TNR asks “What will it take for America to accept transgender people for who they really are?”

The New Republic has published a compelling article about the transgender community — in a non-LGBT publication. As Jillian Weiss notes over at Bilerico:

The New Republic, a magazine of politics and the arts, is generally considered liberal, though it is to the right of many progressives. Its readership is generally considered to be older, influential establishment liberal types, and so a story in The New Republic is going to reach a lot of people who don’t read much about transgender or transsexual people.

Below is an excerpt from the beginning of the article. The article also tells the story about the transition of Caroline Temmermand. Read it:

Transgender people are some of the least protected, most persecuted people in the United States. In a recent study of transgender students, nearly half said they’d been “punched, kicked, or injured with a weapon” at least once in the last year. On average, a transgender person is murdered because of their identity every month, according to the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. In 2008, for instance, Angie Zapata, an 18-year-old Colorado woman, was bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher when her attacker—a man she met through a social-networking site—realized that she was born male.

Transgender people are regularly evicted from their homes, fired from their jobs, and denied medical treatment. Last July, emergency room staff in an Indiana hospital refused to help a trans woman who was coughing up blood, referring to her as “it.” More than a quarter of transgender people surveyed say they have lost a job because of discrimination. Transgender people are more likely to become homeless (at an average age of 13, in New York City). And then there is the obstacle course of inconveniences that reminds transgender people every day that they don’t belong. One trans woman told me her company requires her to lock herself in when she uses the restroom—even though it’s multi-occupancy—so she is acutely aware of making other women wait. In some states, a court order is required to change a person’s gender on a driver’s license. Many health insurance plans only cover procedures for one gender, so a person born male who transitions to female can’t get both a prostate check and a mammogram.

For some, these challenges prove insurmountable. Four years ago, Mike Penner, a longtime sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times, came out to the world as Christine Daniels. But, after a year and a half, unable to cope with the scrutiny, she changed her name back to Mike and returned to living as a man. A year later, she killed herself. Daniels’s story was tragically typical: More than one in three transgender people attempt suicide at some point in their lives.

But these are statistics, and people are rarely moved by statistics. In this country, civil rights movements have prevailed when they have convinced enough people that a minority is being treated in a way that is fundamentally un-American. For this to happen, people need to see members of a disadvantaged group as human beings before anything else. The gay rights movement, for instance, has made great strides in large part because increasing numbers of people know, or are related to, an openly gay person. For more and more people, gays and lesbians do not seem strange—but the idea of denying them rights does. Such a breakthrough seems unlikely for the transgender movement. According to the Williams Institute at the ucla School of Law, there are only around 700,000 transgender people in the United States, compared with around eight million gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. They are invisible in a way that other minorities are not.

I think the author is right. It’s not the stats, it’s the stories that capture people’s attention.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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