Scripts and Resources to Protect Transgender Rights

Scripts and Resources to Protect Transgender Rights

Use these materials to speak out and protect transgender students on behalf of public health.

Posted on March 31, 2017

 

What you’ll find on this page
Conversation Aide: Why Trans Rights are Human Rights
Email Language to Contact Your Local School Board
Script to Contact Your Elected Representatives
Educational Resources

 

Conversation Aide: Why Transgender Rights are Human Rights

This resource, produced by Public Health Awakened, is intended to support conversations with family members, friends, and colleagues who don’t see the value in tearing down transphobia. Learning to be an ally to those who identify as transgender is an ongoing process that requires addressing embedded and institutional transphobia head on — our ability to thrive as a society is bound in everyone having access to dignity and success.

Key Terms

Transgender or trans: A term used to describe people who identify as a different gender from the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation — transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, etc.

Gender expansive: An adjective used to describe people that identify or express themselves in ways that broaden the culturally defined behavior or expression associated with one gender.

Cisgender: A term that describes a person whose gender identity aligns with the sex assigned to them at birth.

For a full glossary, check out the LGBTQ Definitions for Adults by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

 

 

Q. I don’t know anyone who is transgender. How does this issue affect me and why should I care?

  • Since you can’t tell whether someone is transgender by looking at them, it’s very likely there are people in groups you attend, places you visit, or in your community at large who identify as transgender even if you don’t know it.
  • The ability to be yourself — without discrimination in employment, housing, education, and public places — is a human right. The struggle for trans rights affects each of us because when trans folks in our community are impoverished, homeless, unemployed, unhealthy, and have higher mortality rates (Grant et al., 2011), it prevents our community from thriving as a whole.
  • Each of us can make a difference locally to ensure that people — including transgender and gender expansive individuals — are treated fairly in our neighborhoods, workplaces, or schools.
  • I encourage you to learn more about gender! Katie Couric’s National Geographic Special, “Gender Revolution” is a great place to start.

 

Q. Aren’t these people just mentally ill? Why should we accommodate people who really just need treatment for their mental illness?

  • No, transgender people are not mentally ill. Many people used to believe that homosexuality was a form of mental illness, but those ideas have been debunked. Similarly, people today may believe that being transgender is a form of mental illness, but many health organizations, including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association, have recognized the need to de-pathologize being transgender (Dickey, 2017).
  • It’s important to recognize that the main difficulties transgender and gender expansive people face stem from systemic discrimination that is a form of sexism. Discrimination of all kinds weakens public health, making it important that we combat these inequities to foster healthier communities that care for all of us.


Q. The transgender community is an extremely small population, why do they need special treatment?

  • There are almost 1 million transgender adults living in the US, and they live in every state and territory of the country (Meerwijk et al. 2017). Trans and gender expansive people exist all over the world, in every culture and faith community.
  • Transgender and gender expansive people are not looking for special treatment, but for equal treatment — equal protection from sexism and gender discrimination like people who are cisgender.  Today, due to widespread harassment and discrimination, people who identify as transgender are significantly more likely to experience economic insecurity, homelessness, abuse by police and in prison, poor healthcare and health outcomes, and have lower rates of college attendance compared to the cisgender population (Crissman et al., 2017; Grant et al., 2011; McPhail et al., 2016).
  • Combatting discrimination against transgender and gender expansive people is not special treatment but part of the collective work we all need to engage in to build fair communities where everyone can live and thrive.

 

Q. More laws and rules about transgender people will just draw more attention and increase the chance they will get bullied or beat up in school.

