Election News

Why are transgender Americans so worried about Donald Trump?

Transgender Day of Remembrance, Hartford, CT
Transgender Day of Remembrance, Hartford, CT Dawn Ennis

On the state level, transgender activists have taken heart that Republican North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who incurred sharp criticism for signing a bill limiting transgender people’s bathroom access, is trailing slightly in still-incomplete returns. Prospects for repealing the bill are uncertain, however, given continued GOP control of the legislature, and a similar bill already has been introduced in Texas.

Republican Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who is president of the state Senate, listed what he called a “Women’s Privacy Act” as one of his top 10 priorities when the legislature reconvenes in January.

“A majority of Texans in both political parties and in every ethnic and demographic group believe that women and girls should have privacy and safety in their restrooms, showers and locker rooms,” Patrick said. “Unfortunately, legislation is necessary to assure that they do.”

Another proposed Texas bill would overturn nondiscrimination ordinances protecting LGBT people at the local level. Dallas, Austin and Fort Worth are among the cities with such protections.

Shannon Minter, a transgender man who is legal director of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, said many transgender civil-rights gains of recent years are based on federal statutes and court precedents that cannot be quickly undone. However, he expressed dismay at the willingness of some conservatives to target transgender people with so-called bathroom bills.

“Like others in our country, transgender people want to be able to live safely, to be able to work and have access to decent health care, and to be able to live with dignity,” Minter said in an email. “We don’t want to be in the crosshairs of a trumped-up culture war.”

Sunday’s Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual commemoration of transgender people who have been killed in bias-related homicides, added to the community’s somber mood. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 23 transgender or gender-fluid people have been homicide victims in the U.S. so far this year, one more than the coalition tallied in all of 2015. Nearly all were black or Latina transgender women.

Some activists fear that violence could worsen in the aftermath of the election.

Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, said she is encouraging transgender people, and the parents of transgender youths, to move to “safe spaces” — cities and states with legal protections and a supportive culture.

Dru Levasseur, Transgender Rights Project director for the LGBT-rights group Lambda Legal, said postelection worries were particularly intense among transgender youths and immigrants, and transgender people of color.

“I’ve heard from many people that they feel scared and alone, but they are not alone, especially now,” Levasseur said. “There is an army of smart lawyers and activists who are committed to protecting them and fighting for them.”

According to a recent estimate by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, there are about 1.4 million transgender adults in the United States.

Dawn Ennis contributed to this report.

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