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Transgender Hoosiers To Play Bigger Role In This Year's Civil Rights Debate

Freedom Indiana

The legislative debate over LGBT rights next year is likely to focus more than ever before on the "T" in that phrase.

Until now, the statehouse LGBT debate has centered on gay marriage, pushing transgender Hoosiers to the periphery. With the 2016 focus on a broader anti-discrimination bill, civil rights group Freedom Indiana has kicked off its push for the law with a roster of speakers drawn entirely from the transgender community.

Campaign manager Chris Paulsen says it wasn't planned that way, but says transgender individuals probably face more discrimination, in part because they're more likely than gays and lesbians to be identifiable on sight.

She says the group will also make sure legislators hear the stories of transgender veterans.

“About 7-percent of military members are transgender,” Paulsen says. “It’s huge. It’s larger than the general population.”

Supporters' opening rally featured the mother of a transgender student, and an account of a transgender woman hired at a nursing home, only to be fired a month later.

Indiana National Guardsman Cameron St. Andrew compares his constant fear of being revealed as trans to posttraumatic stress disorder. He says commanders did accept him when he finally came out, but says legislators need to give all transgender Hoosiers the same reassurance.

“They assured me that they would not seek to discharge me for being transgender. For once in my life, I didn’t have to worry that I was going to lose everything I’d worked so hard for,” St. Andrew says. “Our lawmakers have the power to do the very same thing for us.”

Senate Republicans’ civil rights bill includes protections for gender identity, but Paulsen says she's "troubled" by a clause requiring medical certification or a full year of living trans to qualify.

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