Transgender Rights ’20 Years Behind’ Gay Rights Due To Smaller Population

In David Crary's recent Associated Press article exploring the hurdles facing the transgender rights movement, Michael Silverman — executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund — said, "My sense is that we are 20 years behind the mainstream gay and lesbian movement in terms of public understanding."

Part of the challenge is demographic. According to demographer Gary Gates of the UCLA School of Law's Williams Institute, an estimated 3.4 percent of adults in the United States identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, while only one-tenth that many are transgender…

Trans_rights"The fact we've had so many victories on behalf of gays and lesbians means transgender people are now on the radar – and with it comes the nastiness," said [Dru Levasseur, director of Lambda Legal's Transgender Rights Project]. "There have been so many advances regarding marriage that the anti-equality groups are shifting to target the next set of upcoming victories on transgender issues."

Beyond the battles for a trans-inclusive Employee Non-Discrimination Act and public accommodation protections, the transgender rights movement is also focused on getting health care coverage for trans-medical needs as well as lowering the higher rates of incarceration, poverty and violence against transgender people.

The article says that despite several recent political victories — including the Senate's passing of a trans-inclusive ENDA and California's passage of a public accommodations law for transgender students (the repeal effort against which seems doomed to fail) — conservative groups such as the so-called National Organization for Marriage have shifted their focus from losing battles against committed same-sex couples to demonizing trans kids.

"Fewer Americans know transgender people [as well as they do gay people] at this point," Silverman said, "and that presents an opening that opponents of transgender rights can exploit."

Also, despite the recent visibility of trans people in the media like celebrity Chaz Bono, infamous Wikileaker Chelsea (previously Bradley) Manning and Orange is the New Black's Laverne Cox, a recent study by Gays and Lesbians Allied Against Defamation reported that 12 of 20 appearances of trans characters on TV portrayed them as either clownish or sociopathic, hindering public acceptance and understanding of trans people and their struggles.

However, Dru Levasseur of Lambda Legal questioned the notion that – in the court of public opinion – transgender rights was a tougher sell than gay rights. The key to winning more acceptance, he said, was a willingness by transgender people to share the stories of their lives.

"Being who you are – being brave enough to be yourself. People can relate to that," he said.

Despite the 2012 launch of the "I AM: Trans People Speak" video campaign designed to lets transgender Americans tell their stories, I AM currently has 69 videos uploaded while the anti-bullying campaign "It Gets Better" has easily over 1,000. Granted, you don't need to be LGBT to make an "It Gets Better" video, but the fact that many celebrities and companies helped bolster the IGB campaign may reveal two important allies the trans movement needs in order to sway public opinion and ultimately advance their cause.


  1. Deep says

    I’m a homosexual male and it’s been enlightening to learn about the historicity of not just people like me, but transgendered people. History is a great eye opener.

  2. ASamb says

    Actually, male homosexuality exists in a majority of men, and not just 3%.

    Also, transgenders tend to be anti-gay. Stop equating trans rights to gay rights.s

  3. litper says

    agree, many trans people just want to please the heteronormative world and change sex so they won’t be “gay freaks”

  4. says

    The good news is that since more and more people with functioning brains and hearts are learning about our transgendered brothers and sisters, progress is being made, albeit slowly.

    ANyone who possesses even a modicum of integrity stands strong with love and solidarity with “our Ts”

  5. says

    There are still plenty of demeaning portrayals of Lesbians and Gay men in the media. However, Transsexual characters definitely have it worse than the rest. Nine out of ten times, Transwomen will be made the butt of a really nasty joke.

  6. Matthew says

    Did anyone notice the reference to the “Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund”? You see, when LGBs form a group, fund it, and run it for decades, it has to be handed over to trans activists. Because “LGBT” tells us that this must be so. Nothing gay can exist; everything gay must be LGBT.

    But when trans activists form a group, well, different rules apply. “LGBT” only matters when it is time for LGBs to give up their money, their property, their organizations and their political priorities. It never asks anything of trans activists. They not only have their T-only groups, but they get gay men like Jon Stryker to fund them.

    LGBT – one of the greatest scams in political history.

