As we mark Transgender Awareness Month, there is much to celebrate in terms of awareness for the transgender community, but there are urgent issues that must be addressed that directly affect transgender lives.
For the first time, and with activist and actor Laverne Cox blazing the trail, we have two popular television shows with transgender characters in lead roles — “Transparent” and “Sense8” — in addition to the reality shows “I am Cait” and “I am Jazz.” The former has broken new ground by not only featuring Caitlyn Jenner, but also transgender activists such as Angelica Ross who have spoken to the experiences of trans women of color and low-income trans people. This has literally “introduced” millions of Americans to transgender people for the first time and is a success indicator for the years of work to highlight the transgender community and the issues that they face. President Barack Obama made history this year by being the first president to mention transgender people in a State of the Union Address. Indeed, the Obama Administration has continued to show strong support for the transgender community — from coming out against conversion therapy after the suicide of Leelah Alcorn, to speaking out against the violence against transgender women of color during a White House reception, to defending transgender teen Gavin Grimm’s right to use the school bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity under Title IX.
But with all the awareness, there has been too little attention paid to the murders of transgender women, and particularly transgender women of color, across the nation and the shocking rates of unemployment, homelessness and poverty that are way above those faced by the rest of the LGBQ community and the general public. The solution to these problems are as diverse as employers hiring more transgender people to every level of government passing strong non-discrimination laws, from passing federal legislation that effectively tackles police profiling to not criminalizing people engaged in sex work. While progress has been made through groundbreaking EEOC rulings, we are still waiting for Congress to pass a strong, explicit and comprehensive federal non-discrimination law. We also know that the Obama Administration’s ICE memo that came out this year will only continue to put transgender detainees in harms way — the only way to stop violence against LGBTQ detainees is to end detention altogether.
As we mark this very special month, we all must work harder for a world where transgender people and all LGBQ people can bring their whole selves to life without the fear of discrimination, persecution and violence.
— Last year, the National LGBTQ Task Force, works to secure full freedom, justice and equality for LGBTQ people, launched the public education campaign #StopTransMurders. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the murder rate of transgender women of color across the country and to stimulate discussion about how to solve the national tragedy. To learn more about the campaign, visit thetaskforce.org/stop-trans-murders/.