The Conversation We’re Finally Having

Screenshot from Bruce Jenner from Diane Sawyer's Interview. Via YouTube.
Screenshot from Bruce Jenner from Diane Sawyer’s Interview. Via YouTube.

“I’m a woman.”

That’s what Bruce Jenner bravely said in a highly-anticipated interview on ABC with Diane Sawyer last month where Jenner also said, “I have the soul of a woman,” and “My brain is much more female than male.” This interview sparked a necessary dialogue about the transgender community that’s long overdue.

But the recent attention towards the transgender community goes beyond Bruce Jenner.

This year, President Obama became the first president to say the word transgender during a presidential address.

Laverne Cox on the cover of Time Magazine for the June 2014 issue.
Laverne Cox on the cover of Time Magazine for the June 2014 issue. Via Wikipedia. Unlicensed.

Last year Laverne Cox became the first transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy for her role as Sophia Bursett in “Orange is the New Black.” Cox also became the first transgender person to grace the cover of Time Magazine.

Popular culture is influencing the way we see the transgender community and, for the most part, it’s a good thing. Cox, Jenner and the thousands of other transgender figures are promoting an acceptance for the community.

The wide spectrum of gender identities, gender expression and pronouns are being recognized as complex entities that go far beyond hetero/homo/bisexual, feminine/masculine and he/him and she/her.

This surge of awareness for transgender community is relatively new to mainstream America. Whenever the issue of women’s and equal rights are discussed, very rarely do people include transgender individuals in the mix.

Intersectionality in feminism is so important because transgender individuals are among the most oppressed groups in the world.

Although the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission acknowledges on their website that discriminating against transgender individuals violates the Civil Rights of 1964, only 19 states have anti-discriminatory laws for the transgender community.

Raising awareness for the transgender issues can literally save lives. Late last year, a transgender girl Leelah Alcorn committed suicide because of the harsh treatment she received from her family and religious figures who wanted her to undergo therapy to “turn her back into a boy.” Even after her death, her family refused to acknowledge her gender identity by referring to her as a boy with he/him pronouns.

The news of Alcorn’s suicide reached Washington and in response to Alcorn’s story, President Obama and Vice President Biden publicly condemned conversion therapy practices that try to reverse homosexuality and gender dysphoria.

Alcorn is only one of thousands of young transgender individuals who receive scrutiny every day.

No one should be harassed, ridiculed or killed for how they identify and their gender expression. It’s no doubt that we are slowly becoming more accepting as a society towards the LGBTQIA+ community. But there is still a great deal of social reconstruction that needs to be done to promote acceptance of transgender individuals in America and around the world.

Educating the public and building an understanding of transgender issues is the first step in a long journey for equal rights for transgender individuals everywhere.

Learn more about transgender issues:
What Does Transgender Mean?
Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey
Time Magazine‘s 21 Transgender People Who Influenced American Culture
Transgender Issues: A Fact Sheet
TransYouth Family Allies (info. for parents of transgender children)

LGBT charities/organizations that support transgender individuals:
Jim Collins Foundation (US) (provides financial assistance to transgender individuals for sexual reassignment surgery)
The Audre Lorde Project (US) (LGBTQA+ individuals of color in the NY area)
Point Foundation (US) (provides scholarships to LGBTQ students)
The Harvey Milk Foundation (US)
Los Angeles Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Center (US) (LGBT individuals in LA area)
International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (European region)
Gendered Alliance (UK) (supporting trans individuals and educating others about trans issues)
Press for Change (UK) (legal support and advice for transgender individuals)
Sahodari Foundation (India)
UK Black Pride (UK) (support LGBTQA+ people of color)
Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Hotline (Canada) (support line for LGBT youth in Ontario)
Keshet Ga’avah (Worldwide) (support for LGBT Jews around the world)
LGBT Aging Center (US) (support for elderly LGBT individuals)

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