Is being transgender the next civil rights movement?
America has witnessed a progression of civil rights movements in its young history. African-Americans, women, and the LGB community have struggled to gain acceptance and equality in mainstream America. Now, we’re seeing a similar push for transgender people – estimated at close to one-million adults.
Decades of coverage by the media of gay celebrities and TV/theater productions have brought about a general acceptance of coming out – something no longer remarkable. Consider the success of Will and Grace and Glee. The transgender community looks forward to a time when their coming out is likewise accepted. Productions such as Orange is the New Black and Transparent are leading the way as well as high profile individuals such as Chaz (Chastity) Bono and Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner.
Recent developments will help you appreciate the challenges facing the transgender community.
- California passed a law allowing transgender students the right to choose which bathroom to use at school and whether to join a boys or girls sports team. A lawsuit in Maine in 2014 resulted in the court recognizing transgender student rights to restroom use at school based on gender identity.*
- On the other hand, in March, 2016, North Carolina passed a law that requires transgender people to use public bathrooms that match the sex on their birth certificates. In May, 2016, the U.S. Justice Department warned state officials that the law (HB2) discriminates against transgender people.
- Barnard College in New York City announced that they will consider applicants “who consistently live and identify as women, regardless of the identity assigned to them at birth” starting in 2016. Barnard is a women’s liberal arts college.
- There are an estimated 6,600 transgender troops in the armed forces of the United States (RAND Corp study) The Pentagon’s ban on such is scheduled to end in 2016. At the moment, there’s a moratorium on discharging suspected transgender members. The military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy regarding gay servicemen ended in 2011. Update: On June 30, 2016, Defense Secretary, Ash Carter, announced that the military will no longer discriminate against transgender troops. President Trump wanted to ban all transgender servicemen and women from serving, but the Pentagon announced in December, 2017 that starting January 1, 2018, they would be allowed to enlist.
- The transgender community is confronted with criminal assaults and murder, as well as suicide among its members including youth. In 2015, 16-year old Taylor Alesana of California and 17-year old Leelah (Joshua) Alcorn of Ohio, took their lives following years of traditional and cyber bullying.
- Phyllis Randolph Frye, age 67, is the nation’s first openly transgender judge. She also has a private practice in Houston where she devotes herself to transgender clients.
- In 2016, Shiloh Heavenly Quine, age 57, became the first convicted murderer serving a life sentence, to receive a state-funded sex-reassignment surgery. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 3,200 transgender inmates are incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails.
Education and tolerance will defeat homophobia in all its forms.
*For a current story on this subject, see: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-transgender-teen-used-the-girls%e2%80%99-locker-room-now-her-community-is-up-in-arms/ar-AAdSn1R Lila Perry is a senior at a Missouri high school, trying to finish the school year without incident. However, the small town has spoken out about her right to use the girls’ bathroom.
For more about your rights as an LGBT teenager, take a look at our post What are my rights as an LGBTQ teenager? (Includes a list of helpful resources for LGBTQ youth.) For an informative article published in January, 2017 for teachers “9 Ways Schools Can Support Trans Students,” by Kelly Huegel, go to: https://freespiritpublishingblog.com/2017/01/12/9-ways-schools-can-support-trans-students/
You can find here statistics and resources regarding the LGBT community from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For recent books on transgender issues, consider any of the following:
“The Art of Being Normal” by Lisa Williamson.
“If I Was Your Girl” by Meredith Russo.
“Life and Dunkin” by Donna Gephart.
“Girl Mans Up” by M-E Girard (September, 2016).
“Beast” by Brie Spangler (October, 2016).
“When the Moon was Ours” by Anna-Marie McLemore (October, 2016).
“Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity” by Kristin Elizabeth Clark (November, 2016).
Photo by Torbakhopper (Flickr)