Richson: End transgender discrimination


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It may be unfair to the spirit and pride of Homecoming, but I have always associated being Homecoming queen and king with vapid personalities, a sort of skin-deep shallowness only embodied more so by beauty pageants and cheap tiaras. Whether we want to admit it or not, Homecoming queens and kings often embody that which is mainstream, that which is popular. And that is why UNI crowning someone who identifies as both male and female for its Homecoming queen is so awesome.

Transgender people continue to face discrimination in employment, health care, education, home ownership, and in the most basic public elements, right down to the lack of gender-neutral bathrooms. The most recent National Transgender Discrimination Survey reported that 53 percent of the surveyed transgender population professed to experiencing harassment in public places.

Seventy-one percent of those who were surveyed attempted to curb workplace discrimination by trying to conceal their gender or gender transition, despite the fact that 78 percent of respondents expressed an increased level of job performance once their transition was complete.

People should have to hide who they are just to make it through another day. It’s time that everyone gets over herself or himself and accommodates the incessant yearning to be different that transgender people feel. In the long run, we can do better than accommodation. We should take a hint from UNI and move toward celebration.

As we speak, I am typing this piece and Microsoft Word continues to flag “transgenders” in red squiggly underlining as something I have spelled incorrectly. This is just a micro-example of what we can do better as a society; we can accept, we can acknowledge, we can legitimize, and we can educate ourselves and others.

It seems that the ultimate goal of the transgender community should be for a transgender donning a Homecoming crown to not be newsworthy at all, because that is the desired extent of universal acceptance. We are a long way off from that, so for now, it’s a pretty big freaking deal.

While a person is obviously more than her or his gender, society makes gender a systematic part of daily life. Every basic form of personal identification that enables us to do the simplest of things, such as purchasing alcohol or pleading with an officer to not get a speeding ticket, pointedly identifies gender. This is probably not something society would ever be willing to stray from, but at the very least we can accommodate the transgender community.

The National Transgender Discrimination survey reported that a mere one-fifth of people surveyed were able to successfully update all necessary forms of identification and records to accurately state their new or preferred genders. Although I am personally inclined to hope and pray that we are more than our driver’s licenses, because my picture is unfortunate, it’s the principle of public acknowledgment and accommodation that is necessary for the advancement of the trans-community’s rights.

The UNI Homecoming queen is more than a crown, and more than an ID, but it’s a long road ahead for the public to recognize this.

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