Today marks the 2020 Transgender Day of Remembrance, and we're joined by transgender lawmakers and activists to discuss the state of trans rights. The ACLU reports that "in 2020, a record number of anti-trans bills are making their way through state legislatures."

Our guests discuss what has changed in recent years, and the role they think lawmakers and citizens have in helping to create a more equitable society. Our guests:

  • Danica Roem, delegate in the Virginia House of Delegates, who was the first openly transgender state legislator to be seated in U.S. history
  • Jess Whitehouse, activist, and community ASL interpreter
  • Shauna O'Toole, former candidate for NYS Senate

illustration by Olga W Boeva / Shutterstock

When the coronavirus pandemic first spread to Rochester, Penny Sterling wanted to know how she would be counted if she contracted the virus. 

The data tracking who has contracted COVID-19 is broken down by male or female. Sterling doesn’t fit that mold. She’s a transgender woman.

In recent months, New York state changed its policy and added a third option on paper coronavirus test forms: “Other.” 

An attorney for a transgender woman who sued Steuben County hopes the settlement reached in the case last week will change jail policies in the future.

Jena Faith sued after being held in a men’s facility while awaiting trial last year.

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Governor Andrew Cuomo directed the New York state police hate crimes task force on Wednesday to investigate an assault against a transgender man in Rochester.

Cuomo said that he is outraged by reports that a 30-year-old Black trans man was attacked last Friday. The victim sustained a broken eye socket and multiple fractures to his cheekbone according to the Democrat and Chronicle.

Photo illustration by Nito

When the first COVID-19 cases were reported in Monroe County in March, Penny Sterling was struck by a detail.

The reports were broken down by a gender binary: male and female. Sterling, a transgender woman, was left with an unsettling question: If she died of the coronavirus, how would she go down in the records?

“Would they let me be the gender that I am or the gender that I was assigned at birth?” Sterling said. “Because I have very strong views on that. And furthermore, what about the nonbinary folk?”

photo provided by Brittan Hardgers

Tuesday marked Trans Visibility Day, and amid coronavirus precautions and social distancing, a group of transgender men of color still found a way to celebrate the day.

It’s not the march that was planned, but there are balloons - arranged in a display of floating pink, white, and blue balloons at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park. 

One attendee, Zenith Sulton, says people are encouraged to write messages on the balloons in honor of Trans Visibility Day.

Max Schulte / WXXI News

Six years ago, Christine Walker had never met a person like her romantic and business partner, Lore McSpadden. 

Not just in the lovestruck sense, but also in the literal sense. McSpadden is transgender and nonbinary, a person whose gender cannot be described as simply "male" or "female."

Walker, 39, said she knew "that trans folks existed," but her understanding of them was purely theoretical.

Juli Grey-Owens is a transgender woman. She says people may be confused about that, and that's OK.

"Within the four walls of the forum, you can ask us anything."

Grey-Owens, board chair and executive director at Gender Equality New York, and other panelists have been traveling across New York state in recent months, sharing their stories and trying to clear up confusion about what it's like to be a transgender, binary, or intersex person.  On Wednesday night, their public forum came to Rochester.

We celebrate Rochester Pride Week with a conversation about "Transformation Thursday." It's a new podcast hosted and produced by Amy Stephens and Penny Sterling, two local transgender woman who are outspoken advocates for the LGBTQ community.

Stephens and Sterling join us to share their individual journeys, what they have learned, how they handle difficult conversations with friends and coworkers, and more. 

  • Amy Stephens, comedian and co-host of  "Transformation Thursday"
  • Penny Sterling, storyteller, comedian, and co-host of "Transformation Thursday"

A debate erupted over social media when pop culture reporter and Billy Eichner advised parents-to-be to consider how they would react if they found out their child was gay. Eichner says if parents don't think they could handle that news, they shouldn't become parents at all.

We talk to guests about their own experiences, both as children and parents, and we discuss the reactions to Eichner's comments. In studio:

  • Tamara Leigh, director of communications for the Out Alliance and mother of two
  • Kim, mother of an LGBTQ youth
  • Pamela Dayton, mother of a transgender youth
  • Karen Bradbury, mother of a transgender teenager
  • Ed Popil (aka Mrs. Kasha Davis), local drag performer and step-parent