As America continues to grow and morph as a social melting pot of differences, the issue of civil rights of each group rises to the forefront of our attention and becomes a matter to which law enforcement personnel must adjust. We adjusted during the ’60s and ’70s, evolving to recognize the rights of women and African Americans. We also evolved during the ’90s to recognize the rights of lesbians and gays. Law enforcement, often the social leadership of American society, has also become diversified with the addition of women and minorities, as well as gay and lesbian officers, within their ranks.
In recent years, the trans* community has come forward and demanded that its rights and protections be recognized more fully and effectively. Vice President Joe Biden has stated that protection of the rights of transgender individuals is the “civil rights issue of our time.” The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in April 2012 that trans* people are protected under Title VII Employment Discrimination Protections. The U.S. Department of Justice issued specific guidelines in May 2012, under the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), that specifically orders law enforcement to “incorporate unique vulnerabilities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and gender nonconforming inmates into training and screening protocols.”
Being trans* is based on one’s gender identity and is separate from sexual orientation. Being trans* means that one’s birth-assigned sex and gender identity are not the same. For example, someone with a male birth-assigned sex and a female gender identity may self-identify as a trans woman. However, some trans* people live between the binary identities of “male” and “female,” and some trans* people do not recognize the gender binary of “male” and “female” at all. According to a study by Gary J. Gates of the Williams Institute at UCLA, about 3.8 percent of the U.S. population identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). This amounts to approximately 9 million LGBT persons combined, of whom an estimated 700,000 identify as *trans.