A pro-transgender campaign launched today is the fruit of a seed planted by the Obama administration, when it invited LGBT technology experts and activists to the White House last month to help work on some of the major issues facing the country, including employment, criminal justice, and citizenship.
The volunteer-led group Wednesday announced the hashtag #transneeds -- an effort to get input from the widely diverse transgender population on how the federal government and society as a whole could better protect and serve trans people.
And that hashtag caught on fast. Trans activist, MSNBC personality, and best-selling author Janet Mock was among its early adopters.
Laverne Cox joined in too.
And pioneering trans journalist Ina Fried of Re/Code, one of the attendees at the White House summit in August, spread the word among her peers and the public.
Actor Scott Turner Schofield, a trans author and speaker who broke new ground on TV by playing trans character Nick on CBS's soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful, praised the #transneeds effort in a news release sent by organizers.
"Trans people have been meeting our own needs, innovatively and self-sufficiently, throughout our history," Schofield said. "But, in 2015, it is encouraging to see the federal government take steps to better recognize and support the transgender community's continued progress toward full self-definition."
The group's mission statement asks, "How can the federal government better serve transgender people? Discrimination, health, justice, documents, education, employment. ... Speak your needs."
Organizers of the campaign tell The Advocate it's not just for one day; they hope over the next several weeks to gather feedback from a broad cross section of transgender people. Then they aim to report back to the White House with a series of recommendations and directions for further study.
"The mostly invisible transgender community is finally being seen through pop culture and social media but the reality is that government processes and misunderstanding continue to hamper full participation in society," said Ginger Chien, an AT&T engineer and participant in the White House summit, in a statement emailed to The Advocate. "This project hopes to gather new data by giving direct access to the transgender population to speak to their own experiences and needs."
U.S. Chief Data Scientist D.J. Patil discussed the launch Wednesday as part of a keynote speech he gave at the Strata conference in New York.
"In talking with people from the transgender community, it became clear to me just how little data we have," Patil said in the emailed statement. "As we pursue efforts like precision healthcare, making sure we properly represent transgender Americans is critical. I'm excited for the #transneeds project and the data that comes out of it."
The project is the work of a dozen people from the tech, telecom, and LGBT communities and was just one idea that grew out of last month's White House LGBT Tech & Innovation Summit.
"As a small, all-volunteer team, we are calling on leaders in the transgender community as well as LGBTQ organizations to help us get the word out," said Jim Halloran, a Twitter employee and another #transneeds organizer. "Our goal is to reach as wide a cross-section of the community as possible."
In addition to the hashtag #transneeds, a Twitter handle has been created, @transneeds, and a text SMS line also has been established: (844) TRNS NDS or (844) 876-7637. It's not for voice calls, just texts, by the way.
And we invite you to tag @AdvoTrans in your tweets so we can better report on how the project is working.