  7. Leah says

    The sad thing is that Ts are not 20 years behind LGBs. That implies that they are on the same trajectory and that, as more people come out as trans, things will improve.

    That only works when the people coming out to their families and friends make a positive impression. If they come out and are seen as miserable, bitter, and self-destructive, then coming out will generate negative feelings. I can tell you that I went from being pro-trans to anti as a result of actually dealing with them, seeing their contempt for gay people and especially lesbians, and their relentless attacks on women.

    When trans activists personally lobbied the Maryland legislature for their anti-discrimination bill, support dropped. It seems that the best thing transfolk can do to help themselves is to ensure that as few people as possible learn what they are really like.

  8. says

    that the only anti-trans comments are being made by a cowardly troll who, decidedly, clearly lacks a pair of orbs is rather telling.

    the only gay men who don’t support our trans brothers and sisters are the cowards who don’t love themselves. truth.

  9. litper says

    we are the self-respecting gay MEN, of course effeminate people like Kiwi support trans movement because they are self-hating and reject masculinity to conform to hetero society

  10. says

    It’s not trans people who want to please the heterosexual world and distance themselves from “gay freaks,” but closeted “straight acting” gays like Rick and his ilk.

    I’ve tangled with some trans activists (hello Kate B!), but that doesn’t stop me from supporting their cause.

  11. litper says

    There is no such thing as “straight acting”. Straight people do not act any differently. Unless you’re a big effeminate queen in a pink tutu.

  12. Leah says

    Little Kiwi – As a woman, I do lack a pair of orbs. And I am not sorry about that. So that is no insult. It is no surprise that the big time sexists and women-haters come to the defense of trans activists. Birds of a feather . . .

  13. Tyler says

    Trans activists are violent. They recently threatened to disrupt a memorial service honoring women who were killed in a massacre in Canada. They threatened gay filmmaker Diego Luna. They stalked and assaulted Dan Savage. I hope they never realize the success that LGBs have. They don’t deserve it. Let them deal with their issues in therapy.

  14. rhys says

    I don’t understand why there is so much hate from a number of the gay community towards transgendered people. If anything, in my opinion, they have it worse from both sides. I actually had to inform someone I know on why a transwoman is not gay if she is sexually attracted to a man. Too much misinformation, and ignorance on the topic (hell, even I would like to be more informed), and am glad that this is being talked about No one should have to feel belittled because of who they are.

  15. says

    @Rhys – it’s just this site’s one miserable eunuch who’s spouting trans-hatred in other user names. Why? Because he’s got nothing to live for in life – it’s like the man who has a bad day at work so he comes home, kicks his dog and slap his wife.

    Only this troll no dog and neither spouse nor lover – so he comes to towleroad every day to show everyone how angry he is at being an impotent hack.

  16. Leah says

    It is interesting to read Little Kiwi’s posts. They are a model of sexism and misogyny. Look at how he refers to people he disagrees with. They “lack a pair of orbs” and they are “eunuchs” who are “impotent.”

    Clearly, he equates the value of a human being with a penis and testicles. And he also makes a crack about domestic violence against women.

    Disgusting misogyny and gendered violence. That is the mark of most trans activists and their allies. Little Kiwi is no exception.

  17. says

    Too bad “leah” is really just our resident (and male) miserable troll. Your lack of balls doesn’t make you a woman, it makes you a boy. A coward of a boy, whose balls never dropped because he was too busy hating minorities to grow an actual pair 😀

    Oh, “Leah” – it’s kinda cute how you pose a woman sometimes to spew your cowardly nonsense. This Christmas, may you practice your destined-to-never-be-utilized fellatio skills around the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun.

  18. Paul R says

    Cripes. Please stop responding to trolls. Please. Some of you have been doing it for years and gotten exactly nowhere. I would be embarrassed if people close to me saw the endless childish comments on this site.

  19. says

    UFFDA – you couldn’t ignore me if you tried. You talk about me all the time on here, and even post nonsense under my name, among others (dude, for real, we all know your aliases).

    But I shall once again return to doing what your family does – ignore you as if you were dead. tah tah, and happy christmas!

