So, what does transgender even mean? The word “transgender” – or trans – is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned to us at birth. Although the word “transgender” and our modern definition of it only came into use in the late 20th century, people who would fit under this definition have existed in every culture throughout recorded history.
Despite the increased visibility of transgender celebrities like actress Laverne Cox or writer Janet Mock, many Americans still don’t personally know anyone who is transgender – but the number who do is growing.. According to a survey taken last year by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, commissioned by the Human Rights Campaign, 22 percent of likely voters in the United States “personally know or work with someone who is transgender.” When the polling firm asked the same question in 2014, only 17 percent answered yes. The transgender community is incredibly diverse.
So, what challenges do Trans* people face? We face severe discrimination, stigma and systemic inequality. One other problem Trans* people face is a lack of legal protection. While the federal government's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Education have recently taken steps to include transgender people under existing non-discrimination protections, there is still no comprehensive non-discrimination law that includes gender identity. According to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2014 State Equality Index, only 18 states and the District of Columbia prohibit employment and housing discrimination based on gender identity.
Another problem we face on a day to day basis is harassment and stigma. The LGBT community still faces considerable stigma based on over a century of being characterized as mentally ill, socially deviant and sexually predatory. While these flawed views have faded in recent years for lesbians and gay men, transgender people are still often met with ridicule from a...