6 Leaders Fighting for Trans Equality

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Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, which memorializes all those who have been murdered in transphobic attacks. The Day also calls much-needed attention to the ongoing fight for safety and equality for transgender individuals.

It is with this in mind that we spoke to dedicated members of our network about what they are doing to support trans people and the steps we can take to help achieve equality for all.

Trans people face disproportionate violence and discrimination, which in turn leads to limited and often dangerous employment options, lower quality of life and even shorter life spans.

These leaders and their teams are working to put an end to this cycle.

Tangible and Important Steps: Supporting the Trans Community in Mexico
Juan Pablo Delgado Miranda, a member of the REALITY community, is striving to put a dent in the downward spiral with his online platform, Visible, which launches this week. This project, supported by a grant from Georgetown University, allows trans people in Mexico to report incidents of violence. Juan Pablo and his team can then map the incidents, analyze trends and shine a spotlight on a situation that often goes unreported.

This work expands what Juan Pablo is currently doing with the nonprofit organization he runs called Amicus. He and his fellow lawyers are helping trans people in his home state of Guanajuato in Mexico to receive updated ID’s and legal documents. Currently, Mexican law requires a person to sit before a judge before they are able to change their name or gender.

“Providing a trans person with an ID with a name and gender of their preference has a significant impact,” says Juan Pablo. Their ID changes how they interact in the world and how other people perceive them.

Juan Pablo Delgado Miranda’s new platform called Visible will launch later this week on Amicus’ site.

Substantive Change and a Message of Hope: Supporting the Trans Community in Jerusalem
In Jerusalem, the organization Jerusalem Open House serves as a home base and center for activism for the local LGBTQ community. Their trans youth and adult groups, psych and social services and education projects support and empower trans Jerusalemites.

For IDF Captain and Jerusalem Open House CEO Ofer Erez, this work is personal.

Ofer grew up on a small Kibbutz and did not know any other trans people. As the first openly trans officer in the IDF, he began to see that the challenges he was going through were common among other trans soldiers and trans people in general. “The discrimination, transphobia, lack of knowledge and access to services are major obstacles in every-day life for us, and only after dealing with them can we try and start to be ourselves.” This realization inspired him to help change the system in the military and act to change Jerusalem more broadly.

Ofer speaks to diverse audiences around the world helping to educate more people about the trans experience. He also has a message for trans people: there is hope. Ofer was 16 when he first learned that it was possible to live as the gender with which one identifies. For so long, he did not believe that he could ever truly be himself or live a full and happy life.

Trans people deserve a new narrative. Ofer wants every trans person to believe that happiness is possible, that a better future awaits.

Download Jerusalem Open House’s LGBTQ city guide here.

The Work that Remains: Striving for Full Equality in Israel
Tyler Gregory, Executive Director of A Wider Bridge and a Schusterman Fellow, talked to us about the need to focus on the “T” in LGBTQ. “Transgender people have been on the front lines of fighting for LGBTQ rights all along, but have gotten the least out of it.” As Tyler describes, after the fight for U.S. marriage equality was won, a lot of people put down the mantle and went home. Instead, it is time for the community to show their appreciation for our trans brothers and sisters by rallying behind trans people and helping to bring their issues to the forefront of the movement.

For A Wider Bridge, that includes education and visibility for the Israeli transgender community, including getting stories of both Israel’s progress and its remaining challenges into the U.S. and Jewish news media.

On the one hand, Tyler hopes to spread awareness about the ways in which Israel can be a model for the U.S. on issues like military service and gender ID changes. And, on the other hand, to surface the harmful discrimination that still exists in the state. Notably, Tel Aviv is seen as being inclusive and accepting of the gay community, but this has not necessarily extended to trans Israelis. What is more is that Tel Aviv is a bubble by comparison to the rest of the country. A Wider Bridge is working to ensure LGBTQ Israelis enjoy full equality across the state.

As part of this work, A Wider Bridge recently provided grants to Ma’avarim, which trains young trans Israelis in grassroots activism, and The Haifa Communities House, which provides social services to homeless transgender street workers. They are also a supporter of Jerusalem Open House.

Learn more about A Wider Bridge’s mission here.

Media as an Important Tool: Bringing Authentic Trans Experiences to Life
Jeremy Blacklow, Director of Entertainment Media at GLAAD and a member of the REALITY community, sees the media as a critical tool in the fight for acceptance. GLAAD encourages the media to report on the brutal violence perpetrated against trans individuals and, importantly, to treat the victims with dignity and respect in reporting their deaths. “Often, trans people are mis-gendered or have their birth names reported in the aftermath of their deaths and we work to make sure this does not continue,” says Jeremy.

GLAAD also leverages the tremendous power of storytelling in Hollywood. Jeremy and his co-workers—which includes GLAAD's esteemed Director of Transgender Media, Nick Adams—work with Hollywood writers and other content creators to ensure trans stories are told authentically. Shows like Ellen and Will and Grace played an important role in helping people to change their opinions about LGB people, paving the way for important legal victories like the repeals of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act. Exposure to trans people and trans storylines—on programs like Orange Is the New Black, Transparent, and Pose—are now helping do the same for the trans community.

As Jeremy says, “When you get to know someone by hearing their story, it becomes hard to hate them.”

Learn more about GLAAD’s trans awareness week programming here, including more info about #BeyondTheBinary and #WontBeErased campaigns. Jeremy also encourages you to keep your eye out for the new film TransMilitary.

Welcoming to the Core: Creating Inclusive Jewish Communities
Within the Jewish community, organizations like Keshet are providing synagogues, communal spaces, workplaces and more with the knowledge and resources they need to be fully welcoming of trans individuals. Keshet offers a variety of programs that help emerging and established leaders learn how to build inclusive communities.

The idea, as Senior Director of Development and Communications James Cohen shared with us, is that “nobody should have to check a part of their identity at the door.” Everyone should feel supported to be themselves and be engaged in Jewish life.

Additionally, Keshet is helping to mobilize the community in social action. This past election cycle, Keshet worked with Massachusetts Jewish organizations to support and promote legislation that would uphold the rights of trans and gender nonconforming people in the state.

Learn more about Keshet’s trainings and workshops here.

A New Gender Mindset: Embracing and Celebrating Every Body
Gender is much more fluid than society has allowed it to be. As Bevin of Queer Fat Femme puts it, “the gender binary is false, you can see it when you look around at the diversity of people in the world.”

Bevin, who is also the leader of Fat Kid Dance Party, is working to liberate all bodies from oppression. She sees confined, outdated definitions of gender as holding everyone back. “It is limiting for everyone and it misses the point. Other people’s gender is not our issue, focusing on it means that we are not focused on our own journeys.”

That is why Bevin, a REALITY community member, is helping people to expand their mindset when it comes to gender. Bevin celebrates trans and gender nonconforming individuals in her workout videos and invites the entire cast to share their pronouns with the audience. She also encourages organizations and foundations looking to diversify their boards to include trans and gender nonconforming people.

She hopes that through these efforts, more people gain exposure to trans people and realize plain and simple that “every body is worth of love.”

Bevin created Fat Kid Dance Party Aerobics. Learn more at fatkiddanceparty.com.