Commentary

01.30.15

The Importance of Saying “Transgender”

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Acknowledgement: acceptance of the truth or existence of something.

In this year’s State of the Union speech, President Obama acknowledged the inequality many groups face. While announcing protections for the LGBT community, he became the first president to ever say “lesbian,” “bisexual,” and “transgender” in the annual address to the nation.

This was an historic moment for the LGBT community, but why was the mention of transgender people considered especially important?

Janet Mock of MSNBC explained, “The president’s acknowledgment helps shatter the cloak of invisibility that has plagued trans people and forced many to suffer in silence.”

Mara Keisling, executive director for the National Center for Trans Equality, said “…the president of the United States condemning persecution against transgender people is pivotal. It will empower trans people to stand taller and work harder to improve this country for all people.”

The Numbers

According to a 2014 study conducted by The Williams Institute, 41 percent of transgender individuals reported a suicide attempt, which greatly exceeds the national average of less than 5 percent. This statistic increases for transgender people of color, with disabilities, of lower educational attainment, and of lower income level.

Learn more about inclusive language and other transgender topics.

Visit our website for a list of transgender suicide prevention resources.

The survey results were shocking. Of the people who responded:

  • 57 percent had family who chose not to speak to them.
  • About half experienced bullying in school and in the workplace.
  • 60 percent had a doctor refuse to treat them.
  • On average, two-thirds experienced sexual violence and harassment at work, in school, and by law enforcement.
  • Nearly 70 percent experienced homelessness.

Being included in the conversation matters. Silence can be louder than hateful remarks. The statistics are a clear indicator of our country’s lack of acknowledgment and how detrimental it can be.

Ohio’s Lack of Response

Not one of Ohio’s congressional leaders formally responded to the president’s remarks about the transgender community.

This silence was especially deafening after recent tragedies, including the suicide of Leelah Alcorn near Cincinnati, the brutal attack of Candice Rose Milligan in Toledo, the murders of Betty Skinner and Brittany Stergis, both in Cleveland, and other victims of transgender discrimination within our own state.

Ignoring the struggle for respect and justice for the transgender community will not solve the problem. In fact, things will only get worse. The president’s speech is a step in the right direction. We must keep up the momentum by actively working to stop discrimination of the transgender community.

 

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