Although the number of people who know a transgender person has doubled since 2008, the health, safety, workplace and civil rights challenges of the transgender community have also increased.
Milwaukee Pride, Inc. has declared November as Transgender Awareness Month — including both Transgender Awareness Week and the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance on Friday, November 20 — as an opportunity to educate the public on a cultural state of emergency.
We now live in a world where the life expectancy of a trans woman of color is 35 years old.
- Where transgender students, at highest risk of suicidal ideation for their age group, can be denied the right to use public school restrooms and locker rooms — possibly even here in Wisconsin.
- Where transgender adults have no legal protections against housing, employment, service, medical, financial or accommodation discrimination in 31 states — and no consistent, cross-state protection at the federal level at all.
- Where transgender adults are four times as likely to live beyond the poverty level — especially because they are up to four times as likely to be unemployed.
- Where one in ten transgender people has been evicted from their homes due to their gender identity — and one in five has experienced homelessness.
- Where up to 40% of Milwaukee’s homeless youth identifies as LGBT+ — and will stay homeless twice as long as those who are not.
These harsh statistics may shock cisgender (non-transgender) people, who have only begun to learn about the transgender community through the media. In 2015, there are more transgender characters on network TV than ever before in broadcast history. Several popular shows are featuring trans characters in leading roles, and multiple documentaries are chronicling trans lives. Attitudes about the fluidity of gender and sexual identities are changing, particularly among Millennials, the demographic that shows the highest percentage (27%) of connectivity with transgender individuals.
“There has been a noticeable amount more attention given to the trans community over the past year by the general media,” said Jessica Baker, Milwaukee Pride, Inc. Board of Directors. “While this has provided a bit more visibility, it has only scratched the surface. More importantly, it demonstrates how little real knowledge of the transgender community most people have.”
“Transgender Awareness Month brings attention to the reality of transgender life. Hopefully, one day it will be ‘Transgender History Month’ where we can celebrate the accomplishments of the community and stress the fight for more, as we do with LGBT History Month, but we aren’t there yet. Now, Transgender Awareness Month is the time when we draw attention to the most basic things — from transphobic language and microaggressions to non-binary genders and pronouns — to serious daily struggles — like discrimination and homelessness — to overarching dangers of violence and assault.”
With such a great need for continuous community education, one month is not nearly enough to drive change.
“I still receive questions about why transgender awareness needs any reflection at all,” said Syd Robinson, Milwaukee Pride Inc., Board of Directors. “To those questions, I raise these: Is it now (or was it ever) important to you to celebrate your birth? Is it intrinsic to your identity, to mark a passing of time to reflect on your growth, the loss of your loved ones, and the progress that you and your family have made?”
- Educate yourself and others: read/share Tips for Allies from GLAAD, PFLAG and Transwhat
- Be aware of spaces and experiences you manage: are they trans-inclusive or exclusionary?
- Support GSA organizations in your local schools that serve gender non-conforming or transgender children.
- Get involved: gift your time or dollars to a local transgender resource group or LGBT community center.
- Visibility matters: volunteer for Milwaukee Pride, Inc. to improve the PrideFest experience for all visitors.
“We’ve come a long, long way together,” said Michail Takach, Milwaukee Pride, Inc. communications director,” but we cannot become complacent or closed-minded when the most vulnerable members of our community are suffering. Each of us must do what we can, and use what we have, to elevate awareness and advocacy for transgender rights.”
PrideFest Milwaukee is produced by Milwaukee Pride, Inc, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, compliant with all State of Wisconsin and IRS rules.