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The transgender community is composed of individuals who have a gender identity or gender expression that is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. It also includes people who are not exclusively masculine or feminine, such as those are who genderqueer or nonbinary. As sexual orientation is independent from gender, transgender folks may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, and pansexual.
Historically, the community has faced a great deal of discrimination and violence. According to the Human Rights Committee, 21 transgender people were killed in the U.S. in 2015, and in 2016 at least 25 were killed. Violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color. The community is often deprived of access to housing, employment, healthcare, and other vital services due to a combination of racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia.
Transgender issues have been in the spotlight lately thanks to famous transgender figures such as Chelsea Manning, Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, and Janet Mock, as well as several recent U.S. laws — laws that both take away and grant rights to transgender people.
One of the most notable is North Carolina’s HB2, which forbids transgender individuals from using public restrooms that match their gender identity.
Fortunately, there have been a number of laws passed recently which protect the community. As of July 2016, 21 states and the District of Columbia have legislation that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. In May 2016, the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice directed public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. President Obama also issued an executive order prohibiting discrimination against transgender individuals who work for the federal government or its contractors. In 2016, Oregon became the first state to legally recognize non-binary individuals.
When it comes to knowledge and attitudes about the community and transgender rights, progress has been made, but there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done.