Transgender Lives Statement
December 21, 2016
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, members of the Commission, staff, and guests.
I am honored and humbled to join the Equal Rights Commission and serve alongside colleagues and staff devoted to equality and fairness for ALL. I am committed to serving the people of Milwaukee and doing whatever it takes for the greater good of all who live, visit, invest, and work here.
While I use and mean the word “ALL” – there is one particular group of people who face enormous odds — yet the Wisconsin statutes that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodation do not expressly include transgender people. State anti-bullying and hate crime laws also exclude transgender individuals.
As most of you here know, discrimination against members of this community is pervasive. According to the largest survey taken of transgender people in the United States, almost 60 percent of transgender Americans have avoided using public restrooms for fear of confrontation. Thirty-two percent of transgender people said they have limited the amount they ate or drank so they could avoid using a public restroom. The recently-published findings by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 29 percent of transgender people were living in poverty compared to 14 percent of the U.S. population and that 39 percent have experienced serious psychological distress, nearly eight times the rate for the general population.
Too often, transgender people are the target of violent crime. Those who escape violence from others may still face self-inflicted harm: 40 percent of the population who responded reported having attempted suicide.
The findings reveal disturbing patterns of mistreatment and discrimination and startling disparities between transgender people and the U.S. population when it comes to the most basic elements of life, such as finding a job, having a place to live, accessing medical care, and enjoying the support of family and community. And the problems are magnified if you are a transgender person of color.
Unlike other marginalized groups, transgender people find it much harder to hide their status or seek support from people close to them. When many of us rely on our immediate loved ones for support, transgender people are much more prone to isolation, even from loved ones.
Many transgender individuals live in the shadows, are reluctant to report adversities for fear of retribution or embarrassment, or have lost trust in public agencies. It is incumbent upon us as a commission and a city to do all within our authority to reach out; build trust; and let them know we provide a safe, affirming, and respectful means to right the wrongs. I am sure you would agree, transgender lives are human lives. Lives that reach across national origins, color, all genders, sexual orientations, religions, capabilities, identities, ages, and beyond. We should listen to transgender people’s experiences and work to fix the transphobia that threatens so many lives.
Thank you for making room at the table for me and our transgender neighbors and friends. I look forward to working with each of you toward advancing each and every person in our great city.
Commissioner Tony Snell Rodriguez