The rethinking of what gender means has been accompanied by changes in the perception of transgenders in the medical community. Gender Dysphoria or Gender Identity disorder is now an accepted psychiatric condition, a classification which offers medical help to people who want to change their gender.
“When I was growing up as child in sixties they didn’t know what do to with me,” said Donna Simone, a transgender woman and musician from Baltimore who attended the rally. “It was very difficult even though I knew I was women as far back I as can remember.”
This was the case for Polis, says her mother, Renee Polis who said she supported her daughter throughout the process of changing her sex. “When she was young I used to buy her trucks and she wanted Barbies ... “She always knew.”
Still, the violent encounter at McDonald’s has shed light on the gap in public acceptance that can have violent consequences, advocates warned.
“Education is slow,” said Beyer. “It took us three years to add gender identity to the sex ed curriculum in Montgomery County, of all places, and we had to spend years in court defending it.”
Along with the gap in educational outreach is a lack of real data on how often these types of attacks occur.
“My understanding is that data regarding anti-transgender hate crimes are not currently being collected in Maryland,” said Galupo. “Nationally, the information regarding violence directed to individuals in our transgender communities is incomplete, is often based on self-report surveys, and does suggest that anti-LGBT hate crimes are actually increasing.”
Still, for transgender women like Jennings, the biggest hurdle is getting people to understand that the process of realizing their sexual identity is an expression of their own sense of self, not an affectation.
“The representation of transgenderism in the media often misses the most important element, that we’re human,” she said. “It’s about who I am. Now I can let myself be myself.”