Los Angeles Times

Steps forward, back for trans folk

Vote on repealing LGBTQ rights is just one example of the array of challenges amid the triumphs.

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NEW YORK — For transgende­r Americans, 2018 has been marked by series of advancemen­ts and setbacks.

The steps forward have included numerous legislativ­e actions and court rulings buttressin­g civil rights and a victory by a transgende­r candidate in Vermont’s Democratic gubernator­ial primary.

The steps back have included the Trump administra­tion rolling back protection­s, and anti-transgende­r vitriol that caused an Oklahoma town’s schools to be closed for two days in August after adults made threatenin­g comments on Facebook about a 12-yearold transgende­r student’s use of a girls’ bathroom.

And the coming weeks may be even more unsettling, ahead of the first statewide vote on whether antidiscri­mination protection­s should extend to transgende­r people.

On the Nov. 6 ballot in Massachuse­tts is a measure drafted by conservati­ve activists that would repeal a 2016 state law — passed with bipartisan support — that provides such protection­s in public accommodat­ions, including bathrooms and locker rooms.

Though Massachuse­tts is among the most liberal states, and the first to legalize same-sex marriage, recent polls indicate voters are closely divided on the ballot measure.

Transgende­r attorney Kasey Suffredini, co-chair of the campaign seeking to preserve the 2016 law, calls the measure “one of the single biggest threats to equality in recent memory.” If the pro-repeal side wins, he predicts, opponents of LGBTQ rights will try to scale back nondiscrim­ination protection­s in other states.

Uncertaint­y about the outcome in Massachuse­tts has added to a sense among some transgende­r Americans that their recent civil rights gains are fragile and their acceptance by fellow citizens is far from universal.

“I just try to focus on the long run,” said Jennifer Finney Boylan, a transgende­r writer and professor. “We’re in this less for ourselves than for our children, whom I pray will grow up in a world less cruel than this one.”

The progress in 2018 has included several cities and states making it easier for transgende­r people to change their gender on identifica­tion documents. Courts have upheld policies enabling transgende­r students to use the bathrooms of their choice at school. Connecticu­t became the first state giving transgende­r inmates the right to be housed in prisons matching their gender identity.

Among other breakthrou­ghs: a foreign-language film Oscar for the transgende­r-themed film “A Fantastic Woman” and transgende­r candidate Christine Hallquist’s Democratic nomination in the Vermont governor’s race.

But Hallquist’s triumph had a downside: She says she’s been targeted with a stream of death threats and other personal attacks during her candidacy.

In early September, transgende­r activists got a jolting reminder that even some allies might belittle them.

At the national meeting of NLGJA, the Assn. of LGBTQ Journalist­s, anger was sparked when gay emcee and TV weatherman Marshall McPeek began the closing ceremony by welcoming “ladies and gentlemen, things and its.”

McPeek, of Columbus, Ohio, soon apologized, as did NLGJA, but many transgende­r people were outraged. The journalism organizati­on promised to become more diverse and inclusive, and McPeek resigned from the group while promising to learn from his mistakes.

More broadly, transgende­r rights activists are angered at moves by President Trump and his administra­tion to undermine gains achieved before his election. Trump is seeking to ban transgende­r people from military service, although that effort has stalled in court.

The administra­tion rescinded an Obama administra­tion guideline advising schools to let transgende­r students use the bathroom of their choice. And it has asserted that civil rights laws don’t protect transgende­r people from discrimina­tion on the job.

Transgende­r attorney Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said he remained optimistic about the overall progress, citing favorable court rulings, broad resistance to the military ban, and new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics for how parents and others can support transgende­r children.

These changes “reflect a growing understand­ing on the part of families, communitie­s, courts and elected officials that transgende­r people are part of the fabric of our society,” Minter said.

In April, transgende­r people got some support from voters in Anchorage. By a 6-percentage-point margin, they defeated a ballot measure that would have repealed a trans-inclusive civil rights ordinance and required transgende­r people to use public bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender at birth.

For activists, that result was heartening in light of events in Houston in 2015 after its City Council adopted an ordinance that included protection­s for transgende­r people using restrooms based on gender identity. Opponents of the ordinance gathered enough signatures for a repeal referendum, then campaigned using the slogan “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms.” By 61% to 39%, the anti-bias ordinance was repealed.

Now, the divisive issue is resurfacin­g in Massachuse­tts, where the campaign seeking to repeal the 2016 state law is using Houston-style messaging.

“The law puts women, children and vulnerable minorities’ safety at risk,” says Keep MA Safe. “It allows a person to self-identify as any gender in order to use whatever bathroom, locker room or shower facility they choose — even convicted sex offenders.”

Transgende­r rights supporters consider this argument malicious. They say 20 states and scores of cities have experience­d no significan­t public safety problems linked to their policies allowing transgende­r people to use public bathrooms of their choice.

 ?? Elaine Thompson Associated Press ?? PLAINTIFFS Cathrine Schmid, second left, and Conner Callahan, second right, listen with supporters in March at a federal courthouse in Seattle, where a judge ordered President Trump not to take any action barring transgende­r troops from serving in the military.
Elaine Thompson Associated Press PLAINTIFFS Cathrine Schmid, second left, and Conner Callahan, second right, listen with supporters in March at a federal courthouse in Seattle, where a judge ordered President Trump not to take any action barring transgende­r troops from serving in the military.
 ?? Mark Thiessen Associated Press ?? LILLIAN LENNON, a transgende­r teenager pictured in April, was a field organizer who helped defeat a bathroom ballot measure before Anchorage voters.
Mark Thiessen Associated Press LILLIAN LENNON, a transgende­r teenager pictured in April, was a field organizer who helped defeat a bathroom ballot measure before Anchorage voters.

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