Transgender discrimination not just a personal problem

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By Ida Eskamani


Gov. Jerry Brown signed two important transgender rights bills into law: the Gender Non-Discrimination Act and the Vital Statistics Modernization Act. According to the Transgender Law Center, both of these laws are tremendous steps to ensuring equality for Californians.

Specifically, the Gender Non-Discrimination Act establishes “gender identity and expression” as its own protected category under the law. The Vital Statistics Modernization Act streamlines the process for transgender people to get a “court-ordered gender change and updated birth certificate,” making it easier and safer for Californians to be their true authentic selves.

These are fantastic victories for the transgender community in California, but these bills are just afew of many victories needed to ensure equality, fairness and dignity for all transgender Americans.

People such as myself often take gender for granted. I identify with the gender I was assigned with at birth. Inclusivity, at least in regard to my gender, is automatically assumed and accepted by society. But transgender individuals do not have these fundamental pieces of human dignity guaranteed. Granted, there are victories similar to California’s in other states and cities across the nation, and the American Civil Liberties Union provides a comprehensive breakdown of these laws.

However, a report conducted in 2011 by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality surveyed more than 6,000 transgender individuals and found rampant discrimination within every aspect of life, including: work, education, public accommodations, identification documents, family relationships and health care. This discrimination has led to abnormally high rates of economic insecurity, poor health status and attempts of suicide within the transgender community.

The shocking statistics revealed in this report should be enough to mobilize national action. But the injustice faced by transgender individuals is illustrated even more clearly through their stories.

The Huffington Post told of a seventh grader named Sam, who faced humiliation just to use the restroom in his middle school. Walking in the women’s restroom, Sam would be greeted by screams. When he walked in the men’s, he feared for his safety and using the nurse’s restroom led to rumors and torment.

The Times Union reported on Drew Cordes, who is haunted by what many would consider a simple job application question: “Have you ever lived or worked under another name?”

Similarly, Paola Gonzalez, who holds a master’s degree in environmental engineering, was not hired after a job search spanning three years and faced homelessness because, on legal documents, her name was registered as “Pedro.”

The Huffington Post’s article told how the deep alienation, rejection, discrimination and fear experienced by pioneer news anchor Zoey Tur as a transgender individual led to contemplations of suicide, an act that far too many transgender individuals consider and commit. These injustices are heartbreaking and signal a need for change. But equally motivating for me are the uplifting stories we find in transgender individuals who finally have the opportunity to live as their authentic selves.

There are steps you can take right here, right now, to further equality for transgender Americans. Use inclusive, gender-neutral language. Ask what pronoun a transgender individual identifies with, and use it. Speak up when your friends make offensive jokes or use disrespectful language toward marginalized groups. Advocate for gender-neutral public restrooms. Lobby your lawmakers for other Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Acts, and if they do not stand for equality, vote for the person who does.

Support UCF’s LGBTQ Services, Pride Commons and state-wide LGBTQ advocacy organizations such as Equality Florida.

Transgender individuals fight for the right to exist; we must all fight with them to ensure equality for all.

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