At the same time, the community has gained unprecedented attention this year, with the high-profile transition of athlete and reality television star Caitlyn Jenner as well as the Pentagon’s decision to allow transgender people to start serving openly in the military starting next year.
“This week, as we seek to raise awareness of the issues facing the trans community, it is important to renew our commitment to help trans individuals be free of the fear of violence or bullying just for being who they are,” Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) said in a statement. Honda is vice chairman of the House’s Equality Caucus, which is hosting the forum.
The caucus also plans on Tuesday to formally announce a new Transgender Equality Task Force, which will develop legislation aimed at improving conditions for transgender people.
Transgender people have long been a part of the overall gay rights movement, but advocates say their priorities have gained new urgency in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing marriage for same-sex couples nationally this summer. As activists have turned their focus to passing laws and ordinances barring discrimination, they have been stymied by opponents raising fears over transgender issues.
In particular, opponents have seized on concerns that such laws may allow transgender people to use the restroom that corresponds with their preferred sex. In Houston this month, voters defeated an anti-discrimination ordinance after opponents claimed it would allow male sexual predators access to women’s bathroom.
In light of this and other campaigns, activists are trying to educate and humanize transgender people in the same way they did for gays years ago, revising the image that may pop into some Americans’ minds so they are thought of as deviants but friends, neighbors and coworkers.
In a report released Friday, the Human Rights Campaign in conjunction with the Trans People of Color Coalition reported that of the 21 transgender people killed this year, all had transition to female and most were racial minorities.
This post was corrected to reflect that Rep. Mike Honda is a vice chairman of the Equality Caucus, not chairman. The caucus is chaired by the six openly gay members of the House. Honda will be chairman of the Transgender Equality Task Force.