Devastating effects of transgender discrimination

May 09, 2011

The brutal beating of Chrissy Lee Polis at the Rosedale McDonald's rightly calls attention to the systemic stigmatization of transgender individuals living in Maryland ("Transgender Advocates See McDonald's Beating as a Turning Point" April 30). Yet the devastating health effects of this discrimination go well beyond physical attacks.

The estimated prevalence of HIV infection among male to female transgender Americans is between 14.7 percent and 27.7 percent, vastly higher than the general U.S. population. Routine bigotry drives many transgender persons toward drug use, homelessness and sex work. Doctors and nurses who lack gender sensitivity training unwittingly create emotional barriers that hinder access to much needed health care.

The transgender anti-discrimination bill, which was recently sent back to committee by the Maryland Senate, had the potential to not only offer housing and employment protection but to save lives. As a state that values equality, we can and should do better.

Pamela Lilleston, Baltimore

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