  • Laws supporting the rights of transgender people normalize and support their identities in our society. Gender-based violence largely occurs when people are fearful or intolerant of the gender diversity that exists in our world. By explicitly refusing to tolerate discrimination and injustice against transgender individuals, we express care for them and their safety, thereby creating a more welcoming environment.
  • When harassment and violence against transgender youth goes unchecked, this discrimination negatively affects the educational outcomes and mental health of these youth. Research shows that LGBTQ students in schools that have LGBTQ-inclusive policies, such as comprehensive anti-bullying measures or an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, experience lower levels of harassment from their peers and are more likely to report their classmates as being accepting of LGBTQ students (Kosciw et al., 2016). The bottom line is that transgender people, particularly youth, need our visible and vocal support! Being silent about transgender issues doesn’t protect them— it harms them.

 

Q. How do we prevent predators from claiming to be transgender just to access public bathrooms? How can we make sure they can’t use this as an excuse in court?

  • That simply is not a real threat. Here’s what we know: In 2014, there were 12 states with laws saying that places of public accommodation could not discriminate against transgender people. Those laws did not lead to any increase in criminal activity in bathrooms (Maza & Brinker, 2014). In fact, laws that require bathroom facilities to be inclusive actually protect our communities.
  • Transgender people deserve to be able to meet their  basic biological needs. The people who are actually put in harm’s way are transgender folks if discrimination is not prohibited by law. A lack of inclusive bathroom facilities has been shown to subject transgender people to verbal harassment, physical assault, health complications, and decreased participation in public life (Herman, 2013). We should not exclude and harm trans folks, especially on the basis of unfounded and biased myths.
  • If someone enters bathroom facilities with the intent to commit assault, they will always be subject to criminal penalty regardless of whether they claim to be transgender or not. The majority of the nation’s leading sexual assault and domestic violence prevention organizations have publicly declared that providing safe and respectful access to bathrooms for transgender people doesn’t allow or invite sexual assault to occur. In 2016, over 300 of these organizations released a statement that called for the end to legislation that harms transgender people and excludes them from restrooms and other facilities.
  • If we really want to prevent assault and predatory behavior, we need to invest in violence prevention programs and pass anti-violence policies, not exclude our transgender communities from being able to use the restroom in peace.

 

Q. I would be very uncomfortable going to a public bathroom with a person of the opposite sex in there! [or “I would be very uncomfortable if my child used a public bathroom with a person of the opposite sex in there!”]

  • The reality is that transgender and gender expansive people are the ones who most commonly experience harassment in public bathrooms. One in 4 transgender people have reported being verbally harassed, physically attacked, and sexually assaulted by cisgender people in the past year just because they sought to use the restroom (James et al., 2016). This type of discrimination makes it uncomfortable for transgender individuals to go to bathroom safely and in peace, which negatively impacts their health and well-being. Additional data from the 2015 US Transgender Survey illuminates this reality:
    • 1 in 3 transgender respondents limited what they ate and drank to avoid using a restroom because of this climate of violence and discrimination.
    • 8% of transgender respondents reported having a urinary tract infection, kidney infection, or other kidney related problem in the past year as a result of avoiding the restroom (James et al., 2016).
  • Everyone deserves the right to be able to engage in basic necessary biological functions with dignity and without fear — establishing LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws for public accommodation spaces across the US ensures that is a possibility for everyone.

 

Check out our list of educational resources for more information specific to public health and health care providers as well as examples of public education campaigns.

 

Email Your Local School Board to Advocate for Transgender Rights

Use this language to email your local school board representatives to urge them to protect transgender students in the name of public health. You can tailor the email to add your personal family story and values.

 

SUBJECT: Use your school board power to protect transgender students!

EMAIL BODY

Hello, I’m _______, and I’m a resident of _________. As a public health professional, I’m writing to urge you — a school board member — to support transgender and gender-expansive students in our schools.

All students deserve to have a safe and supportive school environment to progress academically and developmentally. School administrators, teachers, staff, families and students all play an important role in creating and sustaining such an environment. To that end, students should be treated equally and fairly, and be protected from discrimination based on their real or perceived gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.

