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A look Back at the Trans People and Events which shaped 2015

Aydian Dowling

Aydian Dowling Aydian Dowling became the face of the trans-man movement when he was featured on the cover of Men’s Health Magazine.

Dowling, known for his clothing line, Point 5cc, was selected for a Special Edition cover and in the process made a bold statement for trans men everywhere. And he inspired us all with his mantra “Transform reality, and never surrender.”

Raffi Freedman-Gurspan

In August of this year President Barack Obama appointed the first openly transgender White House staff member. Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, a former policy adviser at the National Center for Transgender Equality, will serve as an outreach and recruitment director in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. Community leaders and advocates lauded the administration’s decision and called Freedman-Gurspan a role model, praising her work to empower members of the LGBT community.

While transgender people have previously worked in civil service positions and in various federal agencies or been appointed to presidential commissions and boards, Freedman-Gurspan is the first openly transgender appointee to work inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Prior to this, Dylan Orr was the president’s first openly trans appointee and worked for the Labor Department’s Office of Disability Employment. Amanda Simpson was appointed to the Commerce Department in 2010, and Amelie Koran was the first transgender civil service employee to work in the White House.

Transgender Murders

At least 22 transgender people have been killed in the United States already this year, which is more homicides than any other year on record. During the first six months of the year alone, more transgender people were killed than in all of 2014. Of the 22 murdered, 19 were trans women of color. To date none of the attacks have been deemed hate crimes. In fact, among all 53 transgender murders from 2013 to 2015, a report found that not a single one was prosecuted or reported as a hate crime.

A congressional task force launched in response to the “epidemic of violence against the transgender community.” The Transgender Equality Task Force, chaired by Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), who has a transgender granddaughter, aims to understand the causes of anti-transgender violence and identify what the federal government can do to improve the situation.

At a time when the transgender community is finally gaining visibility and progress is being made in so many areas, transgender women of color are facing an epidemic of violence that is occurring at a horrific rate. These deaths cannot continue to be ignored.

HERO repealed
The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (commonly known as HERO), which had been a lightning rod for controversy and sparked a vicious campaign of misinformation and hate from conservatives, was decisively repealed in November. The ordinance had banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and 11 other characteristics including employment, housing, and public accommodation. But anti-LGBT forces rallied to repeal the measure, which the City Council had passed in 2014. The opposition painted the law as a “bathroom bill” by preying on fears of transgender people, claiming that men would invade women’s restrooms to assault them, even though such behavior has never been reported as a result of a trans-inclusive equal rights ordinance.

Following the repeal there has been a great deal of national attention, and a lot of it has been decidedly negative, with concerns that it could potentially cause the city to lose tourism and convention business if people saw the nation’s fourth largest city as being intolerant. Perhaps the loss of revenue might send a message to the people of Houston that the rest of the country does not share their intolerant views.

Bathroom bills
One of the more disturbing trends has been the number of “bathroom bills” which seek to legislate the use of public restrooms. The main argument used to promote such legislation is that trans people, and especially trans women, are predatory or threaten the safety of others in public bathrooms, which is totally unfounded since there is not a single documented case of a transgender person assaulting someone in a restroom. As many advocates have pointed out, it is actually trans people who are more likely to be harassed or physically attacked in public facilities.

A bill recently introduced in Indiana’s legislature would make it a criminal offense to knowingly enter a public restroom that does not match one’s biological gender. The offense comes with a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. A proposed bill in Florida aimed to make it a crime for transgender people to use public facilities, including bathrooms and dressing rooms that match their gender expression. House Bill 583 would make it so that any trans citizen caught using a single-sex restroom that does not match the gender they were assigned at birth would be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail. Thankfully the bill was not passed.

A bill in Wisconsin would require school boards to designate school restrooms and locker rooms for use by one gender exclusively. In other words, transgender students would be not be allowed to use the facilities that correspond with their gender identity. Arizona proposed legislation that would force trans people to use the bathroom for the sex listed on their birth certificate and violations would result in a six month jail sentence and a fine of $2,500 for offenders. And the list goes on and on.

About Becca Benz

Becca Benz
Becca Benz has blogged since beginning her transition five years ago and has also written articles for various sites. She is a transgender model, artist, photographer and active member of the transgender community. Becca is a college graduate, served in the Army and is the proud parent of two adult sons.

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