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As acceptance and openness develops in society, some corporations understand the principle of respect and dignity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, even if their customers are not always as tolerant. Transgender issues are in the news more recently, as individuals who had lived in silence find the courage to speak out.

Recent studies show that teens who identify as transgender in school face especially harsh judgment as they mature. In the military, newly confirmed Defense Secretary Aaron Carter wins praise from the LGBT community and allies for declaring that he is “very open-minded” about the possibility of transgender individuals serving in the military.

Mishandled Confusion

A member complained to the front desk about a transgender individual in the women’s restroom at a Planet Fitness location in Michigan. The employee on duty at the front desk informed the woman that the company policy is to allow members to choose the restroom that aligns with their gender identity.

The woman then broke the rules when she took matters into her own hands, returning to the restroom to loudly announce her concerns about the transgender individual in the room. When the company cancelled the woman’s membership over the way she handled the situation, the media and the public got involved in the drama.

Planet Fitness maintains that the woman handled the situation in an “inappropriate” manner, which caused them to discontinue her membership due to her violation of terms of the membership agreement.

Common Misconceptions

Many people believe that all or most transgender individuals have surgery. Not so, says Time Magazine in “The Transgender Tipping Point.” In reality, only about one-third seek surgery. As more people learn about the culture and truths of transgender individuals, understanding and tolerance can accompany the learning process.

A Welcoming Environment

Data from the Pew Research Center indicates that 92 percent of LGBT adults surveyed reported that the nation is more tolerant and open to them than it was 10 years previously. Changes in the law demonstrate the difference: at least 18 states plus D.C. have laws forbidding employment discrimination based on gender identity status.

Recalling Discrimination and Violence

A 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that participants who reported expressing a transgender identity in grades K–12 reported various levels of harassment:

  • Thirty-five percent were physically assaulted
  • Twelve percent reported being targets of sexual assault
  • One out of six had to leave a school due to extreme harassment

Experts recommend three key steps that allies and supportive individuals can take to support the transgender community include learning about the culture, being aware of the challenges that trans students face, and creating safe spaces in the community for them.

Change to U.S. Army Policy Makes Discharge for Gender Identity More Difficult

An estimated 6,000 transgender individuals who serve in silence in the U.S. Army now have one added level of protection against discriminatory discharge based on their gender identity. A new policy recently announced elevates the level of authority required to discharge a soldier based on gender identity.

Previously granted to local commanders, now only the assistant secretary of the Army has the power to approve separation orders for personnel based on gender identity. While every branch of the U.S. military explicitly prohibits transgender troops, an estimated 15,500 transgender troops serve in silence.

Opening Hearts

As the nation wrestles with questions of policy and regulations surrounding the public aspects of very personal questions involving gender identity, more people come to face the issues involved in a direct way. Some people feel threatened by change, or by those who seem different from them. Many in society, though, as they come to see that all people simply desire acceptance and tolerance, are seeing that they can meet the challenges of accepting differences with empathy and love. Teaching people in the community about the similarities that bring people together, and opening to communication about things that are different among people, can be a start toward growing tolerance and peace.

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