November 14-20 is Transgender Awareness Week! But what does that mean? And why does it matter? We’ve got two simple reasons for you…
1. It’s a time for celebration.
Transgender Awareness Week is a dedicated time in which transgender folks and their allies recognize and applaud the achievements made by transgender folks worldwide. Of course, we believe in celebrating transgender successes year-round. Transgender Awareness Week is awesome, because we’re louder when we say something together! Until recently, there haven’t been many mainstream conversations about transgender people. We need to keep celebrating transgender successes until they become redundant.
This year, we have a lot to celebrate. In September, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released a new rule to ensure equal access to shelter programs in accordance with an individual’s gender identity. The rule also ensures that transgender and gender expansive individuals are not subjected to harassment, unnecessary questioning, or required to provide documentation of their gender, and provides clarity to the definition of “gender identity” to better reflect the difference between actual and perceived gender identity. As we work to end lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth homelessness, it’s crucial that we celebrate our successes along the way. And this success wouldn’t have been possible without the work of transgender activists young and old across the country.
2. It’s a time for action.
Celebration is vital, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Transgender Awareness Week is also a time to take action and bring attention around the discrimination and violence transgender folks too often face. While transgender folks are arguably more visible than ever before, they are often overlooked or not considered at all when it comes to offering equal rights and representation.
When it comes to homelessness, transgender young people have unique needs. Transgender youth experiencing homelessness cited housing as their number one need, followed by access to transition related supports – including access to legal support, name/gender marker change, access to healthcare specific to transgender youth, access to hormones, and emotional support. If we’re going to end LGBT youth homelessness, it is vital that the needs of all young people are met – and that includes transgender youth.
Transgender Awareness Week culminates in the Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20), which was started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a memorial to Rita Hester, a transgender activist who was killed in 1998. Unfortunately violence against transgender people, especially transgender women of color, continues today. Some prefer to observe November 20 as the Transgender Day of Resilience, as a way to both honor those lost, as well as recognize the power and strength inherent in all who identify as transgender.
We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. How are you celebrating transgender folks this week? And what are you doing to take action? Our friends at the National Center for Transgender Equality have a list of easy ways to get involved right now!