Commentary

04.22.16

Meeting a Transgender Person Changes Minds

By

Transgender Rights protest sign

The invisibility which used to cloak the transgender community is starting to fade as transgender people gain more presence in the public eye. Too often they are seen through the prism of violence, but we have also witnessed an increasing amount of public figures come out as transgender in recent years.

Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender in a famous Diane Sawyer interview and is now chronicling her journey through her show, “I Am Cait.” Punk rock singer, Laura Jane Grace, of the band Against Me! came out as transgender in a 2012 Rolling Stone interview. Laverne Cox, best known for her portrayal of Sophia Burset on the Netflix television series Orange Is the New Black, was the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for acting.

But do you actually know someone who is transgender?

There are approximately 700,000 transgender people in the United States, but only 22% of Ameri­cans say they know someone who is transgender, compared to nearly 90% who know someone who is lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Celebrity spokespeople are important, but personal connections matter even more. This is because knowing a transgender person is a good indicator that an individual will support broad non-discrimination polices. This means they believe all LGBT persons should be protected under the law.

Check out this one-pager for an overview of some of the issues that transgender and gender non-conforming people face in everyday life, as well as information on legal document changes.

The Human Rights Campaign highlighted that over 80 anti-LGBT bills are pending across the nation. Many target transgender individuals by restricting access to bathrooms. These bills have been introduced by legislators across the country at increasing rates and deprive transgender individuals’ access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. People with a personal connection to transgender individuals are less likely to fall for the false rhetoric of “bathroom bills.”

Recently, Ohio Governor John Kasich stated that he probably would not have signed the transgender bathroom bill that was recently passed in North Carolina. However, Ohio is no safe haven for LGBT rights. Ohio has no non-discrimination protections for LGBT people, and we are one of just three states that does not allow transgender individuals to update the gender marker on their birth certificates to match their true identity.

There is a lot of work to be done across our nation, and in Ohio, to make sure transgender people aren’t just visible, but accepted, supported, and treated equally under the law. It’s time we made the Golden Rule a reality and begin to treat others as we want to be treated.

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