Should transgender individuals have more protected rights?
A recent increase in state bills restricting transgender rights has sparked intense debate on whether transgender individuals should have additional protected rights.
Rise of the Issue
Transgender individuals – defined by the American Psychological Association as persons whose gender identity, expression, or behavior do not conform with their sex assigned at birth – have gained more and more time in the spotlight lately. With prominent figures such as Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, and Elliot Page talking openly about their transition and gender identity, a global conversation has sparked around the issues transgender individuals face in our contemporary world. As transgender persons are becoming more visible in the public sphere, attitudes toward them are changing. But despite greater recognition, tolerance, and support, transgender individuals are still highly subjected to violence and discrimination. For this reason, voices arise to ask for additional transgender rights to protect them. To this day, federal legislation does not expressly protect people from gender identity-based discrimination.
Overall, the debate opposes those who think that attributing more protected rights to transgender individuals would give them access to better and fairer treatment in a world still dominated by prejudice against them, to those who believe that some of these rights could be counterproductive, either for transgender individuals themselves and/or for cisgender individuals.
Christine Jorgensen Transitions from Male to Female
Although not the first American to medically transition, she was the first person to become widely known in the United States for having sex reassignment surgery. She had a career as an actress, singer, and recording artist.
Stonewall Riots Against Police Discrimination
Undercover agents intended to raid the popular gay bar the Stonewall Inn in New York City to arrest trans women and drag queens. Patrons refused to comply and subsequently protested against the police - during what is considered the kick-off to a transformation of the gay liberation movement.
Angie Zapata is Beaten to Death
The 18-year-old trans woman was beaten to death by her 31-year-old boyfriend after he found out she was trans. The killer was convicted of first-degree murder and hate crime, which was a first in the United States that a conviction for a hate crime involved a transgender victim.
2019 - 2020
The U.S. Supreme Court Rules that Title VII Protects Transgender Employees
In the case of R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Supreme Court held that Title VII – equal employment opportunity – of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that protects against sex discrimination in employment extend to transgender employees.
Mississippi Bans Trans Women from Female Sports
Governor Reeves said he wanted to “ensure that young girls in Mississippi have a fair, level playing field in public schools.”
White House Recognizes Transgender Day of Visibility
President Biden is the first president to recognize the day and address issues faced by transgender people such as violence, harassment, and discrimination.
Supporters argue that the rights to live safely, freely, and without fearing discrimination are inalienable human rights that current laws and policies are failing to implement for transpersons while opponents say that the current legislation protecting human rights is sufficient and protect every human being equally.
Supporters say more rights would protect the safety of transgender individuals, but opponents argue that some of the rules set out to help them could actually put them at risk or force them into daily routines that make their gender identity more visible than they are comfortable with.
Opposing sides differ on whether giving more protected rights to transgender individuals would bring them much-needed fairness into their daily experience, or whether doing so will negatively impact others.
More transgender people would be able to keep their jobs.
People fired due to being transgender currently have no legal recourse due to limited protections.
It would positively contribute to transgender people’s mental health.
A lot of transgender people struggle with mental health issues due to not being able to present themselves the way they want to in the world. Extra protections would help alleviate some of their anxiety.
It would not give special privileges to transgender individuals.
Additional protections would not exclude people from facing consequences - such as getting fired - based on their actions, it would instead give them the same rights and protections as others.
Less transgender people would lose their housing.
There are currently no protections for people who lose their housing due to being transgender, so additional protections would prevent them from becoming homeless.
It would help create a more inclusive society.
Institutionalizing a representation of gender as being non-binary through norms and rights is a way to legitimize and normalize transgender individuals and other members of the LGBTQ+ community.
It could give transgender individuals an unfair advantage.
Just like with any form of affirmative action, many wonder whether increasing one community’s protected rights is not done at the expense of other groups.
It could make transgender individuals easier to target and discriminate.
Some transgender individuals have expressed fear at the exposure that some rules, such as separate bathrooms, could cause them more harm – as with more visibility, comes an increased risk of targeted violence.
It does not solve the underlying problem of a binary system of representation.
While more protected rights can increase individuals from discrimination and other, even harsher, treatments they are inflicted, these are rules that try to cope with the injustices transgenders face in a binary system of representation, not change it altogether.
There should also be limitations to gender transitioning.
Gender transitioning is a very important decision that should not be taken lightly or hastily as it has irreversible consequences, especially when it comes to young people under the age of eighteen or people with mental health issues whose point of view is more susceptible to change.
It would not be fair for transgender individuals to not have restrictions when competing in sports.
While exceptions do exist, it is well documented that biological men are often physically stronger and taller than women, this having implications for transgender athletes who wish to compete in the current binary sports categories as women as they could have an unfair physical advantage.