FOR RELEASE MAY 26, 2015

(Los Angeles and Oakland) – Transgender Law Center and Equality California Institute are launching a coalition to implement a statewide public education campaign to combat widespread public misunderstanding about transgender and gender nonconforming people and the issues they face. The coalition will include other LGBT and civil rights organizations as well as groups serving communities of color and the faith community. The effort is independent of work on any political or legislative campaign and exists solely to change attitudes towards transgender Californians through research and education.

“These past few years have seen a tremendous increase in visibility for the transgender community that hasn’t necessarily been matched by the rise in public understanding,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center. “Unfortunately, this gap in public understanding contributes to the lethal dangers faced by members of our community daily, from the epidemic levels of violence directed at transgender women of color to the recent string of bills attacking transgender youth and adults.”

The transgender community has come under increasing fire from right-wing activists across the country, facing a spate of bills and initiatives in various states targeting the right of transgender people to use public facilities corresponding to their gender identity. In California, right-wing activists last month filed a ballot initiative that would require a person to “use facilities in accordance with their biological sex in all government buildings.” The measure would target not just the transgender community, but potentially anyone whose appearance does not match someone else’s standards of masculinity or femininity. Anyone offended by the presence of a gender non-conforming person in a restroom could sue that individual or the government for damages.

“Increased attacks of this kind show an urgent need for public education that increases understanding of transgender people and the challenges they face,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California Institute. We know that many people in California simply don’t know what it means to be transgender. This lack of familiarity is at the root of the anxiety many feel about transgender-inclusive policies, and our opponents waste no time manipulating and capitalizing on that fear.”

The campaign aims to introduce the public to transgender people and the issues they face in a number of settings. The campaign will be led by an executive committee and steering committee representative of California’s diverse communities and prioritizing communities most impacted, including transgender and gender non-conforming communities, immigrants, youth, low income and communities of color. It will conduct research and outreach across California and work with community and faith leaders in a field campaign to conduct door-to-door, one-on-one conversations. The campaign will also identify and train spokespeople – including transgender youth and adults, their friends, families, employers and educators – to tell their stories on air, in print and through social media.

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Transgender Law Center works to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression. We envision a future where gender self-determination and authentic expression are seen as basic rights and matters of common human dignity.

Equality California is California’s largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization focused on creating a fair and just society. Our mission is to achieve and maintain full and lasting equality, acceptance and social justice for all people in our diverse LGBT communities, inside and outside of California. Our mission includes advancing the health and well-being of LGBT Californians through direct healthcare service advocacy and education. Through advocacy, education and mobilization programs, Equality California Institute strives to create a broad and diverse alliance of LGBT people, educators, government officials, communities of color and faith, labor, business, and social justice communities to achieve our goals. www.eqca.org