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On being transgender in Texas

Good story.

As celebrities like Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner and actress Laverne Cox seek to bring transgender issues to the mainstream, Texas is battling against the movement toward acceptance.

There is no single definition for “transgender.” Broadly, it refers to someone who identifies as a different gender than their sex at birth. How someone exhibits his or her gender depends on the individual. Some people make no outward physical changes, while others undergo extensive hormone therapy and surgery to change their sex to match their gender identity. People identify as a transgender man, meaning they were not born male but identify that way, transgender woman, or as “gender fluid” – somewhere in between. Sexual orientation is a separate question. For example, a trans woman may be attracted to men, or consider herself a lesbian and be attracted to women.

It is nearly impossible to estimate the number of transgender Americans. A 2011 study put the number at somewhere around 700,000, a number that is likely to grow as Americans develop a greater understanding of what it means to be transgender.

As their numbers grow, so do their support networks, especially in large urban areas. Houston has a number of locations, like the LGBT clinic The Montrose Center, that offer counseling for issues such as substance abuse and domestic violence specifically for transgender Texans. There are also a number of support groups across the state that cater to trans Texans and their families, and the Dallas Children’s Medical Center in February unveiled the region’s first pediatric program for transgender children.

[…]

Texas still has a long way to go to catch up to the likes of California and other states whose local and state leaders actively work to extend equal rights to their transgender citizens.

“I would say that we’re probably in the middle, towards the bottom,” said Lou Weaver, the transgender outreach specialist for LGBT rights group Texas Wins. “Obviously, it could be worse, but we’re not doing well as a state at all.”

Many agree one of the greatest barriers for many transgender Texans at this time is finding employment. Texas is one of 33 states in which it is legal to fire, or refuse to hire, someone for being transgender, Weaver said. There also are no state laws protecting transgender Texans from school bullying or housing discrimination. Many do not have access to necessary physical and mental health services, or the funds or insurance coverage for medical services to assist with transition.

“Rates of discrimination were alarming in Texas, indicating widespread discrimination based on gender identity,” read a 2011 report from the National Center for Transgender Equality. One in 10 respondents reported living on less than $10,000 a year, with one in four reporting they lost a job or were denied a promotion because they were transgender. Nearly half reported physical assault at school and verbal harassment in public places; 41 percent said they had attempted suicide at least once, 26 times the average for the general population.

The statistics are even bleaker for transgender Texans of color, who are far more likely to experience violence in their everyday lives. The Texas transgender community is actively working to reverse this trend, this weekend convening its annual conference in Dallas for black transgender men and women from across the county.

“The absolute, most prominent issue is our black and Hispanic transgender women being murdered and nothing being done about it,” said Colt Keo-Meier, a transgender man and licensed psychologist practicing in Houston. “That’s our No. 1 issue, keeping our people alive.”

State law does not include gender identity in its hate crime statute, making it impossible to track how many Texans are targeted for being transgender.

“Right now, there’s no consistency in justice,” said Bow, who said the “disproportionate treatment” transgender Texans receive largely is due to conflicting protections under the law. Transgender people are “tolerated,” she said, often because they’re ignored.

What I liked about this story, beyond the useful information in it, was that there were no “balancing” quotes from the Dave Welch/Jonathan Saenz crowd. Lord knows, that would not have added anything worthwhile. As we are doing nationally with gay rights, we will get to a point where transgender folks are an accepted and unremarkable part of mainstream society. I don’t know how long it will take, and I’m not saying it’s just going to happen without a lot of work from a lot of people, but it will happen.

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