The media’s coverage of and interest in issues important to the gay, lesbian and bisexual communities has increased in recent years. But the transgender population has, for the most part, been left on the outside looking in. Transgender men and women face enormous challenges in our society, but recognition and acknowledgement of that fact has been slow to come. There have been a number of significant stories involving transgender men, women and causes that deserved more attention than they were given, and here we will discuss four of them.
Chelsea Manning Sues Department of Defense
In conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union, WikiLeaks defendant Chelsea Manning filed a lawsuit in federal court in September 2014 against the Pentagon and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Manning, currently serving a 35-year prison sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for leaking classified government documents, claims the Army has repeatedly denied her requests for hormone therapy, psychotherapy and the right to dress as a woman, all of which are considered vital to the mental health and well-being of people diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Manning was diagnosed with this condition in 2010, and those who suffer from gender dysphoria can experience great distress because of their conflicted feelings over their true gender identity. To resolve these conflicts, a treatment regime to facilitate the transition from one sex to the other is needed, and if this does not occur, anxiety, depression and ultimately a dangerous and potentially irreversible decline in a transgender individual’s mental health can result. In her lawsuit, Manning expresses fears that if she does not get the medically necessary treatment she needs soon, her state of mind may deteriorate to the point of no return.
Immigration Reform Leaves Out Transgender Refugees
In November 2014, President Obama announced sweeping changes to immigration law, granting safe harbor to up to 45 percent of all previously illegal immigrants. But these changes did nothing to alleviate the plight of transgender refugees, many of whom are being held in detention despite fleeing violence and persecution in a dozen countries. The situation is particularly difficult for transgender women, who are kept either in solitary confinement, which can be severely damaging to their emotional well-being, or grouped in with the general male population, where the risk of violent attack or sexual assault is high. In December, representatives from 115 LGBTQ and immigration advocacy groups co-signed a letter to the president imploring him to immediately release all transgender illegal immigrants from custody, citing the physical and psychological dangers that accompany their confinement.
Transgender Activist CeCe McDonald Released From Prison
In January 2014, CeCe McDonald was released from prison in Minnesota after serving 19 months of a 41-month prison sentence. McDonald pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter after an incident that led to the stabbing death of a man in front of a Minneapolis bar. The man who lost his life was part of a gang that verbally harassed and physically attacked McDonald and a transgender companion as they were walking past the bar, forcing McDonald to defend herself with a pair of scissors she had been carrying in her purse. The man who was killed was a dedicated neo-Nazi, had three previous assault convictions on his record and cocaine and methamphetamine in his system at the time of the attack. But inexplicably, the local prosecutor refused to treat the incident as a case of self-defense and McDonald chose to plead guilty to a lesser crime in order to avoid a first-degree murder charge. After her early release from custody, McDonald has been traveling the country, speaking about her experiences and doing her best to raise awareness about the physical hazards and emotional difficulties transgender women face when sent to all-male prisons.
Transgender Violence Tracking Portal Launched
From January to May of 2014, there were 103 documented cases of murder involving transgender victims in a multitude of nations. From 1970 through 2014, at least 1,935 transgender men and women were the victims of homicide on an international basis. These statistics almost assuredly underestimate the number of transgender individuals who’ve been the victims of deadly hate crimes over the last few decades, as well as during the most recent calendar year. But they are the first solid numbers ever provided detailing the frequency of these crimes, and we have access to them thanks to the tireless and determined efforts of the folks responsible for organizing the Transgender Violence Tracking Portal, which was launched in 2014. In addition to its research efforts into past incidents of violence, TVTP organizers are working to collect firsthand data from transgender victims of violence and their family members and friends as they aspire to become the definitive source for information about this vitally important topic.