Transgender Day of Visibility includes calls for federal action

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- With debates raging nationwide, this year's Transgender Day of Visibility took on a different meaning. That was true nationwide and here in Philadelphia, as the Trans Pride flag was raised over City Hall Thursday afternoon.

Members of the trans community point to policies, like Florida's law banning instruction on gender identity for young children, as an example of the modern-day battles they now face.

"For many, many years, we cowered in the closet," said Dr. Billie Swiggard, MD, Ph.D., who is a staff physician for Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia.

"This is dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of the discrimination and violence we face," said Philadelphia Director of LGBT Affairs Celena Morrison as she addressed a crowd of people who attended the flag-raising at City Hall.

LGBTQ+ activists acknowledge that with visibility comes risk.

"Transgendered women are murdered ten times more often than cisgender women," said Swiggard.

It's something Naiymah Sanchez has seen as both Transgender Justice Coordinator for the ACLU of Philadelphia and as a trans woman. She adds that there's no one way to define a transgender person.

"You're not just trans," said Sanchez. "You're also black and trans, you're queer, Latinx and trans. You're also disabled and trans. There's so many intersections to our identities."

The debate is still stirring over University of Pennsylvania Swimmer Leah Thomas. She recently won a national championship as a trans woman after competing on the men's swim team before her transition. Thomas followed guidelines that include taking testosterone-blocking hormones for two years before competing.

At least ten states have now banned trans athletes from competing in sports as the gender with which they identify. Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a similar measure.

"There's over 200 bills in 35 states that's been introduced in the last few years," said Sanchez.

The White House marked Transgender Day of Visibility by revealing a new policy that allows people to use a non-binary X on their passport. Swiggard says it's progress, but the community needs more.

"The federal government has to take these on as civil rights issues," she said.
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