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7.5: Transgender Equal Rights

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    Andrea Jenkins was the first openly transgender black woman elected in the United States, when she took office in the Minneapolis City Council in 2018. As of 2020, she served as vice president of the council and as chair of the Race Equity Subcommittee. In her previous work as a policy aide, curator, and artist, she long advocated on behalf of transgender voices.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Andrea Jenkins 1961 -

    Kim Coco Iwamoto became the highest-ranked openly transgender official in the United States when she won a seat on Hawaii's Board of Education in 2006. Iwamoto has continuously advocated and worked with LGBTQ youth as a licensed therapeutic foster parent, lawyer and public figure. She was appointed to the Hawaii Civil Rights Commission in 2012.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Kim Coco Iwamoto 1968 -

    Althrough the 19800s saw the emergence of Lou Sullivan’s FTM (female-to-male) International and Myrissa Sherrill Lynn’s International Foundation for Gender Education, a national movement did not coalesce until the early years of the 1990s. The first Southern Comfort transgender conference began in 1991 and soon became one of the largest transgender gatherings in the country. Future Texas Judge, Phillis Frye, organized the first of six annual transgender law conferences the next year and also helped organize local transgender activists into a national contingent at the 1993 March on Washington. Fantasia Fair, a week-long conference for heterosexual MTF (male-to-female) cross-dressers that started in 1975, blossomed in the 1990s into a world renowned event for all transgender people.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): Historically, murders of transgender people have been under-investigated, under-convicted, and under- punished. For example, when pioneering transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992, the suspicious death was ruled a suicide with minimal investigation. When police refused to arrest transgender Brandon Teena’s rapists in 1993, the rapists later hunted down and murdered Teena.

    Legal and police practices regarding transgender victims has gradually improved. After the killers of Gwen Araujo tried to use a trans panic defense in 2004, California enacted legislation restricting the use of the victim-blaming tactic. The killer of Angie Zapata, murdered in Colorado in 2008, was the first to be convicted of a hate crime against a transgender person. A year later, Lateisha Green’s murderer was convicted of a hate crime in New York.

    Hate crimes and murders still disproportionately affect the transgender community. The brutal 1998 murder of Rita Hester led to a candlelight vigil in her honor and inspired Gwendolyn Ann Smith to start the Transgender Day of Remembrance the next year. The Day of Remembrance has since become an annual worldwide event held on November 20 to honor and raise awareness of those who die from transgender hate crimes every year.

    Anne Ogborn created Transgender Nation within the San Francisco chapter of Queer Nation in 1992, with other chapters soon opening across the United States. Transgender Nation introduced a confrontational style of advocacy that had not been seen since Sylvia Rivera and Angela Davis in the 1970s. Riki Wilchens used this kind of activism in 1994 with her group Transexual Menace, which conducted vigils at court houses where transgender hate crime perpetrators were being tried.

    Transgender issues had been historically neglected by mainstream gay and lesbian advocacy organi- zations. Gay and lesbian anti-discrimination measures often did not include protections for transgender people. However, transgender activists during this era increasingly integrated transgender issues into a broader LGBTQ movement. Although transgender people were unmentioned in previous Washington, D.C., marches, the 2000 Millennium March on Washington was the first to include a transgender plank. This more cohesive LGBTQ advocacy, combined with the emergence of local and national transgender advocacy groups, has had the power to affect greater political and social influence.

    Minneapolis implemented the first municipal law protecting transgender citizens in 1976, with Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Seattle, Washington, following in the 1980s. By 2018, over 200 cities and counties had enacted laws protecting transgender people. Minnesota passed the first statewide protection for transgender people in 1993, and by 2018, had been joined by eighteen states and the District of Columbia.

    In 2012, the federal government released a statement that transgender students are protected from discrimination under the provisions of Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools. The United States Department of Education issued guidelines for Title IX protection in 2014, a position later supported by the Justice Department. In 2013, California passed a law to require that public schools recognize a student’s gender identity and to provide access to facilities based on that gender identification. The law was the first to specifically protect the rights of transgender students.

    The mismatch of personal identity and official documentation creates huge challenges for those who have transitioned their gender identity. In 2010, the federal government changed their polity to allow gender changes on passports without requiring sex reassignment surgery. As of 2019, some states permit gender changes in state identity documents, others allow the change but only with proof of sex reassignment surgery, while two other states do not permit gender changes in state documentation. In 2017, Oregon became the first state to allow non-binary "X" gender markers on state identification documents, a move quickly followed by nineteen other states.

    This page titled 7.5: Transgender Equal Rights is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Kyle Morgan and Meg Rodriguez (Humboldt State University Press) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.