President Barack Obama, the first African-American president, has been progressive in advancing the rights of transgender persons. President Obama believes that advancing the human rights of minorities and the marginalized is a fundamental American value. He is the first President of the United States to have a closed-door meeting with transgender activists concerning transgender rights.
President Obama named transgender Amanda Simpson as Senior Technical Advisor for the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security. Simpson recently served as Deputy Director in the advanced programs organization at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, Ariz. According to ABC News White House Correspondent Jake Tapper, "At Raytheon, Simpson -- a former test pilot who had worked for the company for more than a generation -- transitioned from male to female and was instrumental in convincing the military contractor to add gender identity and expression to its equal employment opportunity policy."
And as Jeff Krehely writes at AmericanProgress.org:
President Barack Obama issued a presidential memorandum titled "International Initiatives to Advance the Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons," which directed all U.S. agencies "engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons."
Progress Made by President Barack Obama and His Administration:
On May 31, 2011 President Barack Obama released this proclamation concerning LGBT individuals:
Presidential Proclamation: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month
By the President of the United States of America
The story of America's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community is the story of our fathers and sons, our mothers and daughters, and our friends and neighbors who continue the task of making our country a more perfect Union. It is a story about the struggle to realize the great American promise that all people can live with dignity and fairness under the law. Each June, we commemorate the courageous individuals who have fought to achieve this promise for LGBT Americans, and we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of equal rights for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Since taking office, my Administration has made significant progress towards achieving equality for LGBT Americans. Last December, I was proud to sign the repeal of the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. With this repeal, gay and lesbian Americans will be able to serve openly in our Armed Forces for the first time in our Nation's history. Our national security will be strengthened and the heroic contributions these Americans make to our military, and have made throughout our history, will be fully recognized.
My Administration has also taken steps to eliminate discrimination against LGBT Americans in Federal housing programs and to give LGBT Americans the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital. We have made clear through executive branch nondiscrimination policies that discrimination on the basis of gender identity in the Federal workplace will not be tolerated. I have continued to nominate and appoint highly qualified, openly LGBT individuals to executive branch and judicial positions. Because we recognize that LGBT rights are human rights, my Administration stands with advocates of equality around the world in leading the fight against pernicious laws targeting LGBT persons and malicious attempts to exclude LGBT organizations from full participation in the international system. We led a global campaign to ensure "sexual orientation" was included in the United Nations resolution on extrajudicial execution -- the only United Nations resolution that specifically mentions LGBT people -- to send the unequivocal message that no matter where it occurs, state-sanctioned killing of gays and lesbians is indefensible. No one should be harmed because of who they are or who they love, and my Administration has mobilized unprecedented public commitments from countries around the world to join in the fight against hate and homophobia.
At home, we are working to address and eliminate violence against LGBT individuals through our enforcement and implementation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. We are also working to reduce the threat of bullying against young people, including LGBT youth. My Administration is actively engaged with educators and community leaders across America to reduce violence and discrimination in schools. To help dispel the myth that bullying is a harmless or inevitable part of growing up, the First Lady and I hosted the first White House Conference on Bullying Prevention in March. Many senior Administration officials have also joined me in reaching out to LGBT youth who have been bullied by recording "It Gets Better" video messages to assure them they are not alone.
During my lifetime I have never seen any President of the United States reach out so effectively to the LGBT community, especially the transgender community. My philosophy has always been "actions speak louder than words."
The last 25 years of my transformation from male to female have been the hardest journey I have ever taken as an African American, and I have faced gender discrimination, racial discrimination, bullying, harassment, job discrimination, verbal abuse, housing discrimination, and denial of my basic rights. All citizens of the United States of American deserve love and equal rights. My words of encouragement to all transgender persons, especially minority transgender persons, are these: no matter what you face, just rise. The poem "Still I Rise" by Dr. Maya Angelou, Reynolds Professor at Wake Forest University, has always inspired me, even in the worst times of my life. I met Dr. Angelou while a student at Wake Forest University in the early 1980s (I was in the class of 1985) and was first introduced to her work at that time. "Still I Rise" resonated within my being, and almost 31 years later I wrote my memoir, I Rise: The Transformation of Toni Newman. I want to conclude this piece by encouraging all transgender people to read "Still I Rise" and to be free, be well, and rise.
Follow Toni Newman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tonidnewman