Jojo Striker was just 23 years old when she was shot and killed in an empty garage in Toledo, Ohio this February. She was the third transgender or gender non-conforming person killed in 2017. Since her death, 22 more people have been murdered — most of them, transgender women of color.
Today, November 20, is Transgender Day Of Remembrance; a day set aside to remember and honor people like Striker and the 24 others whose deaths have been reported this year — though some reports say 26 have been killed in 2017, and the numbers are never 100% accurate given deaths that go unreported. But it's also a day to take action, and Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison has written out a list of what legislators can do to support the transgender people in their communities.
Ellison, along with six other representatives, introduced a resolution with the House Of Representatives that criticizes Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recent decision to roll back worker protections for transgender people, recognizes that the murder of transgender people and especially transgender women of color is a crisis, and offers suggestions for legislators on how to better serve the transgender community.
The resolution starts with a series of "whereas" statements that set the scene of the rampant discrimination and hatred transgender people face.
"Whereas there is a long history of violence targeting transgender women of color in America, and much of it goes unreported or is reported inaccurately," the statement begins. The next 14 lines point to how discrimination in the workplace, education, housing, with the police and at home contributes to disadvantages and sometimes even death for transgender people and especially transgender women of color. It's a very real problem that needs to be addressed, which is what Ellison and his fellow representatives try to do with the following 12-point resolution.
First, the resolution reads, communities must set up "a public education campaign to dispel myths and to humanize transgender people." It also suggests:
2) ending the school-to-prison pipeline that occurs when mistreatment, harassment, and physical violence are not addressed, or due to the harsh disciplinary policies that disproportionately affect transgender students;
3) developing anti-discriminatory employment practices and promote policies for accepting and inclusive work environments;
4) ending aggressive police tactics that disproportionately target transgender people, and educating law enforcement about common anti-transgender biases and practices to ensure transgender people are safer when interacting with law enforcement;
5) ensuring access to affordable education;
6) ensuring access to affordable housing;
7) ensuring access to inclusive, comprehensive health care for transgender people;
8) developing affirming policies and procedures to safeguard incarcerated transgender people from violence and abuse in Federal, State, and local custody and immigration detention;
9) ending the practice of placing transgender people in solitary confinement;
10) ending the practice of immigration detention for vulnerable populations, including transgender people;
11) developing policies and procedures to swiftly accept transgender people seeking asylum in the United States; and
12) ending the law enforcement practice of racial profiling.
While a lot of the suggestions may seem like pie in the sky-types of ideas — ending racial profiling by the police, for example, is a long and hard battle already being fought — it's important for legislators like Ellison to address them. This resolution won't immediately solve discrimination the transgender community faces, but it's a start. It tells transgender people and their allies that at least some members of Congress know the trauma they've been facing and they're trying to do something about it.
Although many of the resolution's points speak specifically about legislation that needs to address this discrimination, we can all do a part to help the transgender community. And the first point is a great place to start, because anyone can use their voice to dispel myths about transgender people.
"This is an important day, but we should not consider our jobs done because we've observed this one day," Ellison said in a statement to Refinery29. "Instead, we must commit ourselves to the principle of liberty and justice for all and ensure everyone is safe to live and thrive in their community."
So go out and start a conversation. It just might make a difference.
Gender and sexual orientation are both highly personal and constantly evolving. So, in honor of Transgender Awareness Week, we're talking about the importance of language and raising the voices of the LGBTQIA community. Welcome to Gender Nation, where gender is defined by the people who live it. Want to learn more? Check out our Gender Nation glossary.
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