It took unyielding effort over a painfully long time, but gay rights have come a long way since the Stonewall riots, as evidenced in the Supreme Court's landmark decision to legalize gay marriage. While it is a significant achievement for a community long discriminated against by society, there remains work to be done — particularly for transgender people. Speaking on "Last Week Tonight," John Oliver tackled transgender rights, reminding us not to be too content with the progress that we've made in this particularly arduous civil rights issue.
"For all the strides transgender people have made lately," he said, "let's not get too complacent about how far we've come, because they still face a host of obstacles." He then highlighted the media's seeming fixation on a trans person's transition details — which includes crass questions about their genitalia — reminding audiences that their decisions on the matter is none of their business.
Since his show's debut, Oliver has established himself as the country's leading (and English) voice of reason, and last night he addressed the issue of what to call the approximately 700,000 transgender people in the country. "It's pretty simple," he said, "call them whatever they want to be called."
"It's genuinely crucial that we get this right," he said. "While a handful of transgender people have been winning awards for appearing on magazine covers, the community at large has been facing some staggering challenges."
The transgender community is one of the most persecuted in the U.S. and internationally, facing some of the highest rates of housing and workplace discrimination, harassment and assault. To make matters worse, transgender people of color also have to deal with racism.
Despite trans visibility being at an all time high today, thanks to the likes of Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner, a vast majority of transgender people have to deal with sustained discrimination. As a whole, LGBT rights have made stunning progress in the past few years, but it's critical that we don't abandon the trans rights movement at this important time.