The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) announced a significant expansion of its work dedicated to justice for the transgender community. The organization will advance new initiatives that address the urgent needs of the transgender community, with specific attention to community members deeply impacted by racism, sexism and transphobia. This major effort will include a focus on economic empowerment; capacity-building programs; targeted task forces in communities hardest hit hard by the epidemic of anti-trans violence; and expanded public education campaigns.
“We are in the midst of a national crisis. People are dying, and the response must be swift, strong and rooted in solutions the transgender community is rightfully demanding,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “In meetings with activists all over the country, time and again I have heard about systemic failures that are pushing many transgender people out of a job, on to the streets and into desperate and dangerous situations for survival. Through this new initiative, we aim to help change these realities. Change will not come overnight and it will not come from any single organization or person. But the Human Rights Campaign will be a part of the work to help build the capacity of leaders already on the frontlines of this fight.”
Over the last 10 years, HRC has dramatically deepened its transgender justice work. From passing critical gender identity non-discriminaton protections and combating anti-transgender bills to sounding the alarm on the epidemic of violence targeting transgender people — especially Black and Latinx women, the organization’s advocacy and programs have been increasing in scope and impact. Still, significant work remains to ensure that every transgender person is protected from discrimination and safe from violence.
The challenges facing the transgender community demand action and change at all levels. This national crisis is made shockingly clear by the fact that at least 18 transgender people have been victims of fatal violence this year, 17 of whom have been Black transgender women. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, 21% of Latinx transgender people and 20% of Black transgender people are unemployed, compared to 15% of transgender people overall and 5% of the overall U.S. population. 43% of Latinx transgender people and 38% of Black transgender people were living in poverty, compared to 29% of transgender people overall and 14% of the U.S. population. And 40% of transgender people overall have attempted suicide in their lifetime, compared to 4.6% overall — nearly nine times the attempted suicide rate in the U.S.
The Human Rights Campaign’s expanded work will seek to address many of the persistent and insidious barriers to employment, housing and safety faced by transgender people, especially transgender women of color. The expansion includes four main pillars:
- Economic empowerment is a central part of true lived equality. HRC’s annual Corporate Equality Index has helped reshape the workforce for transgender people — but far too many still can’t access pathways to employment.
- HRC will leverage our strengths and partnerships to deliver new economic opportunities.
- HRC will engage in a partnership with Trans Can Work to join with community-based organizations and corporate America to address the employment gap through trainings and career fairs in up to five major U.S. cities over the next year. A Los Angeles-based nonprofit founded in 2016 by restaurateur Michaela Mendelsohn, Trans Can Work is committed to empowering gender diverse communities through career navigation, workforce development, and job placement.
- The march toward justice for transgender people must be led by transgender people, which is why HRC is expanding our training and professional development programs for transgender advocates, activists and community leaders of color.
- This year, HRC launched ELEVATE, which focuses on professional and leadership development for trans people of color in public health fields. Ten fellows will participate in the first class of this program, which provides intensive in-person training and a series of interactive webinars throughout the year.
- HRC is also announcing the creation of ACTIVATE, a fellowship program that launches in 2020 and will focus on enhancing the core skills needed to access and succeed in leadership roles in the nonprofit sector. The first fellows will be chosen from jurisdictions that have experienced high documented anti-trans violence.
- This is an urgent crisis of public safety and government officials must respond as such.
- HRC will be working on the ground with community leaders to pilot task forces to address violence in five to seven communities hit particularly hard by this epidemic.
- Legislation must be a part of this solution too. The fact that the Violence Against Women Act hasn’t been reauthorized is inexcusable. LGBTQ panic defenses should be outlawed in every state in this country. HRC will, of course, continue to push for comprehensive state and federal legal protections like the Equality Act to ensure transgender people have legal recourse when facing discrimination where they work, where they live and when seeking crucial social services. And several of other bills making their way legislatures, including bills decriminalizing sex work in New York and Washington, D.C., will be required to shift the reality for transgender people in the United States.
- The public needs to be educated in a much more robust way than it is today, rooted in the real stories of trans people of color.
- HRC will be ramping up efforts to create more conversation about this epidemic of violence through national media and our own platforms.
- HRC will also leverage our programs to more expansively engage parents and faith communities of color in this public education effort.