What sex were you assigned at birth, boy or girl? It’s a simple question. Too simple sometimes. Not everyone fits neatly into the role they were assigned. Boys and girls are not all the same. A transgender person is someone “whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth."
This week’s Speakers Forum presents some of the voices of Trans* Pride Seattle 2014. The featured speakers address issues central to the lives of transgender people today — diversity, community, injustice, violence, discrimination and, perhaps most passionately, pride: “a feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people.”
For those of us who do not face discrimination on a daily basis it may be hard to imagine a life without freedom of movement and freedom from harassment. But if you are a transgender person (or a woman, a gay person, a person of color, a religious minority, etc.) such freedoms cannot be taken for granted.
In certain ways the times are changing rapidly in America. A majority of Americans support gay marriage. Just last week the Washington State Insurance Commissioner clarified that a transgender person has the same right to health insurance coverage as any other person. This week, President Obama signed an Executive Order protecting transgender federal employees.
But challenges to equality persist. As the ACLU reports, “Many Americans have a profound lack of understanding of what it means to be transgender. Consequently, transgender people commonly face a wide variety of discriminatory barriers to full equality.”
In a 2011 report titled Injustice at Every Turn, the National Center for Transgender Equality detailed the many challenges transgender people face. Among them, they are nearly four times more likely than the general population to live in extreme poverty; 41 percent of transgender people reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6 percent of the general population; 64 percent reported being victims of sexual assault; 57 percent reported that their family chose not to speak to or spend time with them; 69 percent had experienced homelessness.
Trans* Pride Seattle is an annual march and rally organized by the Gender Justice League. Organizers say their goal is to increase the power of the transgender community through heightened visibility, the breaking down of barriers and a focus on social justice.