THE BLOG
02/29/2016 02:27 pm ET | Updated Feb 29, 2016

The Time Is Now: Standing Up for Transgender Equality

A Message to Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People

Transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, have long been at the front lines of our collective movement for equality. From the Stonewall riots to the Prop 8 protests, our transgender brothers and sisters have stood by the lesbian, gay and bisexual community even when their needs were not being addressed with the vigor they so justly deserved. Never in our history have we had a more opportune moment, a more vital moment, to stand together as one community.

Right now, all across the country, from Florida to Washington, transgender people are being singled out and attacked with dangerous legislation and misleading campaigns that seek to divide us all by creating fear. The right wing is even framing bills that would establish broad nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ community as opening the door for predators to enter restrooms. As I write this, a bill awaiting the governor's signature in South Dakota would prevent transgender students from using the restroom that matches the gender they live every day and require schools to determine students' gender by comparing their birth certificates to their genitals. You read that right. In Houston, the campaign to repeal the city's Equal Rights Ordinance implied that allowing transgender people to use the restrooms that match their gender would put children at risk of sexual assault.

It wasn't that long ago when gay, lesbian and bisexual people faced similar characterizations: They said we were unfit to be around children, that we were confused and depraved, and that we were dangerous criminals. Today, America has come to know us and our families, but many people have yet to feel familiar with a transgender person. In fact, according to PEW Research and GLAAD, more people claim to have seen a ghost than to have met a transgender person.

A handful of well-connected politicians would like to create and own the media narrative about transgender people by tapping into our natural instincts to protect our children and ourselves. The irony, of course, is that it is transgender people who are, time and time again, the most vulnerable to violent assault and discrimination. In fact, given the high rates of attacks directed at transgender people, they often care very deeply about protecting privacy and safety in their daily lives. Transgender people are our friends, neighbors, family, and colleagues, and they have to use the restroom just like everyone else.

It's understandable to feel powerless given the breadth and depth of this dire situation. Equality Federation is tracking and working to defeat dozens of anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ bills in dozens of states. However, there are concrete steps you can take right now to help us stop these attacks in their tracks and educate the public about the humanity of the transgender community. Allies have an important role to play at this critical time.

If you know a transgender person, you can write a letter to the editor about your own journey of getting to know and understand them. You can talk to your family and friends about why it is important to contact their legislators and ask them to vote no on anti-transgender bills. You can attend and testify at a local hearing. Wherever you go -- work, school, the bar, your sports league - you can create safe spaces for transgender people. You can do your part.

All of us, including transgender people, want to be able to provide for ourselves and our families and have a fair opportunity to make something meaningful of our lives. We all deserve a chance to do that without living in fear of discrimination.

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