US: Biden-Harris signal new era for trans rights

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris – Image:

With vice president-elect, Kamala Harris, including her pronouns in her Twitter bio, and president-elect, Joe Biden, thanking trans supporters in his victory speech, trans Americans have already won exceptional backing from the incoming US administration.

Harris describes herself not only as a wife and auntie, but also ‘she/her’ on Twitter, signalling that one of the world’s most powerful politicians is an LGBT+ ally, who recognises the need to respect trans people by addressing them correctly.

“It normalises the practice of stating pronouns,” Zeke Smith, a trans US writer and former reality TV star, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“It takes the burden or the stigma off of trans people.”

Trans people expressed relief at the Democrats’ triumph on Saturday over President Donald Trump, who last year froze the recruitment of trans soldiers, and praised Biden as the first president-elect to mention trans people in his victory speech.

In his acceptance speech in Delaware on Saturday, Biden said he was proud of his campaign and “of the coalition we put together… gay, straight, transgender, Latino, Asian” – indicating his support for marginalised groups.

Biden’s reference to trans Americans echoed another presidential first by Barack Obama, who, in his 2013 inaugural address, made history by mentioning LGBT+ rights, at the start of a term during which same-sex marriage became law.

Biden has pledged to overturn the ban on trans people enlisting in the military, and to enact LGBT+ rights legislation, known as the Equality Act, in his first 100 days of office, as well as tackle the coronavirus pandemic, and unify the nation.

The former Democrat vice president also promised to allow trans people to access prisons and school toilets, based on their gender identity, and to reinstate protection from discrimination in healthcare under the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

“Once you hear a president talk about certain things it is a signal to the government as a whole that those things are important,” said Imara Jones, who runs TransLash Media, a trans-focused media organisation.

She called on the incoming justice department to issue guidance for law enforcement on preventing the murders of trans people, 34 of whom have been killed in 2020, up from 27 in 2019, according to Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT+ advocacy group.

-Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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