Our view: We have much to learn about transgender community

Chances are you know a transgender person. Chances also are that person hasn't come out to you.

Ninety percent of Americans say they personally know someone who is lesbian, gay, or bisexual, according to a 2013 Pew Research poll. However, just 8 percent of Americans say they personally know someone who is transgender.

If nothing else, the series of stories in Saturday's Post-Bulletin should raise awareness of what it's like to be a misunderstood minority. Solid numbers are hard to come by, but the World Professional Association for Transgender Health estimates the transgender population is less than 0.5 percent, certainly the smallest subset of the LGBT community.

Why aren't more transgender people open about their identities? The simple explanation is they fear discrimination, violence and most commonly, rejection by their family and society. If you don't know a transgender person, it's because they don't trust you.

But you can change that. The increasing public profile of transgender people is an opportunity to learn about a minority most of us know little beyond mocking stereotypes that dismiss it as an odd hobby at best or a perversion at worst. If readers learned anything from the stories in Saturday's P-B, it's that being transgender is not a choice; it is their identity.


In June, model and actress Laverne Cox became the first transgender woman to appear on the cover of Time magazine with the headline "The Transgender Tipping Point: America's Next Civil Rights Frontier."

Bradley Manning, the Army soldier convicted of espionage in 2013 for passing classified documents to WikiLeaks, announced the day after being sentenced she is female and asked to be referred to as Chelsea Manning.

In Minnesota, Paula Overby, who is thought to be the state's first transgender candidate for Congress, is running as the Independence Party candidate in the 2nd Congressional District against incumbent Republican John Kline and Democrat Mike Obermueller.

Minnesota is one of 22 states with laws that bar workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Yet, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality found employment discrimination is nearly universal, with 97 percent of transgenders saying they have been mistreated or harassed at work.

The National Institutes of Health reports nearly 50 percent of transgender people suffer from depression, and at least 40 percent have attempted suicide. Nineteen percent say they have been refused medical treatment because of their gender identify.

The health issues for transgender people are complex, which is why we're pleased to learn Mayo Clinic is planning a pilot program that could lead to potential formation of Mayo's Transgender and Intersex Specialty Care Clinic. The program will help patients connect with primary-care health providers who are open to seeing transgender people.

We suggest our readers engage in a pilot program of their own and continue to educate themselves about their transgender neighbors, starting with the stories in Saturday's P-B.

Yes, it's uncomfortable trying to relate to someone who you can't begin to understand. But imagine what it's like to live with the stress and fear of rejection every day.


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