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LGBTQ Policy Journal

Topic / Gender, Race and Identity

Progressive or Regressive?: An In-Depth Policy Analysis of the Decision to Include Gender Identity in the Federal Hate Crimes Law (Part Two)


The decision to advocate for the inclusion of the term “gender identity” in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act has been criticized by some scholars and activists as a mistake in strategy for the transgender movement. Hate crimes laws, and the federal hate crimes law in particular, have been condemned for providing more tools and resources to an inherently unjust law enforcement system, while providing no reduction of hate crimes against transgender people. Yet, advocates and legislators making the decision to add gender identity were motivated by the range of benefits caused by inclusion in the legislation, were aware of mitigating factors that addressed critic’s concerns that the critics have not put into their analysis, and sought inclusion in large part as a political strategy to achieve transgender-inclusion in non-discrimination legislation, with its potential life-saving effects. These factors outweigh the concerns of the critics of the law have articulated and should mean that, on balance, the decision to include gender identity was a forward-thinking one.