Column: Transgender community deserves equality, respect

Obama’s message of equality should include transgender men and women, too.

Four weeks ago, I was in Virginia visiting my family for the holidays. We had tickets to see "Les Misérables" at a theatre in Washington, D.C., so we all packed in the car and made a day trip out of it. Once we got into the city, you could see the streets lined with bleachers, and my dad pointed out that they were already preparing for the inaugural parade.

Three weeks later, I watched on TV as those bleachers filled to the brim. More than 800,000 people filled the streets of our nation’s capital to watch President Barack Obama give his second inaugural address. Even more watched from home as Obama gave a historical speech rallying for unity and equality. When Obama mentioned the people of Stonewall among those who fought for equality, the LGBTQ community was once again backed by the president and, for the first time in history, was mentioned in an inaugural address. In what I feel is one of the most beautiful parts of his speech, Obama went on to say:

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.”

This mere sentence impacted a whole community and the struggle for equality they face every day. It was an incredible moment in his speech — a moment I felt was genuine and true.

A couple days later, I was on Twitter and came across an image of a letter handwritten on lined school paper by a little girl named Sadie in response to Obama’s inaugural address. In it, she talks about her struggle as an out transgender girl and how she dreams of a world in which that struggle doesn’t exist.

“The world would be a better place if everyone had the right to be themselves, including people who have a creative gender identity and expression,” she writes. “Transgender people are not allowed the freedom to do things like everyone else does, like go to the doctor, go to school, get a job and even make friends.”

I have to agree with and applaud her. Although Obama’s speech was an incredible moment for the LGBTQ community, sometimes the transgender part of that acronym is left out. This is due largely to lack of knowledge about the transgender community.

Being transgender is not about who you love but about who you identify as. They aren’t necessarily people who have already gone through gender reassignment, but people who feel they were born into the wrong gender’s body. Being transgender is about self-identification, and it’s a struggle transgender men and women deal with every day. Society’s misconception about who transgender people are leaves their community struggling to fit into a world that sometimes doesn’t understand them.

So here’s to Sadie, a beautiful little girl with heart and a dream who spoke out for a community that sometimes isn’t heard. Let us take her story and run with it. Let us shout to the world her message of love and acceptance and apply it to our own lives. If Sadie can be brave enough to stand up and fight for equality, then why can’t the rest of us follow her lead?

I know that I take my gender identity for granted almost every day and I’m sure some of you out there reading this do, too. So I’ll leave you with more incredible words from Sadie, an 11-year-old with a dream, and hope she can inspire you as much as she’s inspired me.

“It would be a better world if everyone knew that transgender people have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else. We like to make friends and want to go to school. Transgender people want to get good jobs and go to doctors like they are exactly the same. It really isn't that hard to like transgender people because we are like everyone else."

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