The legal sanctions for non-heterosexual people have taken drastic steps within the past couple of decades. They were treated as second class citizens and often prosecuted for their identity. When a defender of Pastor Charles Worley said that the pastor’s words were harmless because, “Nobody’s gonna put them [gays and lesbians] behind an electric fence,” CNN reporter Anderson Cooper responded, “Actually that has happened. It’s called the Holocaust.” Treatment of the queer community has improved over the years but is still not at an ideal status.
Some people in the public eye in America who do support transgender rights include Vice President Joe Biden. On October 30, 2012 current Vice President Joe Biden said that transgender rights are the “civil rights issue of our time” when Linda Carragher Bourne, mother of Miss Trans New England asked Biden if he would help them. Vice President Biden is an ally to most of the queer community. He commented that gay rights advocates are “freeing the soul of the American people” and publically announced that he was “absolutely comfortable” with same-sex marriage.
The Obama administration was the first one to send an official representative to a conference on transgender people, something that transgendered people such as Ashley Hope believe, “never would’ve happened in the Bush administration or even the Clinton administration.” In an interview with ABC News President Obama said, “I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
He has also been quoted saying, “Every single American, gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, every single American, deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our society. It’s a pretty simple proposition,” at the Human Rights Campaign’s 15th Annual National Dinner. That quote was plastered on one of the pillars in his reelection headquarters too.
But most of the public policy regarding transgender rights has been less supportive than Vice President Biden. The Philadelphia City Council became the first in the nation to pass a LGBT equality bill that would “revamp the city’s health-care plan to ban discrimination against non-union transgender city employees and would instate a Transgender Health Tax Credit that would encourage companies to offer transgender-specific health-insurance coverage to the transgender community. City buildings would also be required to provide gender-neutral bathrooms, and the measure would also clarify what constitutes employment discrimination in the city’s nondiscrimination law.” One person who spoke in support of the bill was Dane Menkin, a transgender male whose name, birth certificate, driver’s license and passport list him as a male. His health insurance does not recognize that he is a male through and did not pay for any of his transition. He speaks of the Philadelphia City Council’s new bill: “This has had an impact on my family, both financially and in terms of social and physical safety. When a provider, billing specialist or receptionist sees me and when my daughter refers to me as daddy when speaking to me, they immediately become concerned that either my gender marker in their system is wrong or that we engaged in some kind of fraud.”
Councilman Jim Kenney, who introduced the bill, commented on it, “We are continuing on the America road to full equality and civil rights for all our citizens.” Philadelphia is one of the first to pass such legislation and there has been no related national law even brought forth. Only four states and the D.C. area have stopped insurance companies from excluding case for transgender people such as “coverage for medically necessary treatment including gender reassignment surgery for gender dysphoria and related health conditions.”
The politics surrounding the transgender community are affected by the viewpoints and mindsets of society and by actions that occur publically. Although Americans are pretty evenly divided on the issue of same-sex marriage, less people are aware of and in support of transgender rights. President Obama commented, “And together, we also have to keep sending a message to every young person in this country who might feel alone or afraid because they’re gay or transgender — who may be getting picked on or pushed around because they’re different. We’ve got to make sure they know that there are adults they can talk to; that they are never alone; that there is a whole world waiting for them filled with possibility. That’s why we held a summit at the White House on bullying. That’s why we’re going to continue to focus on this issue. This isn’t just “kids being kids.” It’s wrong. It’s destructive. It’s never acceptable. And I want all those kids to know that the President and the First Lady is standing right by them every inch of the way. I want them to know that we love them and care about them, and they’re not by themselves. That’s what I want them to know.”
Hopefully, one day soon we can see equal rights for everyone, regardless of gender.