There’s dramatic progress in the transgender movement in the past years. Trans visibility is getting more widespread, allowing trans people to be who they are without the fear of judgement. Better public awareness and legal victories in the United States have happened, protecting the trans community from discrimination.
However, most people still don’t fully understand what the transgender community is all about along with the key issues they face on a daily basis. Lots of misconceptions about transgenders in the media are rampant, raising false ideas about the community.
If you want to learn more about trans people and be a better ally, then you’ve come to the right place. Continue reading below for more information!
Getting started with the transgender community
Transgender people come from all walks of life and social backgrounds. In the United States, HRC Foundation has estimated that there are over 2,000,000 trans people in the country. This means that they can be your friend, colleague, coworker or neighbour. They are eight-year-old children playing on the playground, or 80-year-old grandparents sitting on the porch.
The transgender community is diverse. They represent all faith traditions, ethnic backgrounds and racial identities. But what does the word ‘transgender’ exactly mean?
Transgender or trans is considered an umbrella term for people whose gender identities don’t match the sex assigned to them at birth. Gender identity is a person’s personal sense of being a man or a woman. However, some people learn that their gender identity is entirely different from those two choices.
You might wonder if changing a person’s gender identity is possible. The answer is no, it doesn’t work that way. Trying to change someone’s gender identity is like stopping an arrow once it’s shot—it’s practically impossible. So, most trans people try to align their bodies with their gender identity. This is a process called transition.
When a person undergoes a transition process, they are often prescribed hormones by their doctors to change their bodies. Some trans people prefer to undergo surgeries. Keep in mind that not every trans person chooses this process, but this doesn’t make them any less valid. Trans people have every right to call themselves transgender even if they don’t take advantage of medical procedures.
Key issues: The struggles of transgender people
While trans people are becoming more visible in pop culture and daily life, the community still faces discrimination, inequality and stigma. Here are the key issues that you should know:
Violence against trans people
Compared to the average person, transgender people experience high violence rates that can be fatal. Over 47% of the community has been sexually assaulted and 54% of trans people have experienced intimate partner violence in their lives. In fact, at least 44 trans and gender non-conforming people have been brutally killed in 2020. The sad news is that other cases have gone unreported and dismissed.
These victims, like all of us, had dreams and goals they wanted to uphold. They had jobs, pursued the things they wanted and fought for their own advocacies. These people did not deserve the things that happened to them. They did not deserve to have their lives taken violently.
These are some of the trans people the world lost in 2020:
- Lexi was a 33-year-old transgender woman who lived in New York. According to reports, she was stabbed to death in Harlem River Park. A friend of Lexi named Lavonia Parks shared that she had a beautiful heart and spent her time doing makeup, poetry and fashion.
- Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos was only 32 years old when she was killed in Puerto Rico. Reports stated she was murdered alongside Layla Pelaez Sánchez. Ramos was visiting the island during her vacation and planned to return to Queens by the end of the month. Shortly after a month after her death, two men were charged with federal hate crimes.
- Brayla Stone was a 17-year-old Black transgender girl kill who was killed in Little Rock, Arkansas. She was just a child who had a whole life ahead of her. Stone had lots of dreams and plans that she could’ve reached if her life wasn’t taken.
Lack of legal protection
One of the key issues that the transgender community face is the lack of legal protection. The legal system that they face does not protect them from discrimination and inequality. In the United States, the Supreme Court Decision legally protects trans people in the workplace from discriminatory acts.
However, there is still no all-inclusive federal non-discrimination law that includes gender identity. This means that establishment owners may still refuse service to trans people when seeking dining or housing because of who they are.
In addition, some states in the country are debating or passing legislation that harms the trans community. Some laws are written to restrict trans people from accessing public bathrooms that match their gender identities. Other politicians would also form their arguments based on religious beliefs to allow inequality against the LGBTQIA++ community.
The poverty rate for trans people is high, while the rates are even staggering for trans people of colour. According to a study published by the William Institute of Law, around 29% of trans adults and 39% Black trans adults live in poverty.
This is because transgender or gender non-conforming people have a hard time accessing safety nets and support that would help them overcome poverty. Some of them shared that they received horrible treatment when they visit offices, such as verbal harassment and physical assault.
Trans people, especially the youth, are also kicked out of their houses the moment they come out. They are forced to face homelessness all on their own. To make things worse, there is still a shortage of youth shelters and housing programs in the United States. These programs would be a great help to address their needs and help them recover from their daily difficulties.
Harassment and discrimination
Back when the trans community was still unrecognised and invalidated, only one-quarter of the US population openly supported trans rights. However, the support for the community skyrocketed to 62% in 2019.
Despite this huge progress, trans people face rampant discrimination, stigma and harassment up to this very day. This is because the past centuries labelled them as socially deviant, sexual predators and mentally ill, among other things. These harmful labels may have been toned down for gay men and lesbians, but slurs for trans people are still thrown by people who can’t understand them.
The kind of stigma that the community faces varies, but all of them are damaging. For instance, you’d often see public officials jump in on the anti-trans train to earn points from their constituents. You may know someone who rejects a trans person and cuts them out of their life for good upon learning about their trans identity. In worse cases, you’d meet people who like to bully and harass trans people with no regrets.
This alarming situation prevents the trans community from having the rights they deserve. Some trans people have been fired or denied a job because of who they are, while others refuse to vote in elections due to the fear of discrimination.
Lack of healthcare aid
A huge chunk of the trans community in the United States has no health insurance coverage. Because of their gender identity, they have been refused healthcare services—a kind of discrimination that puts trans lives at risk.
This is especially hard when you live in a country where there is no universal healthcare. Although this is a problem for everyone regardless of gender identity or orientation, the situation is worse for trans people. They experience higher poverty and unemployment rates, preventing them from accessing the most basic coverage.
Some transition-related treatments may not be covered by insurance like hormone therapy. In addition, since they deal with various issues like housing, harassment and safety, trans people often put medical care on the backburner.
Another issue that trans people have to deal with is identity documents. The lack of accurate identity papers can affect their entire lives, such as accessing government services, emergency housing and other matters. If you don’t have proper documentation, how are you going to travel, enrol in schools and use services vital to your survival as a person?
Most states in the country also prohibit trans people from updating their documents to fit their gender identity. Some offices may allow you to do so, but they often oblige you to provide medical evidence to prove you’ve undergone transition. This policy is discriminatory since transition treatments are extremely expensive that most trans people cannot possibly afford. Besides, not everyone in the trans community wants the same thing.
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