DC launches transgender respect campaign

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Washington, D.C. mayor Vincent C. Gray and the D.C. Office of Human Rights (OHR) have launched an anti-discrimination ad campaign for members of the transgender and gender-non-conforming communities. The campaign debuted last Thursday and the advertisements feature five D.C. residents who identify with the groups.

The message behind the ads is that people of the transgender and gender-non-conforming communities should be treated with respect. The ads also bear the reminder that discriminatory behavior based on gender identity is illegal in D.C.

Each participant’s photo is also accompanied with a quote about his or her favorite activities in the D.C. area, making a point of showing they’re every much as part of the city as anyone else.

The featured tagline in most of the ads says, “I’m a transgendered man/woman and I’m a part of DC.”

“I have been continuously impressed by the courage and determination of the transgender and gender-non-conforming communities here in the District,” said OHR Director Gustavo Velasquez. “The Office of Human Rights is proud to partner with these communities in eradicating the injustices they too often face, and we know this partnership will extend far beyond the life of the campaign.”

This campaign comes a year after a number of violent acts put D.C.’s transgender community in the spotlight. The most prominent act resulted in the death of Lashay McLean.

Last July, McLean and a friend were confronted by two men late at night. The confrontation led to shots being fired and McLean was hit. She was pronounced dead at the hospital.Hundreds of supporters attended McLean’s memorial service a few days later.

While no evidence has suggested the crime was based on gender discrimination, additional violent acts involving other transgender D.C. residents caught the city’s attention.

“I chose to participate in this campaign and advocate on behalf of the transgender community in memory of Lashay McLean, my intern who was killed last year because she was a transgender woman,” said Iden Campbell McCollum, one of the transgendered men featured in the ads. “Our community still faces high levels of discrimination and violence, but things are improving, and the government’s willingness to launch a campaign for our community speaks to that improvement.”

The campaign is using the Twitter hashtag #TransRespect to promote awareness, and a quick search on the website shows most Twitter users so far have supportive of the movement. OHR is encouraging D.C. residents to take photos of the ads and post them to their Twitter profiles.

The ads will run throughout the fall and winter this year.

Follow Ugonna on Twitter at @ugonnaokpalaoka.