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Transgender rights: A priority for LGBTQ advocates

By Sonja Eide
On May 15, 2013

While marriage equality has been a controversial and popular topic to tackle since 2008 when California's infamous Proposition 8 passed, the overwhelming focus on the right to marry has overshadowed many other important issues in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) community.

People who are transgender do not identify as the sex they were assigned at birth. Transgender people are underrepresented in the media and the lack of information surrounding the community has left many individuals vulnerable to violence due to ignorance.

Though being transgender is often associated with the gay community, organizations that claim to cater to LGBTQ needs often ignore or purposely neglect transgender people. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is a prominent organization that claims to be "working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equal Rights."

However, in 2007, the HRC supported a version of the Employee Non-Discrimination Act that, while including a law against the discrimination of employees on the basis of sexual orientation, purposely left out anything about the protection of employees based on their transgender status.

Even within the LGBTQ community, transgender rights are not considered to be of importance.

It is estimated that the transgender community makes up 2-5 percent of the country's population. Currently, transgender people are at risk for a startling rate of violence. And while all transgender people are at a higher risk of being assaulted than non-transgender people, transgender women, especially trans women of color, have the most violence committed against them.

Brandy Martell, a 37-year-old black transgender woman, was shot to death in the torso and genitals just over a year ago in Oakland. Her murderer has not been found, which is the case with over half of the other transgender murder victims in 2012.

Gaining the right to marry is an important step for those in the LGBTQ community, however, it is not the only issue that should be focused on. While more and more people are accepting variation in sexual orientation, the lack of spotlight on the transgender community is only leading to misinformation, discrimination, and the murders of innocent people.

By lending attention only to the rights of gay people and not those of transgender people, the media and civil rights organizations are only saying that the violence committed against trans individuals does not have any precedence over the right for same-sex couples to marry.

Proper education and protection of the lives of transgender people who are merely existing as themselves should be a priority to advocates of LGBTQ rights.

Sonja Eide is a Tower staff writer. Email her at meditationrock(at)gmail(dot)com.

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