We’re currently in the middle of transgender awareness week (which is in fact, a fortnight). Considering the events of the past couple of days, which have left so many LGBTQ people concerned for their rights and safety, this couldn’t be more relevant right now.
I’ve written this blog post because I wanted to raise awareness: initially, it was going to be a Facebook status update, but I decided the subject deserved more than that. As an ally, I know that I can never fully understand what it’s like to be trans. But I want to try my best, and I want to do what I can to raise awareness.
There are a lot of people who don’t know that transgender awareness month exists, and I wanted to try and change that (even if I can inform a single person). A lot of people are also unaware of the scope of issues that affect trans people, and some, I suspect, aren’t clear on what being “transgender” or “trans” even means.
So, before I start, a quick definition from the Human Rights Campaign:
The word “transgender” – or trans – is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned at birth. Although the word “transgender” and our modern definition of it only came into use in the late 20th century, people who would fit under this definition have existed in every culture throughout recorded history.
It’s 2016, and we’ve come so far, even in the last few years, in the fight for equality. Trans people are finally becoming more visible and prominent in the media, and with that, hopefully, people are beginning to understand what it means to be trans. In 2014, Laverne Cox became the first openly trans person to appear on the cover of Time Magazine (notice that I say “openly”). But there’s still so much work to be done before trans people can feel truly accepted, safe and supported.
Too often, I still hear transphobic slurs, even from generally well-informed and well-meaning friends. And that’s not ok. How can we ever claim to be close to achieving equality when ‘man is dating a woman; woman reveals that she “used to be a man”; man is horrified and feels deceived’ is still a stigmatising and misleading stock joke for comedy writers?
And it’s not just words that are hurting trans people. Fatal violence disproportionately affects trans people, specifically, trans women of colour. In the first ten months of 2015, at least 21 transgender people became victims of fatal violence in the US. Almost all of these were women of colour.
I can’t, and won’t, go into all the ways we’re letting trans people down. There are too many, from healthcare issues, to education issues, to legal issues, and I get the feeling it would leave me feeling disappointed in humanity. Instead, if you want to be better informed about the issues affecting trans people, I will direct you to this resource from the Human Rights Campaign: Understanding the Transgender Community (it’s a year or so old, but the issues are still very relevant).
If you want to help raise awareness, you can change your profile picture for trans awareness month. The easiest, and maybe the best thing to do, is to become better informed. Allow me, once again, to direct you to a resource that knows better than I do: Tips for Allies of Transgender People.
I’ll leave you with a section of a blog post posted on the Transgender Law Centre website after the recent US election:
“…we are resilient. We are brilliant and beautiful and powerful. We have a legacy of fierce trans leaders whose work we build on. We will continue our work of fighting for liberation, and I believe that we will win.”