Transgender people are some of the least protected, most persecuted people in the United States. In a recent study of transgender students, nearly half said they’d been “punched, kicked, or injured with a weapon” at least once in the last year. On average, a transgender person is murdered because of their identity every month, according to the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. Transgender people are regularly evicted from their homes, fired from their jobs, and denied medical treatment. In some states, a court order is required to change a person’s gender on a driver’s license. Many health insurance plans only cover procedures for one gender, so a person born male who transitions to female can’t get both a prostate check and a mammogram.
But these are statistics, and people are rarely moved by statistics. In this country, civil rights movements have prevailed when they have convinced enough people that a minority is being treated in a way that is fundamentally un-American. For this to happen, people need to see members of a disadvantaged group as human beings before anything else.
The gay rights movement, for instance, has made great strides in large part because increasing numbers of people know, or are related to, an openly gay person. For more and more people, gays and lesbians do not seem strange — but the idea of denying them rights does. Such a breakthrough seems unlikely for the transgender movement. According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, there are only around 700,000 transgender people in the United States, compared with around eight million gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. Trans people are invisible in a way that other minorities are not.