Getting Amped Up for Transgender Awareness Week

It’s no longer October, which means my posting on Domestic Violence won’t stop, but it’ll be a little more intermittent.  It’s time to redirect attention to the MYRIAD of other issues worth discussing, starting with the recently-passed Transgender Awareness Week.

(For the record, this post was originally schedule to go up a week ago, as a lead-in to Transgender Awareness Week, but some sort of glitch seems to have prevented its earlier publication; apologies)

TW: Violence, Trans-targeted violence

Let me be clear: feminism as a movement needs to care about the trans community.  Trans women are women, and trans folks of all genders deserve respect and dignity that they are too often denied in our society.  Their issues intersect with all the issues the feminist movement claims to care about: sexual assault, domestic violence, homelessness, employment discrimination, reproductive justice (the list goes on and is unsurprising since trans people are, after all, people who therefore face problems that cut across our society), along with some unique issues related to violence, acceptance, healthcare, media representation, etc.  I’m not trans, and I won’t try to speak for the trans community, but I will say this: we should never speak over the trans community, but those in a position to do so have an obligation to speak up for them when we can.

The reality is that being trans in the United States is often not an easy experience. While transition surgery is becoming more and more accessible via insurance, one needs to actually be insured to access that benefit, and some health plans will exclude surgeries commonly used in transition if they are linked to gender dysphoria or gender transition.  That’s a problem, but it’s far from the only one.  The trans community disproportionately experiences poverty and homelessness, especially since trans individuals experience unemployment at twice the rate of their cisgender counterparts, and rules regarding homeless shelters and other housing programs can make it difficult to help those in need.  This isn’t overly surprising, since many housing discrimination laws don’t cover gender identity, and may states continue to fail to protect individuals from employment discrimination based on gender identity as well.

Given that Trans Awareness Week led up to the Trans Day of Remembrance, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the issue of anti-trans violence.  The statistics related to transphobic violence in the U.S are staggering: of anti-LGBT homicides in the United States in 2013, 72% of the victims were trans women (and 67% of the victims were specifically trans women of color).  That’s not even counting other forms of physical or sexual violence targeting trans individuals, which is alarming as well: 75% of openly trans students have reported feeling unsafe at school, and according to the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crimes, as many as 1 in 2 trans individuals may experience sexual assault or sexual abuse over the course of their lives.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that trans people are just victims: they’re not.  I do want to draw attention to why Transgender Awareness Week and the Trans Day of Remembrance are so important, but I also want to reiterate that the best way to learn about trans issues is always going to be by listening to trans individuals. Check out Laverne Cox’s videos on “the T word”, and on issues facing the trans community.  Read Janet Mock’s book, Redefining Realnessand this article she wrote on Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover. Check out Susan Kuklin’s collection, Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, in which the author interviewed six transgender and agender adolescents to allow them to tell their own stories.  Take a moment to look through some of Meredith Talusan’s articles and op-eds on trans issues in the U.S, or Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaw, or heck, any of these books on transgender lives and issues.  And don’t forget to look at this incredible collection of videos put together by GLAAD for Transgender Awareness Week.

In general, I think learning more about these issues is an important step in becoming a better ally; more informed people are less likely to make easy mistakes in talking about trans issues or to trans individuals.  I had meant that to be a lead-up to the Trans Week of Action, but even with the Week of Action behind us, we shouldn’t pretend that we can afford for this discourse to be limited to one week.  That said, I’d like to re-focus a bit on allyship in general, and ways that we as cisgendered activists can better support the trans community.

First off, for anyone new to allyship for the trans community, just some very quick basics.  Always defer to the experiences and voices of trans individuals: you are supporting their work, not talking over them.  Always be respectful of pronoun preferences, even if switching pronouns after knowing someone for a while feels strange; avoid deadnaming (using a name that a trans individual was assigned at birth which they no longer use) since it is dismissive of a trans person’s identity.  If you’re going to ask questions, ask politely, and be respectful: transition is none of your business unless a trans person chooses to bring it up with you of their own accord.  Cisgender fascination with physical transition often derails important discussions.

Second, pay attention when acts of violence are committed against the trans community.  Pay attention to how those around you are talking about it, and do what you can to make these events more visible.  America will never solve the problems that the trans community faces here if they are not forced to recognize what is happening.  Speak up also when you see acts of aggression, even microaggressions, being committed against trans persons you know.  Correct people if you hear them misgendering someone; it’s not enough, but it is certainly better than remaining silent.  And don’t forget to pay attention to employment and housing non-discrimination legislation when it is introduced at the state level; actively supporting laws to protect trans individuals is a concrete step you can take in using your voice to help.

This won’t be my last post on these issues-~-far from it-~-but I hope I have at least made my point in saying that we need to talk about these issues a lot more.  I haven’t given trans issues enough coverage on this blog, and I’ll work to improve that in the next several months.  If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming writer and would like to submit a post on your experiences or on an issue of your choice, please contact me at


~ by Randi Saunders on November 23, 2015.

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