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 appear more and more on storefronts, restaurants and vibrant downtowns, many people have become more comfortable showing the world their true colors. .
“These young people are trying to be who they really are and that is where the discussion needs to start,” said Robyn Schlesinger from The LOFT: LGBTQ Community Service Center.
Schlesinger sees himself as a role model for young people 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 has only been transitioning for the last few years, says one of the simplest ways to be part of a conversation is to ask people what their pronouns are.
“It’s a sign of respect,” Schlesinger said.
“I think using the right vocabulary is less important than having the right attitude,” says Michell McFadden-Dinicola, a mother whose daughter is transitioning from high school.
“The people who suffer the most are those who are trying to fit in in a society that has no space for them,” she said.
Jersey City Councilman James Solomon want the same thing in all single bathrooms in private facilities.
“Make sure the bathroom is a safe space for everyone in Jersey City,” he said.
Restaurant and bar Luna did just that, posting a sign outside the restroom that read: “Anything – As long as you wash your hands.”
“We treat our community like a family, so that’s the whole community,” said Kennedy manager Shayna Gray.
Advocates say gender-neutral bathrooms and understanding pronouns are good first steps, but barely surface the surface when it comes to real policy changes that need to be made.
“I think it’s very alarming,” Shawn Kobetz said of Pride of NYC.
Kobetz is referring to more than 100 bills introduced in 33 states this year that limit transgender rights.
“We need our allies to join forces directly and push back against this because this is discriminatory,” Kobetz said.
Schlesinger agrees, saying that, from equal health care to hiring more transgender people at companies and colleges, a lot remains to be done.
“How can the public, how can I, be a better ally?” Layton asked.
“I think listening is the first thing,” says Schlesinger. “’What can I do to be a better friend?’ … ‘Is there anything I should know about your family background?’ “
At this crossroads of acceptance, kindness is the way forward.
Advocates say the community must work to educate itself by asking questions.
CBS2’s Jessica Layton contributed to this report.