So a friend posted an article from Bustle that made me realize that, at least as far as the blog goes, I’m not doing my due diligence in terms of intersectional feminism. (This sentence makes me sad on multiple levels; first, because it means I’m not doing my best at being an intersectional feminist, but also because the founder of Bustle is a misogynist ass, so if his site can make me feel bad something is seriously wrong.) The article, quite bluntly, stated that if you went to the Women’s March, if you consider yourself a feminist, you have to stand up for trans rights as well. And the article is absolutely correct.
Feminism is not feminism if it is not about equality for all, and fighting for trans rights plays a crucial role in that. We not only need to put our money where our mouth is in terms of talking about equal rights, human rights, and gender justice, we also have to make up for the damage caused by trans-exclusionary radical feminists (also known as TERFs) who have actively sought to exclude and harm trans individuals in the name of feminism. TERFs have used doxxing and outing as weapons against trans individuals, as well as working to exclude trans individuals from medical care, housing, and other accommodations and protections. They are actually allies of the far right when it comes to things like bathroom bills. Their work, and their legacy, is something that intersectional feminists have to fight against and make up for.
Overall we’re seeing an actual move backward for trans rights instead of forward movement. Most recently, Trump withdrew protection and guidance put in place by the Obama administration that told schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice. Being able to use the bathroom of your choice is both an issue of identity and an issue of safety. The safety of trans individuals is being put in danger thanks to outdated, alarmist, and honestly condescending histrionics about trans “predators” who would use the ability to go to the bathroom of their choosing in order to sexually prey on bathroom goers. (You’ll notice that these hypothetical victims are almost always women, because even when conservatives are creating boogeymen, they can’t conceive of women not being victims.) The fact that these bills are based on irrational fear and gender stereotypes is made clear when, for example, you see a conservative talking head splutter while asked what bathroom Laverne Cox should use, but it is also important to remember that there are a multitude of trans individuals who do not have “passing privilege” (aka do not fit into norms regarding gendered appearance) and there are non-binary individuals who don’t feel comfortable identifying with any gender. All of these people should feel safe going to the bathroom, and should not feel as if they should have to somehow prove themselves before peeing.
Of course things are grave outside of the bathroom as well; just in 2017 so far, six transgender women have been murdered. (Edit: When I started writing this on Wednesday night, six transgender women had been murdered this year. When I woke up on Thursday morning, that number was seven, after it was revealed that misgendering by police and media had obscured the fact that Jaquarrius Holland was part of the alarmingly-growing list of murdered transgender women.) All of these women were women of color—two of them, Ciara Gibson and Chyna Gibson/Chyna Doll Dupree, died within a two-day span just in New Orleans. Transgender women of color are at the highest risk of violence, with black trans women between the ages of 15 and 34 being between 8 and 39 times as likely to be murdered as cisgender women in the same age group. One in two trans individuals will either be assaulted or sexually abused within their lifetime. According to the Office for Victims of Crime, “12 percent of transgender youth report being sexually assaulted in K–12 settings by peers or educational staff.” School. You mean that place where the trans kids are supposed to be somehow threatening the cisgender kids by being able to use the restroom?
And as always, there is more. Only 15 states prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Many health insurance programs deny coverage to transgender individuals, which can raise the rates for both poverty and suicide for trans individuals. Trans and gender non-conforming individuals attempt suicide at four times the rate of the general population; Luke Malone reports, “According to surveys, 4.6 percent of the overall U.S. population has self-reported a suicide attempt, with that number climbing to between 10 and 20 percent for lesbian, gay or bisexual respondents. By comparison, 41 percent of trans or gender non-conforming people surveyed have attempted suicide.” The election of The Orange One has unleashed a new wave (or uncovered an old wave) of transphobia in the form of both violence and hateful rhetoric. Discrimination is likely to only grow worse, and it is vital that everyone with a stake in equality (which means, you know, everyone) steps up their game in combating this discrimination.
It is not enough to care about feminist issues only when they affect you personally—you must care for all of the issues that impact gender equality and human rights. Mia Mercado presents an excellent game plan for ways that you can support trans rights that includes donating to programs that work for transgender rights, calling out transphobia when you see it (if I see one more show where someone gets “tricked” by the fact that their date used to be the opposite gender, I will scream forever), staying informed on issues that affect transgender rights, but most importantly, being a good ally by listening to trans individuals, amplifying their voices, and sharing their stories and work. The National Center for Transgender Equality also has an excellent guide on how to be a good ally. You shouldn’t only care about injustice when it directly affects you. But you also shouldn’t drown out the voices of the people who are actually experiencing the injustice when you try to help. Being an ally doesn’t mean condescendingly taking part in the fight for the rights of others and expecting to be patted on the back for it, and it doesn’t mean riding in as a savior figure. It means feeling that the fight for the rights of others is also your own fight, and working to understand the issues and to listen to the experiences of others. In order for us to really move forward with intersectional feminism, we all need to become better allies.
Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week In Tomorrow. When she’s not standing up for trans rights, she studies gender in popular culture.
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