On Trans Day of Visibility, Activists Rally to Turn Compassion Into Action

More than a third of Americans know a transgender person.
(Photo: Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images)
Mar 31, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

From Laverne Cox to Caitlyn Jenner to Janet Mock, high-profile and outspoken transgender women have helped start a national conversation about gender identity. But along with seeing trans celebrities on TV screens, more Americans report personal relationships with transgender people.

The number of Americans who know a transgender person has doubled in the past two years, according to a survey released Thursday by Human Rights Campaign.

“Today, we celebrate dramatic gains in transgender visibility and acceptance and mark the achievements of the transgender community in the continuing and heroic struggle for full equality,” Chad Griffin, president of Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.

The survey was released to coincide with the sixth annual International Transgender Day of Visibility, a celebratory day that calls on the LGBT community and its allies to spread awareness.

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Of 900 American voters surveyed, 35 percent said they personally know a transgender person. That percentage has steadily increased over the past several years, up from 22 percent last year, 17 percent in 2014, and 9 percent in 2013, according to Human Rights Campaign.

People who personally know a trans person are more likely to have positive views toward the group as a whole. In the 2015 survey, 66 percent of people who personally know a trans person said they have a favorable view toward trans people. Of Americans who didn’t know a trans person, only 37 percent had favorable views of the community.

On the International Transgender Day of Visibility, activists urge allies to turn those positive views into action.

“Ask [yourself]: If you have a trans person in your life, how are you supporting them?” Eli Erlick, president of Trans Student Educational Resources, wrote in an email to TakePart. The theme of this year’s event is “More Than Visibility.”

“Visibility hasn’t ended…trans discrimination in school and the workplace, or the day-by-day invalidation of trans identities,” Erlick said. Indeed, amplified visibility has triggered an onslaught of religious freedom bills that undermine civil rights for the entire LGBT community.

More than 100 religious liberty bills were introduced in states nationwide last year. In 2016, 44 bills have been introduced across 16 states that undermine trans rights by denying access to health care and bathrooms, and allowing outright discrimination.

On Wednesday, Mississippi lawmakers passed what’s being called the worst anti-LGBT bill to date. The Protecting Freedom of Conscience From Government Discrimination Act allows individuals, organizations, and government employees to refuse service to an LGBT person based on the religious beliefs that marriage is between a man and a woman, gender is defined by anatomy at birth, and sex should be reserved for marriage. Last week, North Carolina’s governor signed legislation that bans transgender people from using restrooms that match their gender identity.

“Today, we’ll go out and be visible accompanying the disruption of people trying to deny we exist,” Erlick said. She hopes both cisgender and transgender supporters will be active in the fight for trans rights, from attending protests and rallies to educating their communities about trans identity.