Calling the transgender rights movement “America’s next civil rights frontier,” Time Magazine put Laverne Cox, the transgender actress best known for her breakout role on the Netflix hit Orange is the New Black on the cover in a recent issue.
In addition to covering Cox, the magazine shines a light on the rising awareness of the issues faced by the transgender community amongst the larger cisgender society in which we live, profiling activists from within the community on the struggle for acceptance and integration. The author of the cover story, Katy Steinmetz, says of her piece: “Transgender people — those who identify with a gender other than the sex they were ‘assigned at birth,’ to use the preferred phrase among trans activists — are emerging from the margins to fight for an equal place in society. This new transparency is improving the lives of a long misunderstood minority and beginning to yield new policies. … As the trans movement has gained momentum, opponents have been drawn in to fight, many of them social conservatives who cut their teeth and fattened their mailing lists opposing same-sex marriage. But perhaps the biggest obstacle is that trans people live in a world largely built on a fixed and binary definition of gender. In many places, they are unwelcome in the men’s bathroom and the women’s. The effect is a constant reminder that they don’t belong.”
For the gay community, coming out and being visible has made it difficult to demonize them as “other,” to the point where recent polling indicates that over 90% of straight people now say that they know people in their lives who are gay. While the trans community is estimated to be less than 1%, Ms. Cox and her brilliant portrayal of a transexual prison inmate, as well as other notable trans advocates like Janet Mock and Carmen Carrera present a wide range of experiences and does wonders to shed the demeaning she-male and tranny sex-worker stereotypes that dog the community.
While there are those who will never accept transexuals and transgender people, like homophobes, they are destined to become a literally dying breed. Legislation that affirms the rights of non-cisgender people are starting to make their way through our legal system, following a similar pattern that gay rights has been on for several decades, however we anticipate that things will happen much more quickly in this age of democratized communication and online communities. With homophobia, often the root of transphobia and trans discrimination, dying-off and with younger generations demonstrating more tolerance and understanding of transgender people, we hope that the future for trans people includes full equality in terms of economic opportunity, freedom from violence, and health benefits.