Transgender movement gathers awareness and supporters

Washington D.C. residents and students expressed varying viewpoints about the transgender movement, which has gathered momentum in the last couple of years in the wake of several high-profile celebrity advocates and television shows.

This week in Tenleytown, a half dozen interviewees leaned toward a more accepting and liberal standpoint of transgender icons, people and the movement in general.

Michelle Nowak, 19, is involved in the Human Rights Campaign, which fights for LGBTQ equality in the workplace. She identifies as “liberal” from a social standpoint but conservative from an economic perspective.

Nowak supports the transgender movement wholeheartedly. She was especially concerned with allowing not just transgender people–but any person–to enjoy the life they live and to be comfortable.

“If that’s how they find happiness, then I’m not going to get in the way of that,” Nowak said.

Alison Jones, 20, an American University student, includes transgender friends in her group and openly supports LGBTQ rights and the community.

Jones said the experience of her transgender friends is predominantly negative and says they sometimes face discrimination from others even in places often identified as liberal.

“It’s a process of talking to them about their experience,” Jones said. She added, “It’s definitely eye-opening.”

Photo by Lenny Ignelzi, Associated Press.

Photo by Lenny Ignelzi, Associated Press.

Transgender icons impact their community as well as the general LGBTQ community. Laverne Cox, a transgender woman famous for her role in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, advocates for stronger acceptance.

The award-winning Amazon series Transparent won big at the Golden Globes this year. It features a transgender woman as its protagonist.

Caitlyn Jenner, too, brought the issue to the public’s attention with her cover story in Vanity Fair, and an interview with Diane Sawyer earlier this year.

Bryan Bauer, 19, said he didn’t have a strong opinion regarding the transgender community and didn’t think he was personally affected by it.

On the topic of Jenner, Bauer said that Jenner “was a good athlete at some point, but made his own decision, and it’s his decision, not mine.”

The issue of transgender people in the media has received attention from major advocacy groups like GLAAD, which has a media reference guide on transgender issues. Even though Bauer referred to Jenner with the male pronoun, GLAAD’s guidelines favor that the media use the transgender person’s preferred pronoun.

Emma Jackson, 31, mentioned that while she could not speak on behalf of the transgender community, she did approve of the fact that transgender icons such as Cox raised awareness, however she added that there were both upsides and downfalls.

“By opening themselves up to conversation, they allow that conversation to take place,” said Jackson, regarding transgender icons representing their community through the media.

Lee Martin, a college junior at Christopher Newport University and a liberal, believes that Cox is “awesome” and a strong figure of the LGBTQ and transgender community.

“She’s doing a great job at portraying the transgender community and that they aren’t something weird or unnatural,” said Martin, who is a teaching assistant this summer for a high school program at American University.

This week at Washington D.C.’s National Mall, interviewees were primarily indifferent toward topics relating to the transgender community but said advocacy is making its way through social media.

Emily Brown, 19, mentioned that social media in particular informed her view of the transgender community, and she stayed informed through the news, Facebook and Tumblr.

“Through the media coverage I’ve learned more of like, how to address transgender people,” said Brown, on the topic of transgender celebrities in the media.