The statistics regarding harassment, discrimination and educational outcomes among transgender students are startling:

  • A national survey by GLSEN found that 3 out of 4 transgender students feel unsafe at school, and they also have significantly lower GPAs, are more likely to miss school out of concern for their safety, and are less likely to plan on continuing their education. (This is from The 2015 National School Climate Survey)
  • A national survey by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention found that more than half (50-54%) of trans students who were harassed or bullied at school attempted suicide, with even higher numbers for students who were physically or sexually assaulted. This was true at all levels of school — elementary, middle, high school, or college. (This is from the report on Suicide Attempts among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults)

It is for these reasons that I urge you, as a school board member, to show your support for our transgender and gender expansive youth by adopting, implementing, and enforcing policies and guidelines that promote their fair and equal treatment in relation to a range of rights. These include but are not limited to student names and pronouns, restrooms, privacy, school records, student safety, and dress codes.

Below are resources you can use to inform inclusive policies that protect and support ALL students: 

Schools in Transition: A Guide to Supporting Transgender Students in K-12 Schools (ACLU, GenderSpectrum, Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Education Association)

Model District Policy on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students: Model Language, Commentary & Resources (GLSEN and The National Center for Transgender Equality)


 

Call Your Elected Representatives to Advocate for Transgender Rights

Use this script to contact your elected representatives to urge them to protect trans rights in the name of public health.

 

Hello, I’m a constituent of ________. I’m calling [or I’m here] because as a resident, and as a public health professional, I want to urge _________ to support transgender people in my community.

What is ___________’s position on this issue?

 

Option 1: Representative is Supportive of Trans Rights

[Staffer: They are supportive of trans rights…]

I’m so glad to hear that! I believe this [community/state] is an exceptional place — where everyone should be able to live to their full potential. That’s also in line with a public health perspective, which emphasizes that the whole population matters, whoever they are and however they identify.

[Staffer: Thank you for your message, I’ll pass it along…]

Great, thanks. So what is ______’s plan to protect trans rights in our community?

[Staffer: They are looking into it…]

I appreciate their stance, but I expect them to use every tool available to them to protect trans rights. The mental and physical health of the 1 out of every 100 Americans who identifies as transgender can suffer because of how they are excluded and discriminated against. They have higher rates of suicide and less access to health care. They have a harder time getting jobs and housing and doing well in school — all of which translates into long-term health problems.

Discrimination against trans people is only going to get worse in the current political climate, as the administration rolls back vital protections and discriminatory speech and actions are on the rise. Now more than ever, it’s imperative that we speak out, and live our values of being inclusive and welcoming.

[If this is a local elected official]

It is for these reasons that I am urging ____________ to show their support for our transgender and gender expansive youth by encouraging local school districts to adopt, implement, and enforce school policies and guidelines that promote their fair and equal treatment in relation to a range of rights. These include but are not limited to student names and pronouns, restrooms, privacy, school records, student safety, and dress codes.

[If this is a state or federal elected official]

That’s why I’m asking ______ to commit to supporting transgender people in [community/state] by enacting legislation to protect the rights, legal benefits, and access to services of people of all gender identities and expressions. I also urge _______ to incorporate into legislation language that is clearly inclusive of transgender and gender-nonconforming people and that protects the right of transgender and gender-nonconforming people to use facilities that match their gender identity.

[Staffer: Thank you for your message, I’ll pass it along…]

Thank you very much. I want ________ to know that this is an issue that matters to me, and many other constituents, and we will continue to pay attention and stand up for the trans people in our community. I look forward to _______ doing the same. 

 

Option 2: Representative is in a conservative political context

[Staffer: The representative doesn’t see this as an issue to take up here…or similar]

That is disappointing to hear. I believe this [community/state] is an exceptional place — where everyone should be able to live to their full potential. That’s also in line with the public health perspective, which emphasizes that the whole population matters, whoever they are and however they identify.

