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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

Places in Washington DC

Alarming Spike in Transgender Killings—21 This Year—Time to Speak Up

Nov 30, 2015

By Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Today, for the first time, many Americans are learning about transgender people and issues.  Violence historically has been the first reaction to the emergence of groups that demand equality for the first time.  However, judging by the rapid acceptance of same-sex marriage and of gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans in the armed forces—each in fewer than 20 years—Americans are putting behind their prejudice based on the unknown.  As an African American woman, I am heartened by the increasing willingness of the American people to discard old myths and prejudices.  I cannot help but believe that the nation’s long experience with racial prejudice has left a deeper appreciation of the unacceptability of all forms of discrimination than most had realized.  It took 100 years after the Civil War to get the first enforceable Civil Rights Act, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which I had the privilege of enforcing when I was chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  While the country still struggles with our oldest form of discrimination, we are learning to apply what we have learned to other forms of discrimination we have only begun to understand.  Transgender identity was not even acknowledged even a few years ago. 

We have fought violence before with some success.  Transgender acceptance and equality cries out for the same increasing acceptance that we have seen with people color and gay and lesbian Americans.  Prejudice in whatever form retreats when the group itself and their allies step forward.