Groundbreaking D.C. campaign shows that trans people are people, too

If you live in Washington, D.C., you may soon see an advertisement with a cheerful, smiling person pointing out some things they like to do in D.C. One woman says she likes going to the Smithsonian. A smiling man in a button-down shirt claims to like “playing basketball with the guys.”

Believe it or not, this is the first government-funded trans advocacy ad campaign in the entire country. And D.C. gets it exactly right. The people in the ads look like pleasant, friendly people who might live down the street from you. At the bottom of every ad, it says: “Please treat me the way any [man/woman/person] would want to be treated: with courtesy and respect.” These ads normalize the presence of trans people, and present them as members of the community that D.C. residents know and love.

Some research shows that people who personally know someone who identifies as gay are more likely to have positive attitudes towards the gay community overall. To me, this campaign is like introducing D.C. residents to trans friends. For those who might not know any openly trans people, this takes an abstract concept that might be confusing and makes it real and accessible.

I’m most impressed by an ad featuring a person with short hair wearing a sweater-vest and tie, for which the text reads: “Some think I should dress more like a woman. Some think I should dress more like a man. I may not fit some ideas about gender, and I am a proud part of D.C.” It’s just incredible to see genderqueer representation in a public ad campaign.

Washington, D.C., along with 16 other states, has a law that makes discrimination based on gender identity and expression illegal, and it’s so heartening to see that they truly understand what that means. This campaign represents all kinds of gender expressions, and demands respect for them all.

The campaign has a little nod to viral marketing, too. At the bottom of each ad, it suggests sharing photos of the ads on Twitter with the tag #TransRespect. Looking at tweets with the tag, I don’t see a single negative comment. The support and appreciation for this campaign is overwhelming.

It’s an unfortunate sign of where we are now that people still need to be told to treat trans people with respect. However, this campaign is an important step forward. If nothing else, it helps break down the long-term invisibility of trans people. A friend of mine once told me he liked to tell people he was trans because he’s a cheerful person, and the typical media representation of trans people is that they are constantly depressed. (Similarly, I once heard the creators of the trans rock documentary Riot Acts say that the thesis of their film was “Trans people have friends and get laid.”)


These ads say that gender identity alone doesn’t define who these people are. Hopefully the nation’s first pro-trans PSA is just the beginning.


Magdalena Newhouse is a senior at Oberlin College, where she teaches a class on body positivity and fat acceptance.

5 thoughts on “Groundbreaking D.C. campaign shows that trans people are people, too

Add yours

  1. Great and very eye-catching ads!! I also love that the ones you show here don’t rely on dumb gender stereotypes to make their point.

  2. How can I get these ads to put in my classroom? Do they plan to make one for Los Angeles? I have at least one transgender student each year.

  3. Oh, that’s such a good point. I could so easily see this campaign going in that direction—trying to justify a trans identity with gender stereotypes. Instead, it’s not about proving that these people are “real women” or “real men,” but just that they’re real people.

  4. This is such an important step, the first of many, I hope! Familiarity and recognition will shatter fear, Bravo!

  5. Taxpayers’ money spent on advertising abnormality, and people standing by applauding? I fear for the future of this world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *