On Thursday, Amanda Simpson—the first openly transgender person to ever receive a presidential appointment—was the keynote speaker at the Transgender Day of Remembrance event at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington. She gave a compelling speech, talking about her own experience and tying it to national trends. "Transgender youth have an astonishingly high attempted suicide rate. In a recent survey, 41% of those who responded had attempted suicide at some point in their lives—and that’s those who have survived their attempt. That’s a rate 25 times the national average." She spoke about her own struggle, both growing up and after she was appointed to higher positions in politics.
"I wanted to change society," she said, and did that by having discussions at first with her family and close friends. She then moved on to her co-workers and acquaintances, explaining that it was harder, but "I was indeed changing hearts and minds in my corner of the world ... Words have very lasting effects."
Finally, she emphasized the importance of fighting transphobia in all its forms -- for example, by urging those in the gay, bisexual, and lesbian communities to educate themselves about transgender issues. "There is a commonality.... The taunting, abuse, and violence against gays isn't always because of their sexual orientation. More often, it's because of what people see and perceive: their gender expression."
Metro Weekly provided the following video footage of Simpson's speech:
Simpson is now reaching national audiences in her effort to make change. Simpson is the Senior Technical Advisor to the Commerce Department, appointed by President Obama in January. She also has 30 years of experience in the aerospace and defense industry, previously serving as the Deputy Director in Advanced Technology Development for Raytheon -- where she also successfully influenced the company to adopt gender identity in their Equal Employment Opportunity Policy.
More than one hundred people watched Simpson speak at this event, sponsored by Transgender Health Empowerment.
GLAAD applauds Simpson for speaking out, and agrees with her points about the role of the media in ending anti-transgender violence. GLAAD continues to urge everyone to support Transgender Day of Remembrance activities in their community.