[Staffer: Thank you for your message, I’ll pass it along…]

Thank you. I strongly urge ___________ to reconsider their actions on this issue. People whose gender is viewed as other than what is expected often face bullying at school and discrimination in the workplace. We also know that these experiences take their toll on physical and emotional well being and thus on someone’s ability to contribute to our community.  I know ____________ works hard to ensure an economically robust and safe community/state.  When one group is singled out, this undermines ____________  goals.

[Personal message idea]: My elderly (grand) parents often feel dismissed at the store or doctor’s office by people much younger than they. It hurts them deeply because they are mistreated as a result of their age, not because of who they are as a person.  I know that ____________ does not condone mistreatment of people of any kind.  And I tell my (grand) parents that this is all gender-expansive people (those whose gender is not viewed as expected) want. They want to be seen and treated for who they are, not for how others perceive them.

Gender-expansive people are our neighbors, relatives, friends, children and coworkers.  Mistreatment of any person is not the kind of community that ______________ has worked so hard to create. Now more than ever, it’s imperative that we speak out, and live our values of being inclusive and welcoming.

[If this is a local elected official]

It is for these reasons that I am urging ____________ to show their support for our transgender and gender expansive youth by encouraging local school districts to adopt, implement and enforce school policies and guidelines that promote their fair and equal treatment in relation to a range of rights. These include but are not limited to student names and pronouns, restrooms, privacy, school records, student safety and dress codes.

[If this is a state or federal elected official]

That’s why I’m asking ______ to commit to supporting transgender people in [community/state] by enacting legislation to protect the rights, legal benefits, and access to services of people of all gender identities and expressions. I also urge _______ to incorporate into legislation language that is clearly inclusive of transgender and gender-nonconforming people and that protects the right of transgender and gender-nonconforming people to use facilities that match their gender identity.

[Staffer. Thank you for your message, I’ll pass it along…]

Thank you. Please tell _______ that I expect them to support an inclusive community that protects all, regardless of gender identity, race/ethnicity, ability, immigration status, or involvement with the justice system. I will be watching closely to see what _______ does on this issue, and I will cast my vote accordingly.


 

Educational Resources

 

For Public Health and Health Care Providers

How-to on data collection (Pro-tip: ask about gender and sex separately.)

Recommendations for Inclusive Data Collection of Trans People in HIV Prevention, Care, and Services — Center for Excellence for Transgender Health, UCSF

 

Learning Center: The Center of Excellence for Transgender Health, UCSF

Guidelines and best practices, policy reports and briefs, and program management materials.

 

10 Tips for Working with Transgender Patients

Fact sheet from the Transgender Law Center

 

Transgender Patient Services & Support: For Providers and Hospital Administrators

Resources gathered and/or developed by the Human Rights Campaign for health care providers including: general information, best practices, cultural competency, gender expansive youth, clinical information, and transgender health-related videos.

 

Examples of Other Resources, Campaigns, and Movements

LGBTQ Definitions by Welcoming Schools: A project of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation

Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric

Katie Couric explores the complexities of gender identity (by National Geographic).

 

Queering Reproductive Justice Toolkit

This advocacy tool is intended for reproductive rights, health, and justice advocates who want to gain a solid understanding of repro* issues within an LGBTQ context. It includes a glossary of terms and a timeline of LGBTQ rights and reproductive rights.

 

Explore: Transgender

Human Rights Campaign works to educate the public on issues that transgender people face and to advocate for full inclusion and equality.

 

Transform California

Transform California is a campaign led by a diverse coalition of Californians who are committed to making the Golden State a place where all transgender and gender nonconforming people can feel safe and live free from discrimination.

 

Transgender and Gender Identity Respect Campaign

The Transgender and Gender Identity Respect Campaign has been called by advocates the first government-funded campaign focused exclusively on the betterment of transgender and gender nonconforming people. The campaign was developed at the DC Office of Human Rights (OHR) in close consultation with transgender advocates and community members.