The District of Columbia has had recent problems vis-a-vis the transgender community, what with a rash of transwomen being shot or otherwise killed, including at least one time by an off-duty police officer. In 2000 a government study of the DC trans community showed a 42% unemployment rate and that 47% of the community did not have health insurance.
The study also indicated that in order to survive, many transpeople resorted to sex work. MPD responded to that news by instituting a policy of using condom possession as evidence of prostitution.
These actions discourage sex workers from using condoms, increasing the risk of HIV-a particularly worrisome possibility for transgender people in the District, where the rate is already so high across the population, says Megan McLemore, a senior researcher in the Health and Human Rights Division of Human Rights Watch.
As you might imagine, this has caused a lot of tension between transpeople and the city government. Imagine our surprise, then when the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights announced that it will launch what it believes is the first government-funded campaign aimed at stopping anti-transgender discrimination. The effort will commence in late summer/early fall.
While there are still tremendous hurdles to overcome, providing federal funds to help protect transgender Americans sends a clear sign that tides are shifting.
–Herndon Graddick, GLAAD
While the campaign will mostly target what it calls the “movable middle” (consumers who do not have a good understanding of the transgender community), it will also be directed at gender-variant people to educate us about our rights and how to go about claiming them.
As attacks on transgender people seems to rise, it may be harder for them to come forward with complaints. DC’s transgender communities need to know that they have rights here.
–Vincent Paolo Villano, NCTE
Hate crimes against GLBT people grew from 40% of all hate crimes in 2011, to 67% of all hate crimes by May of 2012 according to Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV). The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs has found that 50% of all LGBT murder victims in 2009 and 44% of all LGBT murder victims in 2010 were transwomen.
A recently opened Latino LGBT center, Casa Ruby, founded by Salvadoran immigrant transwoman Ruby Corado, discovered death threats in its voice mail shortly after opening in May.
The message, roughly translated, was
You deserve divine punishment and death, but before death you should suffer. You are damned from birth to death.
Transgender people continue to face extraordinarily high rates of violence and barriers in accessing employment, housing, and healthcare. We’re thrilled to see the DC Office of Human Rights raise these issues, and we are hopeful more cities will follow suit.
–Kristine Wertz, Transgender Law Center
The DC campaign will not be restricted to preventing violence against transpeople but will also address bias in employment and housing.
Two transmen and two transmen and a self-identified gender-queer person will each appear in one of the five advertisements placed throughout the city in the fall. The ads will highlight respect, shared values,and DC’s anti-discrimination law.
…agencies seeking to help, I would not be surprised if many DC transpeople are somewhat skeptical.