United front needed to fight systemic barriers facing transgender people

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Alexandra Dermody is a Davenport-based Gen Z community advocate, nonprofit director, and small business owner.

The experience of transgender Americans is fraught with difficulty, particularly for trans women of color, who are disproportionately targeted for violence and prejudice. Startling data from the Trans Murder Monitoring project exposes a disturbingly high number of murders of transgender individuals worldwide, with a notable portion occurring in the United States.

This violence is not haphazard but rather a direct result of pervasive discrimination present in all aspects of society—from employment opportunities to inadequate health care access. These are not isolated occurrences, but rather symptomatic of a larger societal issue that systematically deprives transgender individuals of their basic rights and humanity.


The effects of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation reach far beyond the individuals directly impacted and have significant implications on the overall economic landscape. These discriminatory laws discourage investment and tourism, as both businesses and consumers prefer to be in more inclusive environments.

Additionally, such laws contribute to a loss of talent, as many skilled and talented LGBTQ+ individuals may choose to relocate to more welcoming regions, depriving less accepting areas of their valuable contributions. Moreover, defending these laws against court challenges consumes government resources, reducing what can be spent on essential services.

In contrast, regions with inclusive policies experience a boost in economic growth as they attract a diverse and talented workforce and foster an environment of innovation. Research has consistently shown a strong correlation between inclusivity and economic development, shedding light on the valuable aspects of diversity that go beyond moral and ethical considerations. So inclusivity doesn’t just benefit LGBTQ+ people, but brings economic benefits to the whole community.


The problem of violence against transgender individuals goes far beyond just numbers and statistics—it permeates through their daily lives, causing fear, trauma, and, in many cases, devastating outcomes. From abusive relationships to street harassment and targeted hate crimes, this violence is a glaring representation of our society’s inability to protect its most marginalized members.

These attacks not only cause immediate harm but also perpetuate a sense of fear that takes a toll on the mental and overall well-being of the transgender community. The pervasive violence stems from prejudice and a lack of understanding, which spans all groups. That underscores the need for a comprehensive strategy to tackle the root causes of transphobia, in order to ensure safety and fairness for everyone.


Because of societal attitudes and systemic obstacles, transgender individuals are more susceptible to psychological struggles which threaten their well-being. The process of embracing one’s true gender identity, which unfortunately is often met with social prejudice and bias, increases the likelihood of mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, and thoughts of self-harm.

Moreover, the lack of culturally sensitive mental health resources and the trauma from facing discrimination and aggression only exacerbate the situation. In order to be meaningful, intervention strategies must go beyond simply providing health care that is inclusive and supportive of transgender individuals. We must also work towards a broader societal transformation, fostering a culture of acceptance and support that allows transgender individuals to thrive emotionally and mentally.

A multifaceted approach would address both the systemic and individual barriers that contribute to the mental health struggles that are common in the transgender community.

Legal battles and policy changes affecting transgender individuals are part of a rapidly changing landscape, with intermittent progress as well as setbacks. Litigation can play a vital role in combating discrimination with respect to health care, employment, and access to public spaces.

While there have been notable victories, such as the U.S. Supreme Court’s Bostock decision protecting transgender rights in the workplace, legislation at the state level remains a mixed bag, with some states (including Iowa) enacting or considering restrictive measures.

Overall, these developments reflect the ongoing push and pull towards equality for the transgender community. Advocacy groups and legal organizations are essential players in these battles, continuously striving to guarantee that our laws embody a dedication to equality and the acknowledgment of all individuals, regardless of gender identity. Through their tireless efforts, this ongoing legal activism is pivotal in breaking down systemic barriers and promoting a truly inclusive society.


Pacific Northwest: Known for its progressive stance, this region typically offers stronger protections and supportive communities for transgender people. States like Washington and Oregon have enacted policies that facilitate access to gender-affirming health care and protect against discrimination.

West Coast: California stands out as a beacon of LGBTQ+ rights, with comprehensive anti-discrimination laws covering employment, housing, and public services. This environment fosters a relatively safer space for transgender individuals to express their identity.

American Southwest: States vary widely, with some, like New Mexico, providing protections for transgender rights, while others have restrictive policies that can limit access to care and support.

Rocky Mountain States: This region presents a mixed landscape, with some areas lacking comprehensive protections. Efforts to advance transgender rights are ongoing, and there is significant variation from state to state.

