Michael D. Silverman is the founding Executive Director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. He’s been working as an attorney in the LGBT civil rights movement since 1994, and is an adjunct professor of law at Fordham University School of Law.
SILVERMAN: When we tell our stories and bring compelling cases that capture the public’s imagination, we find that a lot of people want to understand and support transgender rights even if they don’t know anyone who is openly transgender. The best thing that we can do is to continue to stand up for transgender rights and put our stories out there for people to hear. It’s not about how many of us there are. It’s about making a compelling case for why we deserve the same dignity, respect and rights as everyone else.
The issue of transgender children in school, and the unique challenges that they face, took center stage in 2013. Coy Mathis’ story captivated the American people, and people around the world. People who heard her story learned about the challenges that transgender children face every day. Without stories like Coy’s, we would not have seen the tremendous public attention that was paid to the issue of transgender students in 2013. And we might not have seen some of the progress we made. We saw tangible victories for the rights of transgender students, ranging from legal victories like Coy’s to the transgender student nondiscrimination law in California. These victories opened the door to a broader discussion about transgender rights that is evolving and expanding.
Social change is happening, but transgender people remain marginalized. We have a lot of work to do ensure that transgender people are protected at work, and can access health care and public accommodations without discrimination. We're not going to accomplish everything in the next year, but we will make steady progress on all of these issues if we keep bringing smart cases and engaging the American people with our stories.
For every step forward we take, our opponents push back. As long as we continue to demand dignity, respect, and equal rights, we can expect to hear from our opponents who think that we don’t deserve these things. We do, and we’ll get them.
We will be continuing to focus our efforts on all aspects of transgender civil rights. Access to health care, employment, family issues like parenting rights and relationship recognition, and access to public spaces like bathrooms will continue to be priorities for us.