D.C. government unveils transgender awareness campaign

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One of five ads in a new D.C. campaign.

The District of Columbia government has launched what it calls the nation’s first government-sponsored campaign to promote awareness and understanding of transgender people.

Mayor Vincent Gray and the D.C. Office of Human Rights unveiled five ads on Sept. 13 to be displayed around the U.S. capital. The ads feature transgender residents of the district who deliver messages of respect, with quotes about their lives and favorite district activities.

“While working together on this groundbreaking campaign, 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 this campaign.”

The campaign messages were created over a four-month period with involvement from transgender advocates, three focus groups and numerous organizations, including Alston Marketing, Casa Ruby, DC Trans Coalition, Transgender Health Empowerment, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force’s Transgender Civil Rights Project, Movement Advancement Project, National Center for Transgender Equality and Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

“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, a mental health advocate and transgender man who is featured in one of 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 mayor said he wants to ensure that transgender people have equal access to employment, housing and public accommodations and that they feel safe.

Gray launched the campaign at MOVA Lounge, an LGBT bar in the trendy U Street area of northwest Washington.

“This district is committed to ensuring that all people are protected from discrimination, and that includes discrimination against the transgender and gender-non-conforming communities,” Gray said in a statement. “This landmark campaign from the Office of Human Rights is an important piece of a larger effort by my administration to ensure all residents have equal access to employment, housing and public services and accommodations regardless of gender identity or expression.”