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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Milwaukee must support neglected trans community

Milwaukee+County+was+declared+a+sanctuary+for+trans+and+non-binary+individuals+on+Sept.+21.
Photo by Joseph Schamber
Milwaukee County was declared a sanctuary for trans and non-binary individuals on Sept. 21.

Milwaukee County is becoming a sanctuary for transgender and nonbinary individuals, following a resolution approved by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. This action is indicative of the increasing support Milwaukee has shown for the transgender community which Wisconsin has woefully neglected.

Wisconsin was known as a pioneer state for LGBTQ+ rights. In 1982, it was the first state to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. It was also the first state to elect an out lesbian woman to congress, Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Despite this progress, the state has historically failed to create an inclusive environment for the transgender community.

Wisconsin does not have statewide nondiscrimination laws or hate-crime laws that include protections for genderidentity. As a result, transgender individuals continue to face discrimination in employment, housing, education and other public accommodations.

FORGE in Wisconsin, a national transgender anti-violence organization, conducted a survey in 2020, of 523 transgender and nonbinary individuals, which found 38% of respondents experienced workplace discrimination with 44% saying it was due to their gender identity.

To combat this, Gov. Tony Evers in 2019 issued an executive order banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity in government employment. Additionally, Milwaukee, Dane and other counties across the state have nondiscrimination laws for all public accommodations.

The resolution recently approved by the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors making Milwaukee a sanctuary city seeks to address the lack of legal protections for transgender healthcare.

The resolution places any potential prohibitions passed by the state on gender-affirming care, such as hormone therapy, puberty blockers or gender-confirmation surgery, at the lowest priority for the Milwaukee Police Department to enforce. Regardless, this would not decriminalize gender-affirming care if the state were to pass such a prohibition, so this resolution is mostly a symbolic show of solidarity.

The symbolic nature of a resolution like this, does have its utility though. Ultimately, it is up to the state government to firmly entrench protections for transgender and nonbinary people into law, but Milwaukee County’s actions have put pressure on them to do so.

Milwaukee and Dane County have the two largest voter bases in the state. Together, they accounted for almost a quarter of all votes cast in Wisconsin during the 2020 Presidential election. By showing their support for the transgender community in Wisconsin, they may mobilize voters to elect politicians who are committed to making Wisconsin a transgender-inclusive environment.

Unfortunately, most voters do not see transgender rights as a state issue, and other important issues like abortion access, gun control and the environment take precedence. This is an important issue on the state level though, as evident by the current attacks against trans rights sweeping the nation.

22 states have passed some law or policy banning forms of gender-affirming care for individuals up to 18 years old. According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, 35.1% of transgender youth live in states that have passed bans on gender affirming care.

GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin are also circulating a bill that would ban gender-affirming care for minors. Such a bill would be unlikely to get past the governor’s desk, but it would no doubt inspire further efforts to undermine the rights of transgender and nonbinary individuals here.

We cannot let that happen, especially when next year is an election year. The Milwaukee County Board’s decision is ultimately meaningless if voters are unwilling to back it up. It is up to us to substantiate Milwaukee County’s actions so transgender rights can, one day, become firmly entrenched into the laws of this state.

We, as voters, must show our support of Wisconsin’s long neglected transgender population.

This story was written by Joseph Schamber. He can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Joseph Schamber, Opinions Columnist
Joey Schamber is a first-year from Downers Grove, Illinois studying journalism and is an opinions columnist at the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 school year. Outside of the Wire he enjoys cooking, drawing and skateboarding. He is excited to be writing stories and to be active in his community!

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