OPINION: Here’s What We All Should Be Doing for Transgender Day of Visibility

Our state isn’t exempt from institutional transphobia, and we have to call it out.


Poster by Micah Bazant

Thursday is Transgender Day of Visibility, a moment designated to reflect and acknowledge the existence of transpeople and their causes. The special nature of the day will no doubt prompt a torrent of heartfelt pictures and historical retellings on social media. But our transgender brother and sisters need more than just shout-outs this time around — they need serious action.

The irony of celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility in Pennsylvania is that it might actually cost a transperson their job. While we have increased visibility of transpeople in media, the fact remains that there is currently no law to protect such individuals from employment discrimination.

Here are the facts, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey:

74% of transgender Pennsylvanians reported experiencing harassment or mistreatment on the job; 26% lost a job.

Those who expressed a transgender identity or gender non-conformity while in grades K-12 reported alarming rates of harassment (74%), physical assault (23%) and sexual violence (9%). Harassment was so severe that it led 11% to leave a school in K-12 settings or leave higher education.

Likely due to employment discrimination and discrimination in school, transgender Pennsylvanians report experiencing poverty at higher rates than the general population: 12% of respondents had a household income of $10,000 or less, compared to 4% of the general population, which is 3 times the rate of poverty.

49% were verbally harassed or disrespected in a place of public accommodation or service, including hotels, restaurants, buses, airports and government agencies.

15% were refused medical care due to their gender identity/expression.

So while we aren’t as problematic as North Carolina, we still have much more work to do in improving the conditions of transgender lives in our state. Now more than ever, the rest of our community should band together to speak out not just on issues affecting gay and lesbian lives, but those affecting people who identify as transgender as well.

The best thing we can do as allies and members of the community at large is to be more politically engaged in ensuring that transgender individuals are legally protected and included in our society. Protecting their basic human rights should be as much as an obligation to you as protecting your own.

As a community, we can’t lazily assume that a victory in gay marriage gives us permission to reduce our steadfastness in extending non-discrimination employment legislation for everyone. The fight is not over, and winning a big battle doesn’t ensure us a victory in the war.

When possible, let this Thursday empower you to think beyond marriage and your own personal situations and consider the community at large. If we are to be this progressive LGBTQ community, then each subset of the population is due its share of consideration and respect. Remember, much of the bigotry and ignorance inflicted on trans members of our community was once (and still is in some parts of America) inflicted on us.

Tomorrow at 11 a.m., Equality Pennsylvania and GALAEI are co-sponsoring a transgender awareness rally at Norris Square Park, 2100 North Howard Street. If you haven’t met a transperson or want to be knowledgeable about their real-life obstacles, I encourage you to come out and be informed.

Ignorance can no longer be bliss in our community. It’s time that we lead the charge on protecting our transgender comrades.