#TogetherInPride: Fight For Transgender Acceptance Front And Center For Gay Rights Advocates
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As we celebrate Pride Month, we reflect on the progress made in the transgender community, but advocates want real policy changes.
As the colorful symbols of Pride are becoming more visible in store fronts, restaurants and vibrant downtowns, more people have become comfortable showing the world their true colors.
"These young people are trying to express their authentic selves and that's where the discussion needs to start," said Robyn Schlesinger from The LOFT: LGBTQ Community Services Center.
Schlesinger is a transgender woman and volunteer at The LOFT, an LGBTQ+ community center in Westchester.
Schlesinger considers herself a role model to the youth and worries about the impact of ignorance.
"This is not a phenomenon. This has nothing to do with social media and the internet and loose morals," Schlesinger said.
Schlesinger, who only transitioned in the last few years, said one of the simplest ways to be part of the conversation is by asking people what their pronouns are.
"It's a sign of respect," said Schlesinger.
"I think it's less important to use the right vocabulary as it is to have the right attitude," said Michell McFadden-Dinicola, a mother whose daughter transitioned during high school.
"The people that are being the most mistreated are the ones who are trying to fit into a society that doesn't have any space for them," she said.
In 2018, the mayor of Jersey City signed an executive order that bathrooms in city buildings be gender-neutral.
Jersey City Councilman James Solomon wants the same in all single-stall bathrooms in private facilities.
"Make sure that bathrooms are safe spaces for every single person in Jersey City," he said.
Luna Restaurant and Bar has already done that, posting a sign outside the restroom that says, "Whatever -- Just wash you hands."
"We treat our community like family, so that is the entire community," said manager Kennedy Shayna Grey.
Advocates say gender-neutral bathrooms and understanding pronouns are good first steps, but barely scratch the surface when it comes to the real policy changes that need to be made.
"I think it's very alarming," said Shawn Kobetz of NYC Pride.
Kobetz is referring to the more than 100 bills introduced in 33 states this year that aim to curb the rights of transgender people.
"We need our straight allies to join forces and to push back against this because this is discrimination," Kobetz said.
Schlesinger agrees, saying, from equal health care to more transgender recruitment at companies and colleges, there is so much more work to do.
"How can the general public, how can I, be a better ally?" Layton asked.
"I think listening is the first thing," said Schlesinger. "'What can I do to be a better friend?' ... 'Is there anything that I should know about your family situation?'"
At this crossroads of acceptance, kindness is the way forward.
Advocates say the community must make the effort to educate itself by asking questions.
CBS2's Jessica Layton contributed to this report.
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