Steward: Fight vs. transgender hate begins

In the aftermath of weeks of grim news, it was good to have something to celebrate yesterday. And that’s just what legislative leaders and Attorney General Maura Healey did — marking the signing into law of the transgender public accommodations bill.

The new law beefs up existing nondiscrimination laws and finally allows people to use public restrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity without persecution.

This win for transgender rights shouts that transgender lives do indeed matter and takes a large step toward no longer silencing the “T” in “LGBT” in our state. But this win is just the beginning. If we have learned anything from the tragedy in Orlando and the current attack on black lives, it’s that legislation doesn’t equal justice.

Transgender women of color still account for more than half of hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. The National Center for Transgender Equality reports that a quarter of transgender people have been fired from their jobs for simply being themselves. The unemployment rate within transgender communities is far higher than the national average.

And though the Affordable Care Act has made great strides in access to care, a majority of transgender people still face intense discrimination and barriers within the health care system, as detailed by the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Transgender people of color are also six times more likely to experience police brutality than any other population in America.

For decades transgender communities have been dealing with resentment and discrimination.

For every glamorous Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair, there are so many others whose fight for understanding has been far more painful: Cece McDonald, arrested for protecting herself against a hate crime in progress in Minneapolis; Monica Jones, arrested for “walking while trans” in Arizona; Islan Nettles, beaten to death in New York City and Cemia “CeCe” Dove, stabbed to death in Cleveland, her body later found in a pond. Progress only works if we continue to shift the narrative.

It is wonderful that we are now allowing transgender people to use the restroom they choose and are thankfully no longer allowing people to refuse someone service because of their identity (at least here in Massachusetts and in other progressive states), but now let’s shift our focus toward the more pressing matter of making sure transgender people can live in a society that supports their health, well-being and safety. You know, those things that the Constitution is supposed to secure for us all.

D.A. Steward is the Boston-based creator/host of the news Web series “The Other Side with Dwayne Steward” on YouTube.



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