In the past year alone, there has been an exponential increase in transgender visibility.
Many watershed moments in the past year have brought transgender issues into the public eye: Caitlyn Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer, Jazz Jennings’s reality show I Am Jazz, Laverne Cox being named one of the world’s most beautiful women by People, Jennicet Gutiérrez interrupting President Obama at a pride event to call for an end to LGBTQ immigrant detention, and the list goes on.
Visibility for transgender people is so important. It inspires people and gives them the hope and strength to be who they really are. In fact, the increase in transgender visibility gave me the courage to come out as gender nonbinary and start using my preferred pronouns last October. It’s amazing how recognition of transgender identities can affect a larger group of people on such a personal level.
Visibility also changes the attitudes of society. It can help to destigmatize transgender identities and open people’s minds. However, what the transgender community needs in this moment is more than visibility; what we need are rights, protection, justice, and acceptance. We have our visibility; now we need action. That’s why the theme of this year’s Transgender Day of Visibility, observed each year on March 31, is #MoreThanVisibility.
Despite 2015 being a landmark year for visibility, transgender people still experience shockingly high rates of violence and discrimination compared to their cisgender (non-transgender) peers. There were more reported murders of transgender people in 2015 than any other year. Most of the victims were transgender women of color.
According to the latest National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 6 percent of trans people have lost a job due to bias, 50 percent have been harassed on the job, and 20 percent were evicted or denied housing.
Finally, GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey found that transgender and gender nonconforming students faced the most hostile school climates of all LGBT students, and a third of all LGBT students heard anti-transgender remarks frequently or often. This data is appalling, and something must be done to change these trends.
To combat these high rates of violence and discrimination, we need comprehensive legislation that protects transgender people, and we need to actively oppose bills that target this group. Recently, GLSEN helped defeat a so-called bathroom bill in South Dakota, House Bill 1008, which would have required students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their sex assigned at birth, not their gender identity.
Unfortunately, just last week in North Carolina, House Bill 2 was signed into law, which not only prevents transgender students from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, but also overrides LGBT protections in local ordinances statewide. We need to take action now.
Transgender communities do not deserve to be trivialized, and yet transgender people still face too many injustices to count. We can acknowledge the importance of transgender celebrities making headlines and TV shows portraying transgender people in a more positive light, but we must also acknowledge that this is not enough. There is still so much work to be done to ensure equality and justice for all, not just equality and justice for cisgender people.
Visibility is important, but so is action. On this Transgender Day of Visibility, it’s time we make it visible that we’re done with discrimination against transgender people. We can all take action by writing to our state legislators and telling them that we believe in more than visibility—we believe in justice.
Katie Regittko is a member of GLSEN’s National Student Council.