Violence and discrimination against transgender people cannot be tolerated. But, unfortunately, we live in a world where ignorance, fear of the unknown, and discomfort with our own sexuality, has led to cruelty and abuse directed at one of the most vulnerable segments of society. In the last few years, transgender and gender nonconforming people have become more visible. Yet, at at the same time, transgender people are still not fully accepted and understood, and their visibility has made them targets for abuse, discrimination and hostility.
Transgender people remain vulnerable in their jobs and in their communities. They often lack full access to healthcare for mental and physical issues, both routine and unique. They are marginalized at school, at work and in public settings. Even using a public restroom has become problematic. I have known parents of transgender children. I know one mother of a transgender child whose daily goal is to prevent her daughter from killing herself. I cannot imagine the horror of living with that kind of fear, especially as a parent. Yet studies show that the transgender suicide rate is 40%. Things are so difficult for these people that almost half attempt suicide. A report by the Human Rights Campaign found that over 100 transgender people were killed in the U.S. over a five-year span. With dying for being transgender an issue, we know these people must be protected.
As an employment law attorney, I have had the privilege of working with transgender people. I have found them to be honest, forgiving and understanding people. This is not surprising – people who have been abused are very sensitive to others’ feeling. Yet transgender people are so often subjected to things no person should ever have to tolerate. Human resources personnel often encounter sexual harassment situations with the single purpose of not getting sued. Forget that someone is being victimized. When a person comes out as transgender at work, the reaction is often, “oh no, this person is now a liability.” That type of reaction must end.
Transgender rights are human rights. The day when being transgender does not make someone a magnet for abuse is, sadly, not here yet. Until that time, we must remain vigilant in protecting the rights of transgender people to equal treatment under the law. No matter your feelings on what it means to be transgender – and there are widely disparate opinions – no person should ever be harassed, bullied, abused or otherwise victimized because of their gender identity. If you see it, report it. If you are in a human resources or management position, do not let this happen in your company. If you do, people like me will be coming for you, and you will pay.