Midwest: The Midwest has a diverse approach to transgender issues, with some states offering robust protections and others enacting laws that restrict transgender rights, particularly in conservative areas.

The South: Often characterized by more conservative policies, the South has seen numerous legislative efforts to restrict the rights of transgender individuals, impacting access to health care, sports participation, and use of facilities.

New England: Generally, New England states have progressive policies supporting transgender rights, including protections against discrimination and access to gender-affirming health care, making this region among the most supportive in the U.S.

The variance across regions underscores the importance of localized advocacy and support to address the unique challenges faced by transgender individuals, depending on their geographical location.


Looking ahead, we must come together to tackle the obstacles that transgender Americans face. This will require a united front, with efforts ranging from grassroots activism to legislative reform. By advocating at all levels of government—from city councils and mayors to county supervisors, attorneys, school boards, and state legislators—we can push for the enactment and enforcement of policies that safeguard transgender rights.

By actively supporting organizations like One Iowa, Iowa Safe Schools, Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition, and the Iowa Trans Mutual Aid Fund, among others, we can make a direct and positive impact on the well-being of the transgender community. These organizations provide crucial services, education, and advocacy for the community.

But it’s not just about formal advocacy—each of us has the power to contribute by engaging with and supporting the broader LGBTQ+ community. That could involve purchasing a Pride pin, writing letters to editor, participating in Pride events, or supporting queer-owned businesses. Being an ally means more than just showing support in public; it also involves making a personal commitment to understanding, respecting, and advocating for the rights and dignity of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals


I am a 23-year-old transgender woman and business owner with an MBA. Having spent eight years transitioning, my goals and dreams are no different than anyone else’s. I strive for a rewarding career, a loving family to nurture and support, a safe and comfortable home, and a life filled with joy and love. Like many Americans, I am on a quest for the fundamental values of life, liberty, and happiness.

It is vital to break down harmful stereotypes that unfairly categorize LGBTQ+ individuals as dangerous or predatory. My cultural background, influenced by the Greek and Irish Romani immigrants who came before me, has instilled in me the importance of resilience and the power of diversity. Growing up with my grandparents and adhering to traditional beliefs, I now identify as a libertarian socialist, realizing that acceptance and empathy surpass differences.

My journey reaffirms a fundamental principle: our shared humanity. It urges us to join together, recognizing our collective resilience in confronting societal issues and rejecting the harmful divisions that hinder our growth.

About the Author(s)

Alexandra Dermody

  • Chose one

    The author is against discrimination but asks us to support “queer-owned businesses”.

  • are we going to resist these reactionary people seeking to do us harm or are we going

    to accept them? Our shared “humanity” is a myth we really need to get over there is no deus ex machina that we can use to override the hard slow work of political organizing and fighting the good fights.
    Those of us on the left (including liberals here) aren’t more inclusive then folks on the Right we just want to include different people (ways of living )then they do and likewise exclude on different criteria then they do.
    Also empathy is a very mixed bad as folks like prof. Paul Bloom have pointed out.
    ever onward!

  • breaking my own rule

    about not feeding the trolls in order to respond to Karl M. It’s not “discrimination” to voluntarily support businesses owned by people in marginalized communities.

    The state of Iowa’s ruling party has been trampling on LGBTQ people and especially transgender people for years. That’s the actual discrimination. Not encouraging readers to support small business owners who are staying in Iowa despite an increasingly hostile environment.

  • There was a time

    There was a time when people could disagree without calling each other trolls or Russian agents. I enjoy reading this progressive blog because Laura Belin puts a lot of work into it. I make no apologies for having sometimes different values and perspectives on the latest gender theories or other political issues.

  • I was tempted too Laura but for once managed to resist

    the troll didn’t manage to give an example discrimination (if as a private citizen I choose Pepsi or ask you to choose it I’m not discriminating against Coke, unlike say a Republican elected official using the police powers of the state to promote meat sales over competition) but to get more into what I think is the heart of the matter let’s consider Justice Alito via Mark Joseph Stern:

  • sorry that link didn't embed right

    here’s a related article:
    “Namely, that Americans who do not hide their adherence to traditional religious beliefs about homosexual conduct will be ‘labeled as bigots and treated as such’ by the government,”