During a Pride Month many feared would bring diminished attention to LGBT issues, recent days have put a spotlight on efforts to advocate for transgender Americans’ rights.
The Trump administration on Friday reversed the non-discrimination protections for transgender people’s health care that was put in place by the Obama administration.
Two days later, thousands of people surrounded the Brooklyn Museum in New York City for the Black Trans Lives Matter protest to bring attention to a relatively little known issue — the much ignored killings of black trans women.
Then, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that sexual orientation and sexual identity are protected by federal law forbidding discrimination on the basis of sex.
These events all happening within one weekend could signal the emergence of trans rights becoming a more prominent part of national conversations related to LGBT Americans.
Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), who is reportedly on presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s shortlist of vice president picks, has often been vocal about advocating for trans rights. After Monday’s ruling, she tweeted: “A major victory for LGBTQ+ rights. No one should be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love.”
Black Trans Lives Matter.https://t.co/EDr3lHZCAi
As Americans have spent the past two weeks immersed in conversations about racism and inequality, many LGBT Americans have been working to make sure that discussions about how these topics intersect with the gay — and specifically trans — community are not ignored.
President Trump was elected, in part, with the support of social conservatives disappointed with the Obama administration’s efforts to put more policies in place extending the rights of trans people. The cultural anxiety that many Trump supporters were described as having heading into the 2016 election included changing norms about sexuality and gender. Despite promising to fight for the LGBT community, the administration has spent significant time attempting to undo those decisions in education, health care and other areas, in part to maintain favor with the white evangelicals and other social conservatives who make up significant parts of the president’s base of supporters.
Friday’s decision to no longer provide anti-discrimination protection for transgender people in health care during a global pandemic was denounced by advocates for LGBT rights, including those in the medical community. Trans rights activists fear the reversal will allow insurers and health-care providers to deny services to transgender people.
The @realDonaldTrump administration has stripped Transgender individuals of their civil rights in healthcare. Please #MedTwitter, let us continue to treat LGBT individuals with respect in defiance of this hateful man. https://t.co/lrwWlboVQA
Activists and liberal lawmakers have frequently criticized Trump for his administration’s positions on trans rights. And as Americans have increasingly become more supportive of LGBT rights, issues affecting the lives of trans people are attracting more attention.
Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, an influential gay rights organization, said his group endorsed Biden because they believe he is best equipped to advocate for the rights of the entire gay community in ways that the Trump administration has no interest in doing.
“Far too many LGBTQ people, and particularly those who are most vulnerable, face discrimination, intimidation, and violence simply because of who they are and who they love,” he said in the organization’s endorsement of Biden. “But rather than have our backs, Donald Trump and Mike Pence have spent the last three and a half years rolling back and rescinding protections for LGBTQ people.”
Rights for trans people have often been sidelined in conversations about gay rights despite the role that transgender women historically played in the gay rights movement. With the fight for same-sex marriage settled, there is increased emphasis on other issues affecting trans people. Last year, the HRC Foundation released “A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in the United States in 2019” to educate the public on the growing number of transgender people — very often black transgender women — who have been killed because of their identity.
Raquel Willis, an activist who was previously a national organizer with the Transgender Law Center, spoke at Sunday’s rally in New York about the need to focus on issues beyond those discussed in the halls of Congress. With thousands of people across the world protesting police violence against black people, trans activists are working to make sure that the harms committed against black trans people are not forgotten.
“I might get in some trouble for saying this — and yes the legislation matters, but white queer folk get to worry about legislation while black queer folks is worrying about our lives,” she said.
Monday’s ruling shows that the issues so many activists have been working on at the ground level are making waves at the highest levels of government. And to trans members of the LGBT community, the heightened attention on the topics specifically shaping their lives is long overdue.
“We have every reason to celebrate today, and I am beyond elated,” Charlotte Clymer, a trans activist told The Fix. “This is a landmark decision from a majority-conservative Supreme Court affirming LGBTQ employment rights.”
Public views on LGBT issues are moving in the favor of the trans community. According to a June CBS News poll, most Americans — 55 percent — believe transgender people face “a lot” of discrimination — and more so than other members of the LGBT community.
But there is still a way to go. Despite the Democratic-controlled House passing legislation that could more broadly ban discrimination against LGBT, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has chosen not to bring the issues before his chamber.
The fight to secure more rights for transgender Americans could still be harder than some past battles the LGBT community has won, but news events this Pride Month are at least giving them higher visibility.
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