WASHINGTON, D.C. - A groundbreaking ad depicting the challenges faced by transgender people in accessing public restrooms—and highlighting the lack of state and federal nondiscrimination protections for transgender people—will have its national television debut on FOX News Channel next Thursday, July 21, during the final night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. The ad will air nationwide again on MSNBC during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia one week later.
The 60-second ad, which will be seen all across the country, features a transgender woman from North Carolina, where HB2 passed earlier this year. HB2 makes it illegal for transgender people to use restrooms in public buildings that match the gender they live every day, making them susceptible to even higher levels of harassment and violence.
The ad can be viewed now at FairnessUSA.org.
The growing national conversation about transgender people comes at a watershed moment. More than 200 bills targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people were introduced in dozens of states during the 2016 legislative session (16 just in Missouri). Many of these bills were intended specifically to harm transgender people.
"Missouri law still offers no protections for transgender people in employment, housing, and public accommodations, meaning that hardworking transgender Missourians can still be fired from their jobs, kicked out of their homes, and denied access to basic public accommodations and bathrooms simply because of who we are. At a time when violence, harassment, and discrimination continues against transgender people, this message is more important than ever," says Steph Perkins, PROMO Executive Director. "It may be difficult to understand who transgender people are if you don't have someone close to you who is transgender, but we hope this ad helps educate Missourians and people across the country that this need for transgender equality is simply about treating people with respect and dignity."
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, has offered varying opinions on the issue of transgender rights, but stated that HB2 has caused “a lot of problems” and that transgender people should “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate,” adding that this policy has worked well for years. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz ran glaringly anti-transgender campaign ads, only to see his presidential campaign plummet shortly afterwards.
However, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio—both of whom have children who are transgender or gay—are among a growing number of elected Republicans who strongly support protecting LGBT people from discrimination. On Friday, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts signed into law a bill that ensures explicit protections for transgender people in public places, including restrooms. That bill passed the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support earlier this summer, and Baker had previously indicated that he would sign it.
“Transgender people desperately need laws that protect us from being unfairly fired from our jobs, kicked out of our homes, and denied access to public bathrooms, just because of who we are,” said Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Our newly released survey data shows that 59 percent of transgender people avoided bathrooms in the last year out of fear of harassment. A shocking one in ten (12%) transgender people reported being harassed, attacked, or sexually assaulted in a bathroom, and one third avoided drinking or eating so that they did not need to use the restroom. Eight percent have had medical problems like urinary or kidney infections from avoiding the restroom.”
The ad was funded by Fairness USA, a partnership led by the Freedom for All Americans Education Fund, the Movement Advancement Project, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the Equality Ohio Education Fund, with support from the Equality Federation Institute, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.