The transgender and gender-nonconforming community has seen significantly increased visibility over the past few years, ranging from the increased presence of trans media personalities such as Kaitlin Jenner and Laverne Cox, to the efforts of conservatives to restrict the freedoms of transgender people to live normal, healthy lives.
Despite this increase in visibility, only 23% of people in Washington say they personally know someone who is transgender, according to TRANSform Washington, a newly launched statewide public education campaign from Pride Foundation. The campaign hopes to increase understanding of transgender people’s experience as well as celebrate the dignity, diversity, and humanity of transgender and gender nonconforming people.
For someone like Theo, this campaign will help people understand people like him better.
“I struggled to find ways to push back in a world that felt the need to box me up by my race and my gender,” said Theo. “Finally, in a moment fueled by the frustration of dealing with these conflicting experiences, I came out as a queer trans. I guess some might call me gender non-conforming or transgender. I know the terms can be confusing to some people who have always seen things as this or that, male or female, black or white. But what really matters is that I know I’m true to myself and I’m clear with who I am.”
This new campaign comes hot on the heels of recent failed efforts by Washington conservatives to turn back the clock on the equal rights transgender people currently have according the state’s 10 year-old anti-discrimination law. Earlier this year, a senate bill was introduced that would have repealed the Washington Human Rights Commission’s ruling that transgender people were legally allowed to use the public restrooms that corresponded with their gender identity. Following the narrow defeat of the so-called “bathroom bill” was a failed attempt to place an initiative on the state’s fall ballot to do the same thing.
The campaign’s website features the stories of a variety of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, who describe the joys and pains they’ve experienced while simply trying to live their lives as themselves. For people like Clark, those efforts meant finally coming out as trans later in life.
“Transitioning later in life can be a double-edged sword,” said Clark. “On one hand, I am grateful for all the experience that brought me to my transition. But I do reflect back and am amazed at how much time I spent trying to just survive. Fortunately, it wasn’t too late for me to understand that there is too little time in this world to not be your authentic self.”
While this year’s efforts to take away the rights of Washington state transgender people were unsuccessful, state conservatives and their supporters are already in the process of planning the same efforts for next year. It’s with campaigns such as this one from Pride Foundation, along with the work of the many Washington agencies serving the trans community, such as Seattle’s Gender Justice League, Ingersoll Gender Center, and Gay City: Seattle’s LGBTQ Center, that the hope lies for those efforts to fail as well.