  20. Mary says

    Leah, whatever can be said about our Little Kiwi he is no misogynist. If there were any racism, sexism, or prejudice in him it would only be some residual amount due to his being part of a society where those traits still exist. If he discovered such traits in himself he’d work quickly to eliminate them. If you read anything with his name on it that seemed “unliberal” in any way it was certainly written by a troll trying to make him look bad.

    By the way, don’t take personally his “die by giving a blow job to a gun” remark. He writes like this when he’s provoked, but he’s also capable of some fascinating insights. Check out his blog and Youtube videos – they’re interesting.

  21. Leah says

    Mary, how am I not supposed to take personally when someone tells me that I am not a woman and wishes that I would commit suicide? Who talks like that? And given the ongoing suicide crisis in the LGB community, how could any gay man talk like that to a lesbian or gay man? It is horrific behavior. And the fact that he sexualizes the suicidal imagery makes it even more horrific.

    I didn’t say anything about racism. I did note his misogyny. And it is very obvious. For whatever reason, he thinks that his persona as a “bad boy” or a radical gives him the right to denigrate women, to privilege the penis, and to encourage suicide. Don’t defend this.

  22. anon says

    I’m not sure if trans rights are actually behind by 20 years, and if they are behind, it’s because of their population. What rights are they talking about? It’s not like gay rights are universal, and who knows how long it will take to become universal. It’s true that the trans population is tiny, but the major issues are ” pre operative” rights, I’m assuming, like work-place job protection and access to bathrooms. I’m not aware of many issues “post operative” since most laws follow gender “form” and not “birth gender” norms.

  23. Governor Globe says

    Listen, do unto others as you have them do unto you.

    I’m a PROUD homosexual male who likes sports and beer BUT I WILL never deny my TRANSGENDERED brothers and sisters their right and liberty to belch and be in my life.

    Transgendered people are the magical ones, actually, through them – and through OUR love for them – the FUTURE.

    Get it?

  24. Matthew says

    No, GovernorGlobe, I don’t get it. Since transgender and homosexual are 2 different things, why would trans people be your “brothers and sisters” any more than non-trans human beings on this planet? There are many non-gay people in this world who are are equally, if not more, deserving of our love and support.

    Ultimately, this comes down to a political decree by some activists about 15 years ago that gays must deem themselves attached to this group. I don’t follow orders blindly and neither should you.

  25. simon says

    Regarding marriage equality, transgender who is “straight” after transition should have no problem. It seems the Roman Catholic Church has no clear guideline on this issue because it is so rare that it never caught their attention. Theoretically they can’t marry because they can’t reproduce according to the Church doctrine.

  26. JustSayin' says

    Public understanding is 20 years behind…

    And it isn’t really any wonder, trans people have all their lives feeling the way they are, people around them don’t KNOW what’s up unless they TELL us. It can be a real shock, and people don’t always initially react in a way that they are proud of.

    It takes education; and that’s going to take support, time, and money.

  27. Enchantra says

    The public likes to know what to expect; then they can become comfortable with it. This has been the case with gay people. Almost from the start, the transexuals have insisted that they have the right to make it up as they go along, to change it to suit them, and to have the public simply accept whatever the trannies want them to accept. It just doesn’t work that way.

    The public is not stupid. They see the inconsistencies. The public can understand the concept of transgender, even if there is precious little science to back it up. What the public con’t understand is why someone who staunchly defends his right to not be a stereotypical male turns himself into a cartoonish female impersonator.

    Just be transgendered, and everything will work out fine. Don’t mutilate your body or twist your mind.

  28. andrew says

    It is amazing how a few screwballs who regularly post on Towleroad, under many different names, can cause discussions about so many good topics to degenerated into madness, bigotry and hatred. The blame lies with Towleroad. They see all our Email addresses and know who is posting under different names. They could easily prevent it. They choose not to. Why? WHY TOWLEROAD?

  29. MateoM says

    I have to agree with Andrew. Enough is enough. There’s one or 2 trans lunatics on here that post under about 12 different names. They are all basically Little Kiwi. He is a nasty, cruel and obscene troll. Andy needs to ban him ASAP.

  30. MaryM says

    Why isn’t the feminist movement more involved with the trans movement.

    The issües facing trans women are feminist issues right?

    Why is the gay movement the only place the trans movement comes to for support.

    What are NOW doing?

  31. andrew says

    @MATEOM: You are NOT agreeing with me. Little Kiwi is by no means the only person who posts under aliases. Rick or his current alias ASAMB is a frequent offender. His posts are filled with hateful comments about women and “effeminate” gay men. If you follow Towleroad close enough to know that Little Kiwi is an offender but don’t mention Rick’s offences, it leads me to wonder who MATEOM really is. I am not suggesting that Towleroad ban anyone. They can set it up so that one User Name is linked to one Email address and only comments by that User Name coming from that Email address will be posted.

  32. andrew says

    @MARYM: Doesn’t it make you proud, as a gay person, that Trans People have found a safe haven in our community? I have volunteered in an LGBT Community Center for about 11 years. Among the many groups who use our building are two Trans groups. I think it is great that Gay People or as many younger members say: “Queers” open our doors to another sexual minority. The Trans people are fully integrated into our LGBT Community. One is on the Board of Directors, another is a Staff person and several do a lot of volunteer work at the Center. It truly is an LGBT inclusive center.

  33. MaryM says

    “Doesn’t it make you proud, as a gay person, that Trans People have found a safe haven in our community?”

    It makes me neither proud nor ashamed.

    But my question was why the feminist movement ignores trans issues.

    MTF sex workers seem to face incredible abuse and discrimination.

    What is the feminist movement doing for them?

    Or are we not allowed to ask that?

  34. Tyler says

    Andrew, MateoM is actually an alias of Rick, the troll they most frequently posts under different names. I think MateoM actually used to be someone else, but Rick stole the name for trolling purposes. So ignore his criticism of trolls, because he is one.

  35. Knock says

    Everyone who disagrees with Little Kiwi is branded a troll and/or self-hating. That’s as disruptive to conversation as actual trolling.

  36. Zoe Brain says

    I think anyone can see the extent of the problems Trans people face by just looking at the comments here.

    Or at any of the other stories on this site about Trans people.

  37. Toni Browning-Early says

    Exactly Zoe…

    I also find it rather interesting that the LGB community (and society at large) seems to completely ignore the existence of trans men as well.

  38. says

    I’m mom to 20yo mtf. Transgender is being scientifically researched, and found to be located in an area of the brain where gender ID neuronal activity is located. It is larger in males, smaller in females. When a transgender person states their gender it matches the size in the brain. Also, another study shows activity in this area where other people do not have this activity. Trans* is about gender ID in the brain, not what is between your legs and sex attraction. One could state they are male, and still be attracted to men. So to say they aren’t part of LGBT is rather disingenuous. I’m sorry if anyone has had nasty experiences, but wager they were older with issues. I do know my son was bitched up one side down the other for wanting “male privilege” by previous lesbian friends. Not all. Wow, yeah, I would go thru hormones, surgery, and stealth and fear to have that so-called “male privilege”. Please. He is slightly genderqueer in attractions. The 16yo minor female picked on by Pacific Justice Institute to further their signature collecting to oppose trans rights in California, her NAME was outed to the nation by a TERF feminist. NICE JOB. She was then on suicide watch. For some reason TERF’s HATE mtf transgender. Again, probably “think” female privilege? I can’t wrap my mind around hate anyway, much less when others with the same struggles are hating someone else with the same struggles. LGBT was early on together as facing societal bigotry. Now is not the time to separate and hate just because of perceived “victories”. Truth to tell, there is a long path still for all. Transgender have gender ID in the brain born with the wrong body, science is proving this. Pretty basic to me. Then, they also have different sexual attractions- so why cannot they be inclusive in LGBT? Some are gay, some are bi, some are straight,some are fluid. They certainly do not do this to manipulate. For to do this for a shallow reason, is certainly ridiculous: hormones, have to FIND a dr to do this, surgery,change all your papers name & marker, know one will NEVER be actually what one perceives in their brain the gender they are, sounds pretty effing painful to me. Just to manipulate? Grow up and get real. Thanks for the supportive comments. Best wishes to all. I hope for great progress once the younger generation gets going and the old gets out.