The transgender community has gone from invisible for most Americans to being one of the most talked about communities over the past two years thanks to trans stars like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner, as well as trans-inclusive shows like “Orange Is the New Black.” However, despite the increased representation and growing legal rights, the trans community still suffers a massive amount of discrimination and oppression, both legally and socially. And for Cox, part of the problem is that the trans community hasn’t even been counted by our government.
According to Mashable, while speaking on a panel with other activists at the at the 2015 Social Good Summit, Cox spoke about the need for the U.S. Census to stop focusing solely on binary gender options and begin counting transgender citizens so that we can actually have a reasonable estimate of how many trans people live in our nation.
“What message are we sending to those who are trans and gender nonconforming when we don’t even count them?” Cox asked. “We suggest that their identities don’t even matter.”
Although some estimates claim that there are around 700,000 trans people living in America, experts, including the demographer who calculated that number, say that estimate is unreliable because it’s only based on figures from California and Massachusetts.
For Cox, making sure that there is fair and just treatment of trans lives starts with actually being aware of how many trans people actually exist in society.
“I was thinking that visibility is only part of the equation,” she said, speaking about solving the cycle of violence against trans folks. “We must have social policy, systemic change. And then I thought about the Census. Systemically, this idea of the gender binary is very much institutionalized in the fact that we just don’t count trans people.”