‘‘There are still people who believe that being a transgender person is a choice, or exotic or bad,’’ Keisling said. ‘‘And you know, those people are becoming fewer and fewer all the time.’’
Turning the tide of public opinion has also been aided by famous transgender people like Keelin Godsey, a shotputter who this summer fell just short of becoming the first transgender athlete to make the U.S. Olympic team. And there’s Stu Rasmussen, of Silverton, Ore., who became the country’s first openly transgender mayor in 2008 when he defeated the incumbent following a campaign that focused on policy — not the fact that Rasmussen was wearing dresses and 3-inch heels.
Soon after Rasmussen’s victory, President Barack Obama appointed three transgender people to posts in the Commerce Department, Labor Department and Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS . Obama later signed a landmark bill to expand the definition of hate crime violence, making it the first federal law to include legal protections for transgender people.
This year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that sex discrimination laws cover transgender people, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development ruled that transgender and gay people are protected from discrimination in federally funded housing, which includes Section 8 housing and homeless shelters.
‘‘More and more people in the public are recognizing that transgender people are people,’’ Keisling said. ‘‘And that being a transsexual or having gender identity is an actual, real, core component of a person’s identity.’’
Barr reported from New York. Contributing to this report were Associated Press researcher Monika Mathur and reporters Alex Katz in New York and Denise Lavoie in Boston.