A 2016 Pew Research Center survey revealed while nine in 10 adults in the U.S. know someone who is gay, lesbian, or bisexual, only about 30 percent could say they know someone who is transgender.
The results proved to be even less for adults 65 years and older, showing just 16 percent who said they know someone who is transgender.
In a panel series they’re calling “Ask a Trans Person,” Equality Virginia is on a mission to improve those statistics one Hampton Roads city at a time and, in a sense, “will bring the [LGBTQ] community to you,” said Thalia Hernandez (she/her), a program coordinator at Equality Virginia.
“We’re hoping the audience members will get a deeper look into the transgender community and get to understand them better,” she said. “Understand how they’re just as much part of our community as everyone else, and how possibly they can get involved to support that community.”
Discussion events started November in Chesterfield and on Dec. 17 the panel of trans people is openly sharing their stories and taking questions from the audience in Hampton.
Hernandez is moderating the conversation she said will touch on everything from how being transgender relates to family life, the experiences of transgender children, to how a person chose their name after transitioning, and the importance of referring to people by their preferred pronouns.
“One great and easy step to respecting all people, and especially transgender people, is to regularize the practice of asking people when you meet them for their pronouns,” she said. “Not just singling trans people out either, or asking ‘what are your pronouns’ without asking anybody else who is not visibly transgender, at least to you.”
Through others sharing their experiences living day-to-day as a trans person, Hernandez said the organization draws attention to the bigger picture or all the reasons why state legislation is needed here, and in 29 other states, to protect LGBT people from discrimination.
“We’re trying to highlight the fact that transgender people need nondiscriminatory protection in housing, employment, and in public spaces so they can live equally fulfilling lives and not have to worry about being fired, evicted, or denied service at a store just for being who they are,” she said.
With a deeper understanding, Hernandez said the audience is more likely to be supportive of the LGBT community in their fight for nondiscriminatory protection in the laws but also will be able to leave the event and say “I know a trans person.”
Registration for the Dec. 17 panel in Hampton closes Monday but Hernandez said last-minute attendees are welcome — they also plan to do at least one more on the Southside in January.
For more information about Equality Virginia and stay up to date on future events, click here.