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Making LGBT Great: Dana Beyer

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Dana Beyer is one of the leading transgender advocates in the country who continues to work towards making the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents better. Dana is a retired eye surgeon who was one of the first openly transgender candidates for state office in 2006 and 2010. She is currently executive director of Gender Rights Maryland which is working towards passing a state wide gender identity anti-discrimination law.

Dana co-authored The Dallas Principles, calling for full LGBT civil rights. She led the coalitions that helped pass gender identity anti-discrimination laws in three counties and, and one of them against national right-wing forces trying to force it to a popular vote in 2008. She was the trans representative on the Washington Psychiatric Society Working Group that wrote the gender dysphoria text for the DSM5.

Dana has been the vice president of Equality Maryland, executive vice president of Maryland NOW, founding board member of teachthefacts.org, a Montgomery County parents group working in support of comprehensive sex education, a Governor at the Human Rights Campaign, a founding member of the Progressive Working Group, Maryland's progressive alliance, and a board member at Mobile Med, Montgomery County's premier provider of medical care to the uninsured. She is on the board of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Keshet, the national Jewish LGBT organization and an inspiration to many LGBT activists across the country.

What personal or professional accomplishment are you the more proud off?

Beyer: I am most proud of the work I have performed over the past decade leading to the declassification of gender identity issues as mental illness. The removal of Gender Identity Disorder from the American Psychiatric Association's DSM 5 -- the formal, medical classification of mental illnesses used by both the medical and legal communities -- is an event analogous to the removal of homosexuality from the DSM in 1973. That event catalyzed the gay rights movement; the work on gender identity declassification over the past decade has powered and supported the movement for trans equality, culminating this past year in federal Title VII and 14th Amendment protections.

What do you think is the greatest challenge facing the LBGT community?

Beyer: The greatest challenge facing the LGBT community today is moving forward as a united community. We are so much better at this in 2012, but there are still subgroups within the community who are so radically self-centered that they threaten to destabilize the whole. It has always been the case that the non-LGBT American community views us all as sexually different from themselves. Therefore, we should use that perception to power us forward together to not only procure our legal rights but to make sure that civil rights progress becomes engrained within our society.

What two or three things can individuals do to help make LGBT great?

Beyer: The most important thing any lesbian, gay, bi/pansexual, trans or queer person can do to make themselves and our community better is to be out and self-accepting. That is the case today, just as it has been for decades. After self-realization, the most effective way to make change is to show up. Not only to LGBT functions, but to any cause where you can make a difference. The Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said, "when you're feeling helpless, help others." Give of yourself as a whole person, without hiding your individuality, and you will touch others who will recognize you as a complete human being and allow you to heal the world.

By being a pioneer on the campaign trail, a committed social justice activist and a tireless advocate for transgender equality, Dana Beyer is making LGBT great.

Note: This is the first in a series of profiles of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or straight allies who are working to improve the lives of LGBT residents. This series includes a brief summary of their work followed by answers to three questions.