortem. His story would go on to inspire the 1999 film Boys Don’t Cry, as well as several transgender rights lobbyist movements on Capitol Hill.
While this civil rights battle is a relatively new one in the eye of the public, there is still a very long way to go on the road towards equality and social justice for transgender individuals. Founded on Puritanical values, the United States has always perpetuated a culture of gender normativity, and toxic masculinity standards also remain problematic within in American society. It is up to each of us as individuals to take action and work towards a better tomorrow for marginalized groups. Whether it’s signing a petition, educating others about the cause, volunteering, or reading up on the issues yourself, we all have a responsibility to make this country a more inclusionary place. As we’ve already spoken to, couples of all gender identities and sexual orientations are encouraged to draft their prenups on HelloPrenup’s accessible and inclusive platform.
Julia Rodgers is HelloPrenup’s CEO and Co-Founder. She is a Massachusetts family law attorney and true believer in the value of prenuptial agreements. HelloPrenup was created with the goal of automating the prenup process, making it more collaborative, time efficient and cost effective. Julia believes that a healthy marriage is one in which couples can openly communicate about finances and life goals. You can read more about us here Questions? Reach out to Julia directly at [email protected].