Today, hundreds of transgender people, like me, from all over the country are — for the first time in history — taking over the streets of Washington, D.C. in a march organized by the transgender community to demand equality, safety, and dignity.
From the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 to the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation in 1993, the African-American and the gay, lesbian, and bisexual communities have achieved great progress towards civil rights and social change. While these communities have made significant strides, the issues facing the transgender community remain staggering.
Five decades after the Stonewall Riot sparked the modern LGBT rights movement; the transgender community continues to be one of the most vulnerable and marginalized communities in the United States.
This marginalization has seen a marked increase in recent years, triggered by the start of the Trump-Pence administration in 2017. Since assuming office, the Trump-Pence administration has waged an all-out assault on the civil rights of transgender people in education. housing, healthcare, incarceration, and employment. Virtually no aspect of transgender people’s lives has remained untouched by this adminstration and its transphobic agenda.
Like pioneers of our movement such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, our community remains resilient, strong, and continues to march towards equality. We will no longer accept discrimination, health care denials, the violence perpetrated against us, or any of the other reprehensible behavior tolerated, promulgated, and promoted by our government. A government that is supposed to be representative of us all.
As we face an openly hostile president, executive administration, and rampant right-wing ideology nationwide, this march is an open rebuke and statement of resistance at the very doorstep of those who continue to push discriminatory and deadly agendas.
After decades of being forced to live as second-class citizens, we are here today to let history document that we are no longer willing to accept being treated as inferior.
Coincidentally — but very timely — this march is on the eve of a monumental occasion in the LGBTQ civil rights movement. On October 8, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in three cases to determine the scope of protections under Title VII, the federal employment nondiscrimination law, as applied to LGBTQ people. Specifically, the Court will decide whether Title VII’s ban on discrimination “beacuse of sex” encompasses discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity as forms of sex discrimination, something dozens of courts have concluded based on the plain words of the statute.
But, employment is not the only issue. Our rights are under attack across the spectrum of civil rights. There are numerous cases percolating through federal and state courts, further defining, expanding, and solidifying equality for transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary and intersex people — many of them litigated by us at Lambda Legal.
We have sued the Trump administration so that transgender people can serve openly in the military and are not denied health care during and after their service; and we have sued state departments of corrections, multiple state and federal agencies, states and counties so that transgender people have access to health care without being discriminated against or turned away.
We are suing employers so that they cannot discriminate in the workplace; we have cases to ensure transgender people can navigate life with correct identity documents like birth certificates and passports, and we are challenging schools so that transgender students (and teachers) are treated equally and have access to educational opportunities and appropriate facilities.
We are also marching to highlight especially the alarming and unacceptable violence committed against transgender people, particularly black and brown transgender women — violence that has dramatically increased since the beginning of the current administration. This year alone we have already seen at least 18 transgender people murdered, in what The New York Times recognized yesterday as “an epidemic.” While we continue to be murdered, this administration is actively trying to exclude us from jobs, public accommodations, education, the military, health care and even homeless shelters.
We are at the tipping point of the trans revolution — a societal transformation in policy, the law, and social attitudes — that is changing the way people see us and what we envision for ourselves. We are here to march on our nation’s capitol — to demand equality and promote visibility and to say that we not only deserve to exist but to have the full measure of freedoms and resources everyone needs to thrive.
Taylor Brown is a Staff Attorney in the Headquarters of Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest legal organization dedicated to advancing the full civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and people living with HIV. Taylor also serves as a director on the board of directors for the National Trans Bar Association.