About a couple of weeks ago Transgender issues made its way to a Senate Briefing, the newspaper and social media sites (like twitter). While the Senate Briefing and the newspaper article probably had nothing to do with each other, I think that the discrimination, the politics around access to care, and the resilience of those who identify as transgender are all things we can get from Washington Post
article and the Senate Briefing
late last month.
According to Our bodies Ourselves, transgender is defined as “an umbrella term referring to people whose gender identity and/or gender expression does not fit their sex assigned at birth. Groups often included under the transgender umbrella are transsexuals, gender queers, people who are androgynous, and people who identify as more than one gender.” Whereas, transsexual is more narrowly defined as “a person who lives and/or identifies as a different sex from the one assigned at birth,” and include the process of changing gender presentation to bring their outward appearance in alignment with their gender identity.
In undergrad I participated in the Vagina Monologues, which I am sure many of you have seen (if not…check out vday.org
). Each year they rotate different monologues in and out of the script, the year that I participated the script included a monologue with Trans Women. I studied my lines, rehearsed them again and again and then practiced in front of friends.
But when asked, “Is your character transsexual or transgender?” I really didn’t know how to correctly answer. So, I did what I always do…I researched and asked questions.
Come to find out, in the Monologue, each of us represented a woman with a unique story in her process of transitioning. “They Beat the Girl Out Of My Boy”
spoke directly to the issues Trans Women face. This monologue was two-fold, bringing awareness to transgender discrimination and making the voices of transgender women heard.
In the same year, I registered for Black Sexual Politics. Not knowing exactly what I had signed up for, the title was intriguing. By the end of the year we had discussed everything from stereotypes of sexuality to LGBTQ (or what I have called TLGQB) issues and the effects one’s identity has on their sexuality, health, and media. He made it clