Recognizing her work covering trans rights over the last year, the Gender Justice League has selected The Stranger's Sydney Brownstone for its 2016 Media Justice Award. The Gender Justice League advocates on behalf of trans, gender queer, non-conforming, and non-binary people across Washington State.
Danni Askini, executive director of the Gender Justice League, said a group of board members and past award winners selected Sydney because of her "strong commitment to elevating the voices of trans people and issues the community was facing."
"People also commented on Sydney's other reporting on sexual assault and other things related to gender justice," Askini added. "[These are] issues that are not only about trans people but that greatly impact trans people."
Over the past year, Sydney has covered religious extremists' failed efforts to get an initiative on this year's ballot to prevent trans people from using the restrooms and locker rooms that are most comfortable for them. She sat through a service at the church helping to bankroll the effort, where the pastor claimed his opposition wasn't really about trans people but about the safety of children in bathrooms. She wrote:
When I pointed out that children can get assaulted in any public place, including churches, Smith insisted that bathrooms are "a unique environment."
Of course, the issue has everything to do with transgender people. Trans people face some of the highest rates of violence, including astronomical rates of sexual violence, in the country. Recognizing this, the state Human Rights Commission added language to the state's 10-year-old antidiscrimination code to clarify the existing law prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. But groups like Just Want Privacy say that trans rights put children at risk—the same argument that used to be routinely trotted out against gays and lesbians. While antigay activists once insisted on debunked myths that accepting gay people would lead to the acceptance of pedophilia, or that gay parents would molest their children, today, anti-trans activists say that pedophiles would pretend to be transgender in order to assault children in bathrooms. This ignores the fact that preying on children is illegal no matter what, the problem of people pretending to be transgender in order to assault children doesn't actually exist, and grown men already share bathrooms with little boys who are also targets for pedophiles. But the idea of putting little girls at risk is a potent image.
Sydney has also documented dangerous calls from anti-trans activists to follow women into public bathrooms and written about the very real damage done by these types of anti-trans proposals even when they fail to gain traction in the legislature or at the ballot box.
Media coverage of the so-called "bathroom bills" and the failed initiative "dug deep into the experiences of a lot of trans people and that helped the public understand...that we can both protect trans people's rights in trans spaces and work to end gender-based violence," Askini said. "Those things are not in conflict."
The Gender Justice League will present the award during its annual fundraiser on November 17 at 6 pm at Melrose Market Studios. The group will also present awards to an impressive list of LGBTQ activists. Find the full list of award winners here. Tickets are available here.