2016 has to be the year of Trans rights. On November 13, 2015, an article appeared on theguardian.com, outlining the very pressing dangers facing Transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States today. It was devastating to say the least, and it serves to warn us all that the struggles of Trans people deserve more attention in the year to come.
2015 saw the landmark SCOTUS ruling legalizing marriage equality throughout America, and that was just one of many victories won this year. Despite the fact that LGB people are still facing discrimination, harassment, and the ever-present fear of violence, things have gotten better overall. 2015 has been a great year for equality! We must keep this momentum going in 2016, and at the same time prioritize our push for the same progress in Trans visibility and understanding.
As of Nov 13 (the publication date of the article above), there had been 21 Trans homicides in 2015; almost all of whom were Transgender women of colour. Of the 53 Trans murders between 2013 and 2015, NOT ONE had been reported or prosecuted as a hate crime. Due to social pressures, stigmas, and threats of further violence, we know that most violent crimes against Trans people go unreported, leading to the safe assumption that these numbers are not even close to revealing the reality of the situation. It should be noted here that these are U.S. statistics, but that the struggle for Trans people across the world, including my country of Canada, is just as real.
A Congressional group dedicated to the rights and equalities of LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. has taken the step of putting together a Transgender Equality Task Force, and we have to put our passions into this as well. Governmental and grass roots groups have to both work hard for this, a combined effort that has seen success for decades now. We have to fight just as hard, though hopefully not as long, as we have for the rights and equalities of LGB people.
Note what was just said about the victims of these crimes – in 2015, most were Trans women of colour. It is rightly pointed out in the article that the issue here goes much deeper than mere Transphobia; a definite issue to be addressed, but it only scratches the surface. The deeper issue lies at the intersection of racism, sexism, and transphobia. Immediately clear, and again rightly pointed out in the article, we can no longer afford to address these issues separately. Where do we begin? By listening to the people already talking about it, and asking questions to gain a better understanding.
The push against traditional gender roles, against sexism and for Feminism, against transphobia and for equal rights and dignity, against continuing systemic racism, and many more problems, are here all wrapped up into one. Trans people have become the most at-risk group among the LGBTQ+ community, Trans women of colour especially. Their voices are not being heard loud enough. Their struggles are not being addressed to the proper extent. They are being decried as freaks, perverts, and liars by evangelical activists like Dr. Michael Brown (you can find him, and object to his misinformation, at askdrbrown.org, and ‘Ask Dr. Brown’ on Facebook). Most importantly, the realities they face are not understood. We have to correct that in 2016, before more lives are taken.
I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions, preferring instead to make lifestyle changes when the time is right. This time, though, right now, is the right time for all of us to make a change toward asking, listening, empathizing, and acting to make things better. Countless LGB people died while we sat and passively argued against inequality. It was only when things reached a tipping point that the push got real and things started to change, and they still have a long way to go. That tipping point came too late for people who never should have suffered the way they did, people who could have been effective voices fighting for their own lives. Are we going to continue to repeat that history?
In every single state but California, “Trans Panic” is currently considered a valid legal defence. For those of you unfamiliar with what that is, “Trans Panic” is the argument that upon learning that the person they were involved with was Transgender, the murderer panicked, lashed out in an uncontrollable rage, and cannot be held responsible for their actions. Since Trans people are seen as such a shockingly disturbing bunch to an aging white cis-male legal establishment, “Trans Panic” can be used for nearly any situation – from brief social interactions to a romantic relationship. After all, who’s to say that panic and murder aren’t warranted when you buy someone a drink at a bar and find out they have unexpected genitalia, right? “Trans Panic” frees the guilty and blames the victim. It says the victim deserved to die, and this somehow makes sense to the legal establishment in every American state but one. This has to change in 2016.
The good news is that there are people already talking about this. What we have to do is start listening to them. It took a long time, but many people have come around and taken the time to understand what it means to be gay and/or lesbian. It was once thought that bisexuality wasn’t a real thing, but people know differently now; and bisexuality is better understood. Two-spirited people are beginning to be celebrated in some communities, Queer people are entering the discussion and we’re telling our stories, and asexuality is beginning to be talked about as well. The challenges and dangers facing these groups are still there, but things have improved greatly. Let’s make 2016 the year we give Trans issues the attention they deserve. Let’s make 2016 the year we force the discussion about the intersectionality of racism, sexism, and transphobia. Let’s make 2016 the year we tell our legal representatives that “Trans Panic” is a disgusting and dehumanizing argument that has to be thrown in the trash where it belongs.
2016, I must admit, is also going to see me asking more questions. I intend to ask about terms that confuse me – terms like “transage,” and “trans-species.” I want to learn more, to know if my inclination toward dismissing terms I find suspect is valid or the result of my own ignorance. Humanity is complex, we are all very unique and fascinating creatures. Before venturing an opinion or point-of-view, especially for a person who chooses to live as an outspoken ally, information has to be sought out and carefully taken in.
My plans for 2016 are many, but where my Trans advocacy is concerned, I intend to ask, learn, act, and aggressively fight for the equality, rights, dignity, and acceptance of the Trans community.
Have a safe and happy New Year!