“I love the wharf, listening to jazz at Westminster Church, and playing basketball with other guys. I’m a transgender man and I’m part of DC.”
If you’ve bussed around our nation’s capital in the past year, you may have seen this ad (left) displaying a D.C. transgender resident, Iden Campbell McCollum. Though smiling in the ad, McCollum was inspired to participate in the awareness campaign after the tragic fatal shooting of a transgender woman, Lashai McLean, interning for his organization in 2011.
As Miriam Zoila Pérez explains in a new Public Eye article, “D.C. Advertises for Transgender Acceptance,” McCollum’s ad and others like it are part of a larger D.C. advocacy campaign to increase transgender acceptance, spurred by disproportionately high levels of violence against transgender individuals in the District. Dozens of attacks in recent years pushed the city’s Office of Human Rights to partner with local activists like McCollum and the DC Trans Coalition to improve conditions for transgender residents.
Though organizers are hopeful that the campaign can positively impact public attitudes, they know tangible change may look small in contrast to the challenges facing transgender residents. Looking in and beyond D.C., Pérez’s article details the unique issues facing transgender individuals across the country. Lacking strong national or statewide protections, transgender men and women are vulnerable to discrimination and therefore more susceptible to poverty, homelessness, poor healthcare, and violence. Meanwhile, many lawmakers continue to tread water on legislation like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would curb the hardship.
Pérez identifies several cases where Christian Right organizations such as Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and the American Family Association have fought local anti-bullying campaigns and organizations like the Girl Scouts, dubbing their decision to allow transgender girls to sell cookies and earn merit badges “child sexual abuse.” These organizations criticize what they see as a “revisionist transgender theology” and attack activists for violating “God’s clearly articulated and intentional design.”
As Pérez argues, the antidote for such attacks lies in reaching out and spreading a positive and inclusive image of the transgender community for the world to see. For more on the D.C. awareness campaign and the struggle for transgender rights, read Perez’s full article for Political Research Associates.