Equality Illinois’ Response to Column Denigrating Transgender Peoples’ Experience

On August 16, 2018, the Chicago Sun-Times published a column by Mona Charen, a nationally syndicated columnist, that denigrated the experiences of and belittled the challenges facing transgender people in society. Mike Ziri, Director of Public Policy at Equality Illinois, submitted the following letter to the editor in response to the column:

Mona Charen’s column published by the Chicago Sun-Times on August 16 belittles and demeans the lived experiences of transgender people. By calling transgender people “the flavor of the month” and spouting with no scientific data that “most” transgender children are “going through a stage,” Charen only underscores the need to lean in and listen to transgender people, not denigrate them.

Transgender people face significant challenges as they bravely live their lives consistent with their gender identity. And, as evidenced by Charen’s column, they live in a society that does not respect or appreciate transgender lives.

At Equality Illinois, we often hear stories from transgender Illinoisans all over the state about how they are not treated fairly and equally in the workplace, doctor’s offices, and schools. The data bears this mistreatment and discrimination out. According to the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey, 28% of transgender Illinoisans who held or applied for a job during the year before the survey reported being fired, denied a promotion, or not hired for a job they applied for because of their gender identity or expression. In other words, they experienced workplace discrimination simply because of who they are.

Twenty-one percent of transgender Illinoisans report experiencing some form of housing discrimination, such as being evicted from their home or denied a home or apartment because of who they are. And 24% of respondents in Illinois did not see a doctor when they needed to because of fear of being mistreated as a transgender person.

Transgender people also experience significant rates of violence. In 2017, 28 transgender people were killed in the United States. So far, in 2018, at least 16 have been killed.

These are the lived experiences of transgender people. But we believe we can build a better Illinois. It’s why we at Equality Illinois and the many amazing LGBTQ organizations in Illinois fight to ensure that our laws affirm transgender lives. It’s why we also work to educate people, including policymakers, business leaders, and faith communities, across Illinois about the experiences of transgender people.

Transgender Illinoisans deserve better from the Chicago Sun-Times than Charen’s column. Trans rights are human rights.

Mike Ziri
Chicago, Illinois
Director of Public Policy
Equality Illinois

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