WASHINGTON — Minneapolis City Council President Andrea Jenkins spoke about the challenges facing transgender people and what transgender politicians like her can do about them on a Washington Post podcast Friday.
Jenkins, who with Montana state representative Zooey Zephyr were interviewed by Post reporter Akilah Johnson, said she was fortunate to come from a “welcoming state” like Minnesota.
Earlier this month, Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order protecting the rights of LGBTQ people from Minnesota and other states to receive gender affirming health care. And the Minnesota state House on Friday approved a bill that would prohibit out-of-state people from being arrested for giving or receiving gender-affirming care in Minnesota, even if they come from a state that has banned that care.
Still, Jenkins said, a major concern continues to be homelessness among transgender youth, based largely on the discrimination they face in the job market.
“They find themselves in the street late at night,” and vulnerable to violence, she said. “We have to break down those barriers to housing and employment.”
The podcast was aired on the same day of a release of a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll of more than 500 transgender respondents. The poll also surveyed more than 800 cisgender Americans on trans-related restrictions. It found that despite hardships, a vast majority – 77% of transgender adult respondents – said they were happier than before they transitioned.
The poll said 64% of transgender adults surveyed said they had been verbally attacked because of their gender identity, gender expression or sexual identity, and 25% said they have been physically attacked.
The poll also determined that a 62% majority of trans adults identify as “trans, gender non-conforming” or “trans, nonbinary,” while 33% identify as a “trans man” or “trans woman.” Nearly half ask people to refer to them with they/them pronouns, although most say they use she/her or he/him pronouns.
Although a majority of transgender respondents, 77%, said they had changed their clothing and hairstyles, only 31% said they have used hormone treatments, hormone replacement therapy or puberty-blocking hormones and 16% have undergone gender-affirming surgery or another surgical treatment to change their physical appearance.
The Washington Post said it conducted the poll because of “intense polarization” around transgender rights, with more than 200 bills introduced in state legislatures this year that seek to limit access to gender-affirming care, what children can learn about transgender identity in schools or whether trans girls can play sports. Yet only about 1% of the U.S. population identifies as transgender or non-binary.
Montana, which has already prohibited residents from changing their sex on birth certificates after transitioning, is among the states whose legislatures are considering anti-trans legislation.
Zephr is trying to counter that with a bill of her own that would bar the “transgender panic defense” those who commit violence against transgender people are allowed to use “because they were shocked to discover” who their victims were. But Zephr said disallowing that “crime of passion” defense by those who attack transgender people faces an uphill battle in a “red” state like Montana.
Still, Zephr said when she went door-knocking in her district, “I was met with kindness at every single door.”
Jenkins said it’s important for trans people to be in politics so “they are in the space where laws are being considered.”
Jenkins also offered some advice on how to treat transgender people with dignity.
“Don’t ask people what’s their real name, that’s insulting,” she said “And don’t ask them about their medical transition.”
She also said that “to be a positive ally,” to transgender people one has to be willing to “shut down transgender jokes” if the situation arises.