WASHINGTON -- A groundbreaking ad depicting the challenges faced by transgender people in accessing public restrooms—and highlighting the lack of state and federal nondiscrimination protections for transgender people—will have its national television debut on FOX News Channel next Thursday, July 21, during the final night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. The ad will air nationwide again on MSNBC during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia one week later.
The 60-second ad, which will be seen all across the country, features a transgender woman from North Carolina, where HB2 passed earlier this year. HB2 makes it illegal for transgender people to use restrooms in public buildings that match the gender they live every day, making them susceptible to even higher levels of harassment and violence.
The ad can be viewed now at www.FairnessUSA.org.
The growing national conversation about transgender people comes at a watershed moment. More than 200 bills targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people were introduced in dozens of states during the 2016 legislative session. Many of these bills were intended specifically to harm transgender people.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, has offered varying opinions on the issue of transgender rights, but stated that HB2 has caused “a lot of problems” and that transgender people should “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate,” adding that this policy has worked well for years. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz ran glaringly anti-transgender campaign ads, only to see his presidential campaign plummet shortly afterwards.
However, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio—both of whom have children who are transgender or gay—are among a growing number of elected Republicans who strongly support protecting LGBT people from discrimination. On Friday, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts signed into law a bill that ensures explicit protections for transgender people in public places, including restrooms. That bill passed the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support earlier this summer, and Baker had previously indicated that he would sign it.
“Transgender people desperately need laws that protect us from being unfairly fired from our jobs, kicked out of our homes, and denied access to public bathrooms, just because of who we are,” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Our newly released survey data shows that 59 percent of transgender people avoided bathrooms in the last year out of fear of harassment. A shocking one in ten (12%) transgender people reported being harassed, attacked, or sexually assaulted in a bathroom, and one third avoided drinking or eating so that they did not need to use the restroom. Eight percent have had medical problems like urinary or kidney infections from avoiding the restroom.”
“Most Americans want to do the right thing, but they have never met a transgender person, so they have misconceptions,” said Ineke Mushovic, Executive Director of the Movement Advancement Project, which developed the ad. “This ad cuts through the political rhetoric and simply asks people to consider the serious challenges and discrimination faced by transgender people—discrimination that is still legal in most states.” The Movement Advancement Project released a policy report today providing a fact-based analysis of restroom access, nondiscrimination laws, and restrictive bathroom laws such as North Carolina’s HB2.
"Around the country, LGBT Americans continue to fall victim to attacks and discrimination, in our lives and at every level of government. That is especially true for transgender Americans, who are being singled out and targeted by legislators for exclusion from public places and facilities," said Matt McTighe, executive director of Freedom for All Americans Education Fund. "Transgender equality is about human dignity and respect for all people. No one should be banned from something as basic as using the restroom. We hope this ad helps educate the millions of Americans watching the conventions and anyone who has not yet had an opportunity to meet and get to know a transgender person."
"Since marriage equality has come to our country, alarmingly, the crosshairs of discrimination have been trained on the transgender community. Transgender Americans desperately need laws that protect us from discrimination in the workplace, in our schools, in obtaining desired housing and in access to public restrooms - restrooms that align with the life we live every day," said Equality Florida's transgender inclusion director Gina Duncan. "At TransAction Florida, Equality Florida's statewide transgender inclusion initiative, we believe that visibility leads to awareness, which leads to education, which will then lead to acceptance and equality. We are pleased to support a national campaign that does just that."
The ad was funded by Fairness USA, a partnership led by the Freedom for All Americans Education Fund, the Movement Advancement Project, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the Equality Ohio Education Fund, with support from the Equality Federation Institute, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.