The Victory in Anchorage Belongs to the Transgender Community

Over the last few years, voters in Houston, Texas, and Anchorage, Alaska, each had anti-trans ballot issues put in front of them. In 2015, we lost. Just last week in Alaska, we won.

This naturally raises the question: What did the civil rights community and the trans community do differently in Anchorage than Houston? The answer is simple but difficult to execute: Transgender people must lead the effort and be introduced as our friends and neighbors to hundreds of thousands of voters.

In Houston, voters were asked whether to keep the city’s new civil rights ordinance, which barred discrimination based not just on gender identity or sexual orientation, but also based on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, and other grounds. Our campaign focused on the importance of civil rights laws for everyone, knowing that the public was with us on that issue.

Our opponents, however, pushed a singular campaign slogan of “no men in women’s bathrooms,” zeroing in on transgender protections and distorting what the law would do. Our side, not ready to focus the campaign on transgender people, tried to change the subject, and it didn’t work. They defeated us 61 percent to 39 percent, a spread of 22 points and a devastating loss.

Now fast forward to last week, when Anchorage citizens voted on an anti-transgender ballot measure. Our opponents pushed the same core narrative about the threat of transgender people in restrooms. But last Friday, city officials announced that the Fair Anchorage campaign defeated that measure by 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent, a spread of 5.4 points.

What changed?

First, the Anchorage campaign put local transgender people front and center in the campaign, its leadership, its ads — some of the most trans-inclusive ads ever used in a political campaign — and its messaging. We didn’t shy away from the other side’s focus on “bathroom predator” myths, we confronted them directly.

Trans people are our neighbors and our friends. When the public sees that, we win.

Here’s the core of what we’ve learned since Houston: To stop the horrific attacks on transgender people being launched all across the country, the key is to empower trans leaders and trans voices to tell their stories so that the general public can get to know transgender people. Trans people are our neighbors and our friends. When the public sees that, we win.

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Second, voters know more about transgender people than they did even just a few years ago. This public conversation has been pushed forward by fights in state legislatures and the courts.

When the South Dakota Legislature passed such a bill in 2016, transgender individuals met with the Republican governor, who vetoed the bill in part because of what he learned from engaging with actual trans people. When Tennessee was considering a similar bill, a courageous young man testified before the legislature about his experience as a transgender person. His testimony turned key votes and the anti-trans bill failed. When North Carolina enacted its infamous anti-trans restroom restriction law, known as HB2, trans people were leading voices in the public discussion of the measure.

Transgender students were the centerpiece of the court case that temporarily shut down HB2, and an inspiring young man named Gavin Grimm put a face on this issue for the whole country. When his high school excluded him from the common boys’ restroom, just because he is transgender, Gavin fought them all the way to the Supreme Court. Time magazine recognized him as one of the 100 most influential people of 2017.

Third, the Anchorage campaign figured out how to do this education on a massive scale.

In addition to its online and TV ads and a lot of earned media, the campaign reached out to voters directly. They mailed 147,000 direct mail pieces to Anchorage voters, had over 13,000 individual conversations with voters, made over 66,000 phone calls, and knocked on over 2,000 doors.

The Fair Anchorage campaign mobilized allies from local and national businesses and associations to over 40 faith leaders from across the religious spectrum as well as over 100 bipartisan community leaders, public safety advocates, and educators.

The Anchorage campaign shows how we move people from fear to understanding and acceptance. There’s no shortcut we can take to get there — it requires significant investment in basic education and outreach — but Anchorage proves it’s possible.

That’s important, because there are more fights on the horizon. In November, Massachusetts voters will see the same issue on their ballot, and that campaign is up and running. And in Montana, opponents of LGBT equality are trying to put a similar measure on the November ballot as well. We know the attacks in legislatures around the country will continue — but we’ve proven we can stop them.

Inspired by the success in Anchorage, we will continue the larger national conversation about the basic humanity of transgender people while beating back these efforts in Massachusetts, Montana, and wherever they appear next.

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Larry H

This whole trans issue is sick and sad. Doctors should not be operating. This is a psychological problem often stemming from childhood abuse and household dysfunction and illicit drug abuse. I have yet to meet a happy LGBTQ. A very angry group. How about stop offending the majority with outlandish immoral behavior.

Andrea R

Not a single sentence in your comment is factual. Not a single one. Your opinion on this topic is ill informed and completely false. Perhaps, you should do some research, before you type your feelings down on the internet. How about you stop offending people with your useless drivel, and actually learn something. What really angers me, is that in 2018, I still have to respond to people like you. It's okay not to have the fundamental reasoning to understand this, but it's not okay for you to spread your ignorant opinions, about a subject you clearly don't understand. Wow! Mouth breathers every where. SMH

Anonymous

You need to get off the internet and meet real people then.

Anonymous

What is sad and sick is how wrong you are. Maybe if you had a friend or family member who could educate you on trans people you wouldn't be thinking and saying such ignorant things. I feel very sorry for you sir.

Chutney

Are you claiming that all of those conditions together "childhood abuse and household dysfunction and illicit drug abuse" result in the creation of transgender identity? If so, there is no credible clinical evidence to support your claim that being transgender stems from such conditions alone. If such were the case, then those transgender children that do not experience such environments would not ever exist.

Sadly, many transgender children do experience such conditions. Yet there are many well documented cases of families that are supportive of their transgender children. What about them? Do you believe them to be fiction?

Are you aware that both the medical and mental health communities state that bieng transgener is not the result of mental illness? But rather, the anxiety and depression so common among transgender individuals experience is the direct result of the mistreatment they receive from others as a result of their being sexually devergant.

To put it very plainly, bullying at home, in school, misgendering, restricted bathroom use and other forms of rejection directed at trans youth starts them on the road toward mental illness. When transgender people are allowed to live their lives free of the abuses so commonly directed at transgender people, those people thrive. But, it takes tolerance from the rest of society before that can happen.

Aisla Gray

Larry You really to get out more, educate yourself and stop spouting nonsense. Your comments fly in the face of exhaustive studies. Perhaps you may wish to ask yourself why you choose to hate and to villify other folk. Be well.

Char Davenport

When Trans people own the Trans Movement, great things happen for Trans people.

Dick Davenport

Today they are called Trans people. Back in my day we called them something else, guess what?

Anonymous

Wow really wish anyone had done anything like this to help females as a protected sex class. Instead now there isn't any protected sex class!

Anonymous

I will never again support the ACLU who don't give a rat's ass about violating WOMEN'S rights to privacy and women's only spaces so they can get more FUNDING from the wealthy TRANS LOBBY. When these young people, gays, lesbians and WOMEN figure out how their rights are being trampled, the damage will be harder to undo. You CANNOT CHANGE YOUR BIOLOGICAL SEX. So how can ANY LAW be based on a LIE? Just curious. It is a factual, biological impossibility that you can EVER change your biological sex and GENDER is not your biological sex, but the ACLU is all for changing (LYING) on birth certificates too. You disgust me. These trans activists, and Antifa little morons are completely against free speech and CA passed a law VIOLATING FREE SPEECH if you "misgender" AKA call someone by their biological sex pronouns that will land you in jail for a year. WTF is the ACLU doing about THAT? Not a goddamned thing, that's what. So mostly WOMEN in a FEMALE DOMINATED FIELD taking care of elderly patients can have their FREE SPEECH CRIMINALIZED. You disgust me.

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