The decision to advocate for the inclusion of the term “gender identity” in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act has been criticized by some scholars and activists as a mistake in strategy for the transgender movement. Hate crimes laws, and the federal hate crimes law in particular, have been condemned for providing more tools and resources to an inherently unjust law enforcement system, while providing no reduction of hate crimes against transgender people. Yet, advocates and legislators making the decision to add gender identity were motivated by the range of benefits caused by inclusion in the legislation, were aware of mitigating factors that addressed critic’s concerns that the critics have not put into their analysis, and sought inclusion in large part as a political strategy to achieve transgender-inclusion in non-discrimination legislation, with its potential life-saving effects. These factors outweigh the concerns of the critics of the law have articulated and should mean that, on balance, the decision to include gender identity was a forward-thinking one.
About the Author:
Lisa Mottet is the Deputy Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality in Washington, DC, after having served for thirteen years as the Director for the Transgender Civil Rights Project at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, where she worked on local, state and federal legislation and policy. Mottet is a co-author of the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, the groundbreaking study of transgender people’s experiences in the United States. Mottet graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 2001, where she was an editor of the Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law.