From Curt Schilling to the anti-trans laws sweeping the south, it seems acceptance of trans people is in jeopardy just as we hoped it might be improving
Over the last few years, trans people have been visible like never before, with several television shows and reality series showcasing their lived experience. More people are coming out, too, sparking dialogues at schools, workplaces and homes. That increased cultural prominence has led to more acceptance than ever, yes, but also to an uncloaking of an ongoing strain of anti-trans prejudice and hatred.
Curt Schillings vile remarks, for which he has rightly been fired from ESPN, are part of this. So are the new anti-LGBT but particularly anti-trans laws that have been proposed recently. With them, weve been reminded that the southern United States still has not shaken its legacy of intolerance and moral panic when it comes to the inclusion and equality of anyone who isnt straight, white and Christian.
There are a host of proposed laws across the south that, if passed, would limit our civil rights over 100 active anti-LGBT bills in 22 US states. They range from bathroom bills, like the one just passed to keep trans people from using the correct restroom in North Carolina, to giving sweeping authority to deny services or jobs to LGBT people in Mississippi. Kansas introduced bathroom legislation that would not only discriminate against transgender students but offers a $2,500 bounty for any non-trans person who catches a trans person in the restroom. Tennessee introduced a similar bathroom bill but quickly withdrew it amid a backlash from LGBT groups and supporters. However, the state introduced yet another bill that would allow counselors and therapists to reject patients if they violate sincerely held principles.
If we were to trace the origin of this recent spate of hatred, we dont have to look too far. The US supreme court affirming marriage equality last year was a huge loss to the religious right, and they needed a new cause du jour. So they picked trans people.
We already suffered disproportionate prejudice just for existing. Despite the Laverne Coxes and Caitlyn Jenners of the world, the number or trans murders last year was the most ever recorded: there were more trans people killed in the first six months of 2015 than in all of 2014. James Dixon was sentenced just this week to 12 years in prison on Tuesday for fatally beating Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old trans woman, after flirting with her not knowing she was transgender.
So while a few trans celebrities have built some awareness, the rest of us are dealing with the pushback that awareness caused. We are still fighting for our lives, and even for the humblest of rights: to pee in peace. The bathroom bills, which would force trans people to use the restroom of the gender they were assigned at birth, rather than the one that aligns with their gender identity, are the most notorious, because they are enacted as a supposed protection against sexual predators (ie, they keep men out of womens bathrooms).
This is nothing but irrational fear-mongering and hatred of trans folks. There is no data to suggest violence or harassment by transgender people against non-trans folks in restrooms. Not to mention, the sight of burly bearded transgender men sharing a ladies room with the women those bills are protecting is more unnerving than fabricated fears of transgender women preying on others.
Its also the opposite of what actually happens. According to a 2013 survey conducted by the Williams Institute in Washington DC, there is more reason for trans people to feel endangered in public toilets: the survey shows that 70% of transgender and gender non-conforming participants experienced some type of harassment there by non-trans people. These bills are only giving non-trans people the right to continue to target us with impunity even though its non-trans men who are statistically most dangerous; nearly one out of five women in the US surveyed in 2011 experienced sexual assault at the hands of one.
So while bathroom laws reinforce archaic ideas that transgender people, particularly trans women, exist to deceive and manipulate, that reinforcement is the opposite of the truth, steeped in misogyny and trans antagonism.
Im proud that so many transgender people are coming out and speaking up, but we cant become complacent. The pushback to our increased demand to be acknowledged and respected is just as aggressive as we are unapologetic.
Visibility clearly isnt enough to move the cultural needle towards more inclusion and equality, though it is a start in the right direction. We must continue to fight to be celebrated for our intersecting experiences, respected for our gender identity, and take up space wherever we deem necessary; in the classroom, boardroom and even in the restroom.
Read more: www.theguardian.com