Many LGBTQ people breathed a sigh of relief upon hearing the results of the U.S. midterm elections with more sympathetic leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives and 157 LGBTQ people elected into positions at all levels of government. It is only three weeks after the New York Times reported on the HHS anti-transgender memo, threatening critical federal protections for transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex people by redefining gender as male or female, reflecting the sex listed on someone’s birth certificate. This is not a moment for complacency. LGBTQ advocates must continue to be outraged against this insidious and transphobic memo, and not lose sight of steps we can take together with transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex people in our communities right now.
The leaked memo adds to a long history of state sanctioned violence that has been increased by, but did not begin with the Trump administration. In Illinois, 69% of respondents to the US transgender survey experienced some form of mistreatment from police or law enforcement officers who thought or knew that they were transgender. Last month, transgender activists called for Chicago police to respond to the murders of two transgender women in Chicago, Dejanay Stanton and Ciara Minaj Carter. We have new elected leaders and should call on these leaders to respond to violence against transgender women of color.
We can ensure that our neighborhoods include homeless shelters, domestic violence, and healthcare organizations that offer regular staff training and have written policies that protect TGNC and intersex people they serve. Organizations like Howard Brown provide gender affirming language training to employers and health care providers that increase their cultural competence with the trans community. If you often make mistakes when using gender neutral language, use this month to hone your skills by practicing online. Take this time to support trans people and trans-led organizations. Find out whether your healthcare provider’s policies allow trans people to have autonomy over their care and bodies when seeking gender affirming care like hormone replacement therapy and gender affirming surgeries.
While federal non-discrimination policies are being threatened, local efforts to increase employment efforts for transgender people will also save lives. We can ensure that our employers vocally affirm TGNC people’s right to use the restroom they feel appropriate, as well as include all gender restrooms for nonbinary colleagues. Efforts to “ban the box” that ask about criminal records will also help transgender people who are over-represented with criminal convictions for survival and low-level crimes re-enter the work force.
The federal government can attempt to erase critical protections for trans people, but trans people will never stop existing—and it’s up to all of us to use our scope of influence where we can. Show up for transgender people in your work place, neighborhood, and community by asking how you can support their work.