Today is the 7th-annual Transgender Day of Visibility, a day for celebrating the accomplishments of the transgender community as well as the challenges they still face being recognized and respected in our communities.
The threat posed by I-1552, the initiative seeking to repeal Washington’s transgender non-discrimination laws, makes speaking out for TDOV especially important this year. These protections have kept our transgender friends, family and neighbors safe for 11 years, and Washingtonians need to hear firsthand the harm that taking them away could do.
That’s why today, we’re highlighting the stories of three transgender Washingtonians—stories that shine light on how Washington’s non-discrimination protections have helped them thrive in our welcoming, inclusive state.
Jason | Seattle
Jason had allergies and asthma as a kid, so it seems almost natural that he’s now a respiratory therapist working in Seattle. Growing up in rural Mississippi, Jason always knew there was something different about him, but even acknowledging the existence of LGBT people in his community was taboo.
“Many transgender youth will go through exactly what I did—the depression, fear, and endless questioning that something might be wrong with me. Laws like Washington’s ensure that transgender young people who might be struggling can express themselves without fearing that they’ll treated differently by their teachers or coaches because of who they are.” –Jason, Seattle
When Jason moved to the Seattle, he started living as his authentic self. Washington’s non-discrimination protections helped him build a life, including his career as a respiratory therapist. Jason says he works with some very supportive people, but that many transgender people don’t, and employment non-discrimination protections are critical to supporting them.
Clark | Mercer Island
Clark never saw himself as the little girl he was born as, whose mother used to dress him in matching outfits. Instead, he always felt more comfortable—and more himself—as “masculine of center” (or, more masculine than feminine). However, it wasn’t until he was a middle-aged adult, watching a documentary about transgender actor and activist Chaz Bono, that he realized he was transgender too.
“This person who is the same age as me and once frequently appeared on The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour with his parents as a little ‘girl,’ was now becoming the guy he envisioned himself to be. I turned to my mother and gasped, ‘this is me.’ My mom just casually nodded and replied, ‘You were supposed to be a boy.'” –Clark, Mercer Island
Now, it’s been over two years since Clark fully transitioned to living as the man he’s always known himself to be. And the support he got from his mother, his employer, and the law during that process helped ensure that his transition was a smooth and joyful one.
Claire | Seattle
Claire grew up in a small town in Michigan, and like many young people, felt sometimes like she just didn’t belong. So she turned to music—specifically, her beloved guitar, which she describes as feeling like another limb, an extension of her own body.
But when Claire came out as transgender, she started to neglect her music. She says that coming out and making music both require an act of “vulnerability”—and sometimes, you only have room in your life for one act of vulnerability at a time. The fact that the law protected her from discrimination in public places, however, helped her get her courage back when she did start playing again.
“But coming out was still an act of vulnerability—and I was having a hard time dedicating myself fully to making music. So while I was opening up to everyone around me, I held off on playing. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was afraid of being taken less seriously as a musician or seen as a joke.” –Claire, Seattle
Transgender Washingtonians like Jason, Clark and Claire are able to live full, productive lives in part because of Washington’s transgender non-discrimination protections. But right now, the anti-transgender I-1552 campaign is collecting signatures that would put a question to repeal these protections on the 2018 ballot.
Washington Won’t Discriminate is working against them. If you’re with us, click here to learn more about the movement against this shameful initiative and sign our Decline to Sign I-1552 pledge.