In Their Own Words: LGBT Advocates on the State of Transgender Issues

Eight leaders in LGBT advocacy give their thoughts on what 2013 meant for transgender rights, and what 2014 might bring.

BY Parker Marie Molloy

December 26 2013 5:00 AM ET

"We are one community -- and we need to fight as one"
Jeff Krehely, vice president and chief foundation officer of the Human Rights Campaign. Krehely has been in charge of the organization’s public outreach and education programs. Before working at HRC, Krehely was the vice president for LGBT Research and Communications at the Center for American Progress.

KREHLY: [In 2013, we saw] some significant wins on non-discrimination – from San Antonio to Delaware to the Senate’s passage of a fully inclusive ENDA.

Beyond the legislative victories, the progress we’ve helped make with corporate America is literally changing lives. Consider transgender-inclusive health care – covering counseling, short-term leave, hormone therapy and surgery – which just five years ago was almost unheard of and is now offered by 340 major companies. This is a direct result of HRC raising the bar for the Corporate Equality Index and giving companies a roadmap to offering inclusive benefits.

I give a lot of credit to Mara Keisling and other leaders who have been in the trenches for more than a decade, and the emerging voices bringing more visibility to transgender people, like the incredible Laverne Cox.

At the same time we’re seeing so many gains, there’s still so much left to do. In the last few weeks, two transgender women were killed in Cleveland. Transgender women, specifically transgender women of color, make up most of the anti-LGBT homicides every year. Transgender women are at extremely high-risk for HIV infection. And too many transgender youth are ending up on the streets.

We’re going to continue to move forward on our corporate work, pushing ENDA in the House and putting policies into practice at major companies across the country. We’ll keep on reaching out to schools and child welfare providers to advance understanding of issues facing transgender youth. We’re going to be focused on leveraging our Healthcare Equality Index and Municipal Equality Index to move forward in cities and hospitals in some unlikely places.

But most of all, in the same way that images of gay and lesbian families really made a difference in changing hearts and minds about marriage equality, we need to do the same level of visibility work around our transgender sisters and brothers.

In 2014, as extremists on the right lose more and more of the marriage battles, they’re looking for a new scare tactic to keep their coffers full. We’ve already seen the National Organization for Marriage get involved in trying to repeal a bill that’s helping protect transgender students in California. I don’t think the appetite is there among the general public for their transphobic vitriol, but our opponents aren’t easily dissuaded. It’s really going to be critical to turn out lesbian, gay and bisexual community members in force for our transgender peers. We are one community — and we need to fight as one.

HRC is going to be working hard to lift up the voices of transgender people and allies in 2014. We’re helping to create a climate where more and more people are coming out as transgender and now we’re going to put those voices in front of our lawmakers and voters.

Our biggest goal for 2014 is to take the tremendous wins we saw in 2013 and spread them to more places. Unfortunately there are two Americas when it comes to LGBT equality — one where full equality is nearing reality and another where even modest gains seem far away. Our job is to make sure that progress is being made in all 50 states in this country, especially where it’s hardest.

Tags: Transgender

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