How 2018 Proved Trans People Will Never Be Erased

By Mara Keisling

Transgender people excelled in new and exciting ways across the country — even while the Trump administration tried to stop us.

Throughout 2018, transgender people have watched with frustration and anger as the Trump administration has attempted to roll back much of the progress we’ve made in recent years. NCTE and advocates across the country continue to push back aggressively against each attack, and we at NCTE are inspired every day by the bravery, strength, and resilience displayed by our communities.

The attempted rollback by the Administration is only one view of a year that includes profound successes for transgender people nationwide. Across politics, law, and culture, transgender people have proven ourselves able to thrive even as we face considerable adversity.

This was the year voters secured the rights of transgender people in not one but two historic elections. In April, voters in Anchorage, Alaska defended the rights of transgender people at the ballot box, with a dangerous proposition challenging the rights of transgender people to equality in public spaces failing in spectacular fashion. In Massachusetts, a trans-led movement of advocates and allies defeated a similar measure by a 2-to-1 margin, securing a landmark victory in the first statewide ballot initiative on our rights and our liberty.

2018 was also the year Christine Hallquist of Vermont became the first openly transgender person to win a major party’s gubernatorial nomination. Our sister organization the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund was proud to endorse Christine and eight other candidates for elected office. In total, the number of openly transgender state legislators quadrupled in 2018, with many others representing their communities at the local level.

These electoral successes were matched by major victories in policies at the state level, including new policies aimed at helping transgender people access to adequate health insurance coverage in New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado. NCTE helped secure non-discrimination policies for state employees in Montana and Virginia as well as in schools in New Jersey. We likewise worked with administrators and advocates in Minnesota, Nevada, and New York City to increase access to accurate identity documents such as driver’s licenses, state ID cards, and birth certificates.

2018 also brought increased access to gender neutral gender markers on ID — typically an ‘X’ as an alternative to ‘M’ for male or an ‘F’ for female. Maine, Colorado, Arkansas, and Minnesota joined Oregon and the District of Columbia in offering X markers in 2018, and in January California will become the largest state in the country to offer them on both driver’s licenses and birth certificates. Also this year, Medicare rolled out new cards for its 57 million beneficiaries that for the first time do not list gender, helping protect the privacy of transgender people across the country.

Transgender people also continued to see ourselves reflected in more and more of the culture, as boxer Patricio Emanuel became the first transgender professional fighter in U.S. boxing history, and Angela Ponce of Spain became the first transgender contestant in the Miss Universe pageant. In entertainment, the award-winning and historic show Pose set a new standard for inclusivity and representation of transgender people and the lives we live.

Recounting the major events of the year is not merely a ceremonial reflection of headlines and news coverage, but a personal reflection from an organization that takes seriously the privilege we have to serve and improve the lives of the very community we strive to represent. It has been fifteen years since NCTE was founded as the premiere advocacy group for transgender people in our nation’s capital, and 2018 may have been our most eventful yet.

Like many of you, we were frightened and angry when news broke of a plan within the Trump administration to erase the rights of transgender people from federal civil rights law. However, we also know transgender people are too strong and too brave to ever let such a thing happen, no matter how hard the Trump administration may try.

From your strength and your visibility came #WontBeErased, a movement of solidarity and engagement that proved no administration can ever erase transgender people or our rights.

NCTE held our own rally in front of the White House, and we were so inspired by the continued advocacy and efforts of people across the country to show they #WontBeErased as they held their own gatherings and rallies to protest the Trump Administration!

NCTE continued our efforts with direct actions here in Washington, as we projected messages of transgender equality on the Trump International Hotel and unfurled (created?) a 150-foot long transgender pride flag at the Lincoln Memorial:

The opposition to the Trump memo was swift and broad, and NCTE was proud to lead an open letter from over 2,200 parents of transgender youth standing up for their rights and the rights of their children. Likewise, the business community came out in full force, with over 100 major corporate leaders opposing the administration’s efforts to dismantle our rights.

One of those companies was Lush, who we were proud to collaborate with as they transformed all of their U.S. locations to advocate for transgender rights, donating a portion of the proceeds for their bath melts to national and local organizations working for transgender equality across the country.

The transgender youth who would be the most impacted by this rule were met with proud messages of support from figures across the worlds of government and entertainment, with Amy Poehler, Ilana Glazer, Abbi Jacobson, Amber Tamblyn, Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, and many others sharing their own #WontBeErased videos directed at trans youth:

To meet the challenge of the increasing transgender equality under this administration, NCTE itself has grown with new staff members across departments. Over the course of the year, we added six new staff members and, as we head into 2019, we have four additional positions open. You can read about (and apply for) those here.

In July, we worked with the Transgender Law Center to launch our Protect Trans Health campaign to raise awareness and opposition of a planned Trump regulation that would strip transgender people of key protections in health care.

By September, the NCTE Action Fund was ready to launch TRANSform the Vote, a campaign to engage transgender people and their allies in supporting transgender equality at the ballot box.

The threat posed by the Trump administration has not disappeared, and neither will we. 2018 was a long and difficult year for many, and we here at NCTE will always be devoted to making sure no one has to pay a price just to be who they are. As we head into 2019, we do so with renewed determination to defend you, your loved ones, and every transgender person in this country with everything we’ve got.

See you in the new year,