Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and other elected officials signed a pledge to protect the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming people as part of a new statewide coalition called Transform California.
Garcetti, speaking at a rally on the steps of City Hall on Monday, told those gathered, “Our tax dollars won’t fund intolerance here.”
“Nobody should hate themselves,” Garcetti said. “Nobody should consider taking their own lives. And today, we save lives we will never be able to count by just speaking up and standing together.”
Transform California, founded by Equality California and the Oakland-based Transgender Law Center, was created to share the everyday stories of transgender people and to call on Californians to end discrimination and violence against them, Transgender Law Center Executive Director Kris Hayashi told The Times.
Even at a time when transgender visibility seems to be at an all-time high, there are still high levels of violence against transgender people and high levels of poverty among the community, Hayashi said.
More than 30 community and LGBT organizations, as well as businesses have joined the coalition, which plans to hold events and rallies at community centers, churches and other locations throughout the state to discuss transgender issues.
Earlier this month, two California researchers whose findings were published in the journal Science found that a roughly 10-minute, face-to-face conversation is enough to change about 1 in 10 voters’ attitudes toward transgender people.
The Transform California pledge signed by Garcetti read, in part, “We pledge to oppose any efforts to single out transgender or gender non-conforming Californians for discrimination or disrespect.”
On Friday, the L.A. City Council voted 12-0 to stop conducting business with North Carolina and Mississippi in the wake of laws that critics say discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in those states. The North Carolina bill restricts which bathrooms and locker rooms transgender people can use.
Last month, Garcetti announced the formation of the city’s first Transgender Advisory Council, saying it would offer a new avenue of policymaking input from L.A.’s transgender men and women. City officials said L.A. is the largest city in the country to create such a council and the second city overall, after West Hollywood.
Several elected officials said they had signed the Transform California pledge, including West Hollywood Councilwoman Lindsey Horvath, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens).
Maria Roman, a member of the TransLatin@ Coalition, is among the transgender people sharing their stories through Transform Coalition. Sitting next to her fiancé, Jason Taylorson, Roman said in an interview that as a young person, she didn’t know any other transgender people. There was no Internet and very few support groups.
Roman didn’t think anyone would love her. She was homeless by 18 and struggled for years.
Today, she said, she’s found comfort and power from people who love her. Roman and Taylorson are “just like any couple in California, just trying to live our lives and pay our bills and go on holidays,” she said.
“It’s important that we share our stories so there’s a sense of normalizing our community,” Roman said. “As we all know, California is one of the most progressive states when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Here, you see two men walking down the street and people are not so taken aback anymore, and we hope that as transgender people, we too become the norm.”