The Struggles of Trans People & Why You Should Care

“But you’re biologically male”- Janet W.

“You’ll always be my daughter”- Emmanuel

“I have a trans friend, but they’re chill about pronouns and don’t mind it when I use the wrong ones, so I don’t know why you get so upset about it?”- Clank

“Did you get the surgery?”-Janet W

“Are you sure?”- Janet W

“When are you going to de-transition?”- Janet W

“So, what do you have down there?”- A

“It’s a sin.”- A

“It’s a phase.”- A

“You don’t look like you’re trying to pass.”-A

Imagine having these quotes thrown at you because of becoming the person you want to be. You’re not hurting or corrupting anybody. You're just trying to get through life in a way that you finally have some control. I asked trans women, men, and enbies about negative stigmas they experience from those who are cisgender. These were the answers they provided me, and as a cisgender woman, it was heartbreaking. 

Trans rights have been a long time coming, with key events happening in the 20th century and 21st century. Currently, there are more shows than ever about the trans experience such as "Pose," "I Am Jazz," or "Transparent." When looking at the activist route, there were the Stonewall Riots and Compton's Cafeteria Riot, which were led by trans women of color. Unfortunately, what we fail to understand as a cisnormative society is that 200 years is short compared to 10,000 years of world history—a world history that has demonstrated the threats and violence against trans people.

What does it mean to be transgender?

According to GLADD, being trans means that the individual’s gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.

To break it down in simple terms, these are only five things that trans people go through as a whole. There is much more, but my article cannot dive into all of them: the killing of trans people, the difficulty of changing gender markers, the bathroom debate, sex trafficking, TERFS, and an honorable mention, the trans military ban.

1. The killing of trans people, specifically trans women of color

According to USA Today, 2018 was the deadliest year for trans people in the United States. Out of the 21 people of trans people who were killed, 19 of them were trans people of color. The Human Rights Report in 2017 states that 86% were people of color, following in the categories of Black, Hispanic, or Native American. One reason why the murder of trans women is more common is that of transmisogyny. Transmisogyny is known as the negative attitudes, discrimination, and violence directed towards trans femmes and women. For example, a cis man can go on a date with a trans woman, and if he finds out that she is trans, he may react negatively. He may insult her or invalidate her identity or act violent towards her, leading to death. Venus Xtravaganaza, who was part of the documentary Paris is Burning, was strangled to death, with her body being found under a hotel bed.

Click here for a list of trans people who were unlawfully killed.

2. Changing of Gender Markers

The National Center for Transgender Equality in 2015 stated that only 11% of transgender people have their preferred name and gender marker. When looking at the process, it varies state by state. Some states are more liberal or “easygoing” about the change, while other states are much more conservative or harder. Regardless, the process as a whole is a difficult one. Changing one’s gender marker is important. Trans people have faced and continue to face extreme forms of discrimination because of their status, with employers rejecting trans people or harassing them as a result. Attorney General Jeff Sessions even issued a memo stating that trans people will not be protected against workplace discrimination through civil rights laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title VII. Back in October, the Trump Administration, through the Department of Health and Human Services, stated that they will decide gender as either male or female while basing it on one’s genitalia. This does not only impact those who are pre-op, but non-binary individuals as well, who already do not get enough representation through their gender identity through censuses, surveys, and paperwork.

3. Bathroom Debate

In 2016, the Obama Administration used Title IX to cover discrimination for those who are transgender in public schools. Target also allowed for trans people to use the bathroom in which their gender identified with. This caused an uproar and many people took offense stating that this would open the door to pedophiles. President Trump, later on, undid this measure and allowed states to choose whether or not they wanted to implement this measure. What many fail to realize is that there are safety issues with not allowing binary trans people to use the bathroom they identify with. For instance, if a trans woman would use the bathroom that reflected the gender she was assigned at birth, she could face violence which as a result could endanger her life. For enbies, gender neutral or unisex bathrooms are the best case, since they do not fall under the two binaries. At the end of the day, trans people just need to use the bathroom to relieve themselves, just like cis people.

4. Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking impacts a lot of LGBTQ+ youth. If one is forced to become homeless due to the rejection of one’s parents, sex trafficking can get involved. It is important to understand that 40% of homeless youth are LGBT, with 46% of them running away because of family rejection. In the sex industry, transgender people are also three more times likely to be attacked than cisgender people.

5. TERFs

TERFs, or trans-exclusionary radical feminists, are feminists who equate gender and sex as the same and weaponize this against trans people.

Some characteristics of TERFs include:

  • Seeing trans women through the outdated theory of Autogynephilia.
  • Instead of using MTF they state MTT (male to trans) to invalidate the identities of trans women by not seeing them as women
  • Believing that trans women are trying to encourage the patriarchy
  • Not allowing or wanting trans women to be in women-only spaces.
  • Painting trans women who date other cis women as predatory 
  • With trans men, they see them as traitors who hate the female species and joined the patriarchy.

 Some believe TERFs are only a social media phenomenon, but during London’s Pride a lot of anti-trans activists came out insulting and harassing those who were trans.

Honorable Mention: The Trans Military Ban

On January 22, 2019, the Supreme Court allowed for the military ban that was originally brought up back in July 2017, to go into effect until the lower courts go through the process and paperwork. People may argue that trans people are lucky because they don’t have to be drafted, but this point fails to address the principle of revoking freedom for a group of people through an exclusionary measure. It’s not about fighting for a war that harms many people inside or outside of the United States, but it’s a way to exclude people because of their gender identity. Eli Erlick, a transgender activist, explained her perception on the ordeal on Instagram, noting the relationship between trans people and the military:

The major purpose of this article is not to demonize the struggle of what any individual person who happens to be cisgender goes through. It’s to shine a light towards the struggles and testimonies that have happened within the trans community and the problems that continue to this day. Everyone has some kind of privilege, but it doesn’t mean that we should shy away from accepting that privilege and that we can not help those that don't benefit from the privilege that we have.

For more information, visit Justia or Trans Lifeline

Images: 1, 2 (Friend's portrait), 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9