By Shawna Mizelle
Strides in LGBTQIA rights and recognition have been made in the U.S. over the past several years. Indeed same sex marriage was legalized in June of 2015 by the United States Supreme Court. Despite the progress made some members of the LGBTQIA community still feel discriminated against.
Cali Ferguson, a pre-transition transgender woman is one such individual.
Ferguson who lives in Suitland, Maryland still faces everyday issues as she gets stereotyped by employers and sometimes, family too.
In Washington, D.C. an estimated 7.6% of the population identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexual, or asexual. This is a higher percentage than the majority of other states in the U.S. who averaged a LGBTQIA population of 3.5%.
One area in which Ferguson said she faced discrimination is in employment. According to Huffington Post 21% of LBGTQIA employees reported workplace discrimination in the U.S.
Ferguson said employers would tell her they needed a woman in the shop, but then told her they’re still figuring things out when she tried to seize the opportunity.
Instead of focusing on the hardships she is looking forward to the end goal to get her through. Ferguson also enjoys being a woman.
“Being able to handle the weight of the world, be deeply in tune with my emotions, all while still being able to possess an allurement & certain beauty that each woman has,” she said.
Another woman Tiara Howard, from Congress Heights has had to deal with being made feel less of a woman because she is male presenting. Male presenting involves behavioral characteristics, and physical appearances of the male sex.
“I know I am a woman. I always taught myself that adversity is an opportunity to learn and grow,” she said.
Howard revealed that having other persons that she can relate to has been reassuring.
“Before coming out I felt like I couldn’t be myself or talk to anyone about what I feel now. It’s assuring knowing that there are many others in the community that you can talk to who will understand your experience,” she continued.
While there is a more accepting attitude towards members of the LGBTQIA community in the U.S., not everyone is as welcoming. A Gallup poll showed 52% of Americans were supportive of homosexual lifestyles, while surveys from 1988 show only 11% approval. United States Vice President Mike Pence has openly spoke out against the community and event went as far to say keeping gays from getting married was a part of “God’s idea.”
While attitudes are shifting, reality has not caught up with this. Organizations such as HIPS offer support. “The community outreach and public education we do is so important. That is the first step toward breaking stereotypes and ending discrimination,” a HIPS representative said.
For those struggling with identity or simply looking for a support group in the Washington, D.C. area are encouraged to use these resources.