Commentary: What about the T in LGBTQ? Transgender rights have a long way to go to achieve equality

Sister Yesate of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence waves a transgender flag while walking in the San Diego Pride Parade.
Sister Yesate of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence waves a transgender flag while walking in the San Diego Pride Parade.
(Howard Lipin/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Educating ourselves to the ongoing plight of those who feel the pain of prejudice does not end when events or holidays pass that command our attention.

Such is the case with the LGBTQ community.

San Diego Pride week may have ended and June as Pride month is over, but that does not mean we are no longer compelled to understand the struggles of gay and transgender people.

Just as we who are White have a moral obligation to acknowledge our underlying racism and attempt to see society’s inherent bigotry through the eyes of Black people and other people of color, so too we who are straight and cisgender (not transgender) have a responsibility to become more educated on the issues facing the LGBTQ community.

Marsha Sutton
(File photo)

Advancing the fight for equality, dignity and respect for all our citizenry is a duty we cannot shirk just because we don’t personally identify with a marginalized group targeted by prejudice.

Not to trivialize or equate being bullied with the pain and suffering gay and transgender people are forced to endure at every turn, but who among us has not been the object of scorn for one reason or another?

We’ve all been teased, ridiculed or bullied in our lifetimes, especially if we’ve lived through those trying high school years.

Bullying has a long and sordid history, existing well before social media made it easier, more widespread and more painful.

But hurtful words and teasing are quite distinct from outright discrimination which is deeper and more lasting.

Imagine living all your life with fear and trauma, and facing intolerance and discriminatory practices, because of who you are.

The progress of gay rights has accelerated in the past 10 years, although there’s still much more to do. Most of us know someone, or someone who knows someone, who is gay.

But what about the “T” in LGBTQ? Transgender rights have a long way to go to catch up.

Besides individual harassment, society as a whole places dehumanizing obstacles in the paths of trans women and men. Inequity in health care, housing, education, civil rights — these rights (advantages) so many of us take for granted present often insurmountable barriers for trans people.

The more we are acquainted with the issues facing members of the transgender community, the more we begin to see the challenges they face daily. As empathy grows, so too does our collective responsibility to stand up for transgender rights.

Greater understanding leads to increased awareness of how social injustice permeates so much of our society.

Being transgender is not something that can be changed. It’s like eye color; it’s not a choice. As someone pointedly said once, “It’s what’s between your ears, not what’s between your legs, that names your gender.”

It’s good to show support during Pride month, but what about activism the rest of the year?

Let’s not let this momentary focus on the rights of the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender individuals, slip by.

We must learn about the issues trans people confront at nearly every turn. We need to look inward and examine our own inclination toward bias and face why we may feel uncomfortable discussing the subject.

If you know someone who is transgender or who personally knows a trans person, learn by listening to them and talking with them.

Education and understanding come from connection and interaction with those unlike us. There is great value in having a diverse set of people in our lives. Experiences shared are what bind us together.

Numerous resources are available now, at last, for transgender individuals and their families. These resources can be critical life-support and life-affirming systems.

For the rest of us, we too have resources at hand to help us better understand the harsh realities our society has inflicted upon gay and transgender communities.

For straight and cisgender individuals, the following groups offer useful information to help increase understanding of LGBTQ issues: sdpride.org, thecentersd.org, transfamilysos.org, genderdiversity.org, pflag.com, genderspectrum.org, glsen.org and GenderInclusiveBiology.com.

Violence and discrimination perpetrated on others because of gender identity or sexual orientation is intolerable in a society founded upon basic principles of equality under the law.

Just because June and Pride week have passed does not give the rest of us a pass. Together let’s work toward a more humane world that values every one of us equally.


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