September 13, 2012 at 10:36 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
D.C. launches transgender rights campaign
Gay News, Washington Blade, D.C. Transgender

Consuella Lopez is one of the five transgender residents who appears in the campaign (Photo courtesy of the D.C. Office of Human Rights)

Mayor Vincent Gray and other D.C. officials on Thursday officially unveiled the country’s first publicly-funded campaign to combat anti-transgender discrimination.

“We know an ad campaign is not a cure all or a panacea, but it is a step in the right direction,” said Gray at Mova on 14th Street, N.W., before he, Office of Human Rights Director Gustavo Velasquez and others unveiled five separate ads that feature five trans or gender variant people who live in the city. Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1;) Jeffrey Richardson, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, Earlene Budd of Transgender Health Empowerment and Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, were among the activists and other officials who attended the unveiling. “It is saying that we are going to step out; we are going to be on the forefront; we are going to send a message that people who are transgender have as much a place in the District of Columbia as anybody else.”

The ads, which will remain on display throughout the city during the fall, highlight D.C.’s anti-discrimination law that includes trans-specific protections. They also encourage trans Washingtonians to contact the Office of Human Rights if they experience discrimination based on their gender identity and expression.

The Metropolitan Police Department reported five bias-related crimes based on gender identity and expression during the first six months of this year, compared to two reported anti-trans incidents during the same period in 2011. The stabbing death of Deoni Jones at a Northeast Metro bus stop in February and a Human Rights Report released in July that criticizes D.C. police for confiscating condoms from trans prostitutes and other sex workers underscore what activists maintain is persistent anti-trans violence and discrimination in the nation’s capital.

“As we unveil this campaign and we celebrate, we must acknowledge that the origins of this campaign come in response to a difficult year in which many transgender and gender non-conforming people faced both discrimination and violence in both high-profile incidents and not so high-profile incidents,” said Elliot Imse of the Office of Human Rights. “This is a campaign built with the memories of the individuals both harmed and lost, victims of violence rooted in intolerance and misplaced hatred.”

Consuella Lopez, a hair stylist from Friendship Heights, is among those who appear in the campaign. She told the Blade that a man broke her jaw at a local nightclub in the late 1990s in what she described as an anti-trans hate crime. Lopez stressed that she feels the ads will further educate Washingtonians about the city’s trans residents.

“The message is that it brings awareness and the awareness is that we are part of your community so treat us like you would any other human being or any other woman,” she said.

Wesley, a Capitol Hill resident whom the campaign also features, agreed.

“D.C.’s always had really great laws,” he said. “They’re acknowledging some of the problems that are still going on and I think this is a great way to do it.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael //

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