Up Next in the LGBT Battle: Transgender Equality

The US Supreme Court made history on June 26, 2015 when they legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states. This is a huge victory for the LGBT community. Since 2004, when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, the treatment of gays and lesbians has continued to improve. However, the rights of transgender people are still being ignored. This is the next battle for LGBT activists.

When I first joined the Gay Straight Alliance at my high school as a sophomore, I didn’t understand all of the identities covered in LGBTQIA. I still struggle to define some sexual and gender orientations at times. One of the first words I came to understand was “transgender”. My school had a transgender teacher as well as a transgender student. Though I was concerned for that community, my efforts were focused on the Yes On 1 campaign in Maine.

Now that same-sex marriage is legalized across the state, a lot of equality groups are focusing on transgender rights. As a senior at my high school, I played the role of Vice President in the Gay Straight Alliance. One of my tasks was to create transgender and asexual fact sheets to disperse to classrooms as part of our yearly educational project. What I learned about transgender people was astounding.

President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union speech featured a shout out to transgender people and their rights. One person said that Obama’s acknowledgement of the community has opened doors and eradicated the invisibility that surrounds them. Obama’s words have shown the country that transgender people deserve the protection the rest of the country’s citizens demand.

Laverne Cox, is a big name in the transgender movement. Though she is the United States’ most prominent transgender actress, her life story mimics that of many young transgender people. Laverne suffered through bullying just as much as any other transgender child trying to find their way in a body they don’t understand. When she was a child, she believed that when puberty hit, she would develop as girl would. Instead, she went through years of shaming from her mother, church, and classmates. Today she is encouraging young people who are struggling to figure out who they are to reach out to communities online.

            Now that we can focus more attention on the transgender community, there are some facts everyone should know:

  1. We don’t know how many people identify as transgender in the United States.
  2. Transgender people are much more likely to attempt or complete suicide.
  3. Homelessness and poverty are huge problems, and homeless shelters are hostile environments for transgender people.
  4. Housing, health care, and job discrimination are much higher in the transgender community than any other community.
  5. Transgender people can’t serve in the military if they have undergone genital surgery.
  6. People believe that those who identify as transgender are mentally ill, gay, weird, or simply confused, but that is not the case.

Anti-LGBT activists started an anti-transgender campaign in 2008. These activists played on the irrational fears surrounding the transgender community. To make matters worse, there were no strong leaders within the transgender community to fight against these attacks. Since this broad hate campaign began, hate crime laws and anti-discrimination laws have been passed to protect the entirety of the LGBT community. These laws are slowly allowing transgender people to live their lives to the fullest. Someday, the grandchildren of Millennials will look back and wonder, “Why were these people ever treated any differently?”

This article was written by Maryssa Gordon, a writer for dusk magazine. 

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