WASHINGTON -- The Washington, D.C., police department is changing the name of its Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit to include the words "bisexual" and "transgender" in an effort to better reflect the needs of the LGBT community.
The department said in a statement Monday that the move was "an effort to be inclusive" of a broader group of individuals.
In March, Police Chief Cathy Lanier named Sgt. Jessica Hawkins as the new lead of the unit, making her the first transgender person to hold that position. Last year, some department observers had criticized the way Lanier was assigning officers in the unit to patrol certain areas of the city.
LGBT groups praised the renaming of the liaison office, but said more needed to be done.
"I think it’s more important that we see substantive change at [the police department] along with cosmetic change like this," Jason Terry, an official with the D.C. Trans Coalition, told the Washington Blade.
The LGBT community has been increasingly trying to draw attention to the abuses faced by transgender individuals. Last year, 21 transgender women were killed nationwide, most of whom were women of color.
In November, Congress launched a task force dedicated to issues of transgender equality, accompanied by Congress' first-ever forum on violence against transgender people.
"The violence against the transgender community is a national crisis," said Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), the chair of the task force. "Far too often, they face harassment, discrimination or violence for simply being who they are. ... After 21 deaths of transgender individuals because of violence this year alone, Congress must take notice and act."
Most states, as well as the federal government, still lack nondiscrimination laws that include protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity.
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