Kate is Beneficial State Foundation’s Community Engagement Officer based in Portland, OR.
It’s been almost 10 years since an essay I wrote about my twin brother and his gender identity was published in the Modern Love column of the New York Times. I see the world very differently since my twin explained that he’d always been my brother. He hadn’t suddenly changed who he was in our late teens – he was just able to finally push back against the assumptions and labels that had been given to him — it’s a girl! — at birth. I’ve had many beautiful and many hard conversations with people in my life about the potential for joy and connection that is possible when we stop worrying about gendering people according to our expectations, instead of their lived experience, and we trust each person to show us who they are.
Pride month is a great time to learn more about transgender rights and ways that you can support transgender and genderqueer individuals in your personal and professional communities.
At all levels of social and political life, advocates are working to secure the right of all people to self-determine their gender (in contrast to society and medical professionals assigning them a gender and all the assumptions that follow) and to enjoy the expression of that identity without fear of discrimination or violence. There is much work to do.
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) outlines critical policy and advocacy work across issues from healthcare to employment to voting rights. With a federal policy environment actively working to dismantle already limited protections against gender discrimination, new or stronger protections are especially hard won. Earlier this month, Connecticut became the first state to pass legislation protecting the legal right of transgender people who are incarcerated to be housed with others of their gender. A year ago, Oregon became the first state to allow a gender neutral option on state IDs, with Washington, New York and California passing similar bills for their residents soon after.
At Beneficial State Bank and Foundation, our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee has several internal initiatives in the works, from updating our bathroom signage to be more inclusive, to adding pronouns for staff and customers to email signatures and information systems.
At a lunch and learn presentation for our staff in April, we heard from StormMiguel Florez about his advocacy work on trans rights and filmmaking about LGBTQ history. During that lunch, I learned that several of my Beneficial State colleagues have transgender kids or relatives in their immediate and extended families. I was honored to hear about their love for their families, and moved by the candid discussion we had about the most pressing issues facing the transgender community today. I hope we continue to share and welcome our colleagues to a different way of thinking about gender.
In honor of Pride, our team in Portland is volunteering for New Avenues for Youth this month in recognition for all they do supporting LGBTQ youth through their Sexual and Gender Minority Resource Center and housing programs. According to NCTE, homelessness is a critical issue for transgender people as “1 in 5 transgender individuals have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. Family rejection and discrimination and violence have contributed to a large number of transgender and other LGBQ-identified youth who are homeless in the United States.”
Please join me and take a moment in June to celebrate Pride and learn more about the unique perspective and experience of your friends, family, neighbors and community members who are transgender, gender non-conforming or exploring their gender in other ways.
Here are a few of the resources that StormMiguel shared with our team for continued learning:
- Transgender Law Center
- Tips for Working with Transgender Co-Workers
- Model Transgender Employment Policy
- Trans Employment Program
- Trans Employment Program Employer Services
- The National Center for Transgender Equality
- Understanding Non-Binary People
- Understanding Trans People – The Basics
This blog post reflects the author’s personal views and opinions, and does not represent the views and opinions of Beneficial State Bank and/or Beneficial State Foundation.