President Biden, in a first for any U.S. president, issued on Wednesday a formal presidential proclamation recognizing the Transgender Day of Visibility, according to an advance copy of the White House document obtained by the Washington Blade.
At a time when states are advancing and enacting into law measures that would essentially bar transgender girls from participating in school sports and restrict access to transition-related care for transgender youth, Biden signals support for transgender people by commending their “struggle, activism and courage” and including fellow athletes and students in a list of allies.
“This hard-fought progress is also shaping an increasingly accepting world in which peers at school, teammates and coaches on the playing field, colleagues at work, and allies in every corner of society are standing in support and solidarity with the transgender community,” Biden writes.
But Biden also recognizes long-standing issues facing the transgender community, calling ongoing violence against transgender people “a stain on our nation’s conscience.”
“In spite of our progress in advancing civil rights for LGBTQ+ Americans, too many transgender people — adults and youth alike — still face systemic barriers to freedom and equality,” Biden writes. “Transgender Americans of all ages face high rates of violence, harassment, and discrimination.”
According to a study this month from the Williams Institute at University of California, Los Angeles, transgender people are more than four times more likely than cisgender people to experience violent victimization, including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated or simple assault.
Biden also points out the accomplishments his administration has already achieved on behalf of transgender people, including the executive order he signed on his first day in office fully implementing in all federal agencies the U.S. Supreme Court decision against anti-LGBTQ discrimination, the restoration of open transgender military service and the Senate confirmation of Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health.
In terms of the tasks ahead, Biden enumerates the Equality Act, legislation to expand the prohibition on anti-LGBTQ discrimination under federal law he pledged to sign within 100 days of his administration. Although the U.S. House passed the legislation, the U.S. Senate has yet to advance the bill. It remains unlikely 60 votes are present in that chamber to end a filibuster on the legislation.
“To more fully protect the civil rights of transgender Americans, we must pass the Equality Act and provide long overdue federal civil rights protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity,” Biden writes. “The Equality Act will deliver legal protections for LGBTQ+ Americans in our housing, education, public services, and lending systems. It will serve as a lasting legacy to the bravery and fortitude of the LGBTQ+ movement.”
Although Biden is the first U.S. president to issue a proclamation for the Transgender Day of Visibility, other U.S. presidents have announced support for the LGBTQ community by formally proclaiming June as Pride Month. Bill Clinton issued the first LGBTQ Pride proclamation, a practice former President Barack Obama renewed in each of his eight years in office after George W. Bush ignored the annual celebration. Donald Trump became the first Republican U.S. president to recognize Pride Month with a tweet in 2017, although he never issued a formal proclamation.
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.