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Our understanding and treatment of gender in the United States has evolved significantly over the past four decades. Transgender individuals in the current U.S. context enjoy more rights and protections than they have in the past; yet, room for progress remains. Moving beyond the traditional male–female binary, an unprecedented number of people now identify as transgender and nonbinary. Transgender identities are at the forefront of gender policy, prompting responses from public agencies at the local, state, and federal levels. Because transgender individuals face increased rates of discrimination, violence, and physical and mental health challenges, compared to their cisgender counterparts, new gender policy often affords legal protections as well as identity-affirming practices such as legal name and gender marker changes on government documents. These rights come from legal decisions, legislation, and administrative agency policies. Despite these victories, recent government action targeting the transgender population threatens the progress that has been made. This underscores the importance of comprehensive policies and education about transgender identities to protect the rights of transgender people.

Article

Within the United States, increasing numbers of transgender people are coming forward and working to change legislation to better protect their lives and identities. These changes have come through the work of transgender people and allies over a long period of time. Societal acceptance and support for transgender people has evolved, first in the provision of medical resources allowing for physical changes and later in legislation supporting and protecting people’s ability to publicly and legally express their gender. However, these changes have not always been to benefit transgender people, as others seek to control and limit people’s ability to express non-normative genders. Policy changes occur in reaction to transgender people, but at the same time, transgender people have been working to allow themselves the freedom to express their genders freely. Major changes first began when scientists and medical professionals became interested in medical technologies such as hormones and their effects on people’s bodies. It was these discoveries that also interested people who felt dysphoric about their gender expression and saw these procedures as being able to reduce their pain and improve their lives. The movement to utilize surgical techniques soon followed. As more people sought out these services, medical professionals developed guidelines to be used to identify those who would benefit from the procedures and how to utilize these technologies safely to help people transition from one gender to another. As more people were able to transition, policies arose to prevent or limit people’s ability to express their identity, but transgender people and allies also organized to counter this movement and propose policies that are more supportive and protective of them.

Article

In the early 21st century the public debates about the inclusion of gender identity in public accommodations municipal ordinances and statewide and national laws represent another step in the ongoing struggle of the social movement seeking to advance the rights and liberties of lesbians, gay men, bisexual, transgender, and other queer (LGBTQ) people. Situating these current debates in the larger context of the LGBTQ movement connects this emergent issue to that broader struggle. The LGBTQ social movement and its counter-movement, often referred to as the Religious Right, have had numerous battles over social policy since the late 20th century. Importantly, movements and their counter-movements identify winning strategies and, at times, tactically innovate so as to effect a shift in current tactics in light of a failing strategy. Tactical innovation includes shifting policy debates, which has been a primary tactic of the counter-movement to LGBTQ rights. Transgender rights broadly and public accommodations policies specifically represent a tactical innovation in the ongoing development of LGBTQ rights in the United States. How has gender identity inclusion in public accommodations been addressed in politics, policy, and law? There are numerous dimensions of gender identity public accommodations policies as understood in social movements, American law, public policy and administration, public opinion, and sociology and social psychology. Public accommodations are a constant source of public contention. The legal landscape in constitutional, federal, state, and municipal approaches to these policies remains uncertain, and there are competing interpretations of law in whether gender identity protections are covered in existing federal statutes. The rhetoric of the policy debates in both state legislatures and initiative and referendum campaigns primarily focuses on the potential harms to women and girls brought about by men taking advantage of such laws to assault them in sex-segregated public facilities. An account of public opinion about these policies also shows that American adults are far more divided about transgender people using restrooms consistent with their current gender identity than other aspects of transgender rights such as employment nondiscrimination policies. Experimental interventions, such as in-depth conversations encouraging people to consider the day in the life of a transgender person, reduce transphobia and make people more resistant to arguments opposed to the inclusion of gender identity in public accommodations laws. Finally, some have questioned whether sex classifications are needed in public policy and how current non-discrimination laws achieve their stated goals without such a system. Further development and inquiry absolutely are needed in all these areas.