It’s fair to say that the 2012 elections were a big victory for the LGBT community, in terms of both issues and candidates, but that is much more true for the LGB than it is the T. Certainly the transgender community can benefit from same-sex marriage laws; some states will recognize their gender identity and others won’t, confusing who they can legally marry based on their identity documentation. Ideally, lawmakers who claim to be allies will also support transgender issues, but there is no guarantee. Vice President Joe Biden told a constituent recently that transgender justice is the “civil rights issue of our time,” but progress can only be made with visibility.
One important victory took place this week in New Hampshire: the state elected its first openly transgender lawmaker. Stacie Laughton (D) easily beat two Republican candidates for an open seat in Ward 4. She told the Nashua Telegraph that she believes the LGBT community “will hopefully be inspired,” but in her campaign she also advocated for the homeless, people with disabilities, and strengthening public schools. A seat in the huge New Hampshire House of Representatives is not the highest profile position, but Laughton’s election is a notable milestone for trans visibility.
The primary struggle facing trans people remains discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has languished in Congress for decades, and with Republicans maintaining control of the House, its status is not likely to change. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is the perfect example of a Republican who opposed ENDA specifically because it included transgender protections.