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Whose Gender Is It Anyway?
Transgender people have been part of the gay community — such as it is — forming the “T” in LGBT. At times it could be an uncomfortable fit. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not necessarily related. The relationship was more a matter of a shared connection from defying cultural norms about sex and gender and a shared goal of eliminated discrimination (and also, for quite a long time, the heterosexual public didn't really differentiate anyway).
There’s a problem, though, that sometimes the goals don’t always match up well. Eliminating the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the military, for example, didn’t mean as much for transgender people as it did for gays. And while transgender people will benefit from these new marriage laws (in the sense that they don’t have to fight with the state over their gender), they have their own cultural fights to wage separate from gays, lesbians, and bisexuals.
The good news for transgender people is that their own issues are getting attention outside of the gay community and they are seeing their own progress. In California, a new law allows transgender students to present their gender identity as they see fit and choose which facilities and sports to play based on their own decisions. The law has caused a bit of a cultural backlash, but that it passed in the first place (even accounting for California’s Democratic legislature) is a sign of change. Polls show increasing support for outlawing employment discrimination on the bases of gender identity, and more than half of Fortune 500 companies have policies against job discrimination. It’s a full 30 percentage points below those who have policies against job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but it’s important to note the progress, not just the gap.
This year also saw a household name declare herself as transgender. Whistleblower/leaker (depending on how you feel about the case) Pvt. Bradley Manning, after conviction for (among other acts) providing classified documents to WikiLeaks about the Iraq War, declared a name change to Chelsea Manning and a desire to undergo hormone therapy and live as a woman. Manning’s gender identity issues were known to those who followed the case closely, but 2013 marked the year where she announced her intent to live as a woman.
Next: Public discrimination vs. Private discrimination