Commentary

02.13.17

“Transgender Spotlight”: You Have Questions, We Have Answers

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Transgender rights protest

“In my opinion, the most pressing issue for the trans community is that it is 100% misunderstood,” says Christian, a transgender Ohioan and star of the ACLU of Ohio’s video short film series, Transgender Spotlight.

The ACLU of Ohio agrees. Many people throughout the country have misconceptions or misunderstandings about transgender people. In response, the ACLU of Ohio launched this powerful and personal video miniseries which seeks to shed light on the humanity of an often misunderstood community that faces high levels of harassment and discrimination.

The Trans Action Committee of the ACLU of Ohio, a diverse array of transgender and gender-nonconforming Ohioans, helped lead this important project. The five short videos center members of the transgender and gender-nonconforming community, as well as allies and loved ones, sharing their personal stories, experiences, and hopes for a more compassionate world where all people are free from gender discrimination.

In addition to the Transgender Spotlight video series, the ACLU of Ohio has also launched a new resource on our site at www.acluohio.org/trans, where transgender people, members of the media, service providers, and others can access transgender-related information. Topics include legal protections, trans rights and the law, name and gender change, ID documents, the criminal justice system, and physical and mental health care.

No Federal Protections from Discrimination 

The United States has no federal protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and Ohio has no state law protecting LGBT Ohioans. The impact on the transgender community is harrowing. Transgender people are legally denied employment, housing, and access to public accommodations. This is legalized discrimination and results in significant barriers for transgender and gender-nonconforming people.

Christian, a transgender man and one of the featured stars alongside his fiancée, told the ACLU of Ohio, “It’s not so much what I want people to know when they watch the video series. Truthfully, I want people to feel. To feel compassion, empathy and, perhaps, feel enlightened.”

Discrimination Leads to Poverty and Violence

When we asked Malcolm, a transgender man, minister, and proud father, why he believes nondiscrimination protections are important for the LGBT community, he told us, “Discrimination makes people even more vulnerable to poverty and violence, which transgender people currently suffer a lot of.” Kris, another transgender Ohioan, echoed his concerns, saying, “So many of us can’t find work because employers are allowed to discriminate against us.”

Transgender refers to people with a gender that differs from the gender the person was assigned at birth.

Gender-nonconforming refers to people who do not follow traditional stereotypes about how they should look or act cased on the sex assigned at birth.

Recognizing Our Humanity

Kris went on to say, “Transgender people are human beings. We’re people just like everyone else. We have the same hopes and fears that others do. It’s so sad, because I regularly fear for the very lives of my closet friends, who are warm, caring, important people.” Kris wants transgender allies to know that they can support transgender people by “ask[ing] us how we’re feeling, what we need, what our struggles are, what you can do to help. Those are the kinds of questions we are literally dying to be asked.”

Watching the Transgender Spotlight film series is a great first step in acquainting yourself with the brilliance, beauty, tenacity, and diversity of the transgender community.

Launch of Web Resource for Transgender Community

For the transgender community, navigating resources and finding information related to their needs can be especially challenging. There is no single online location where transgender Ohioans can turn to for help navigating resources and finding answers to common questions that many members of the transgender community have. We hope that our brand new web resource for members of the transgender community will make a difference in the lives of people who may not know where to turn for help.

The ACLU of Ohio believes that everyone has the right to be themselves and people should not be discriminated against based on their gender identity or expression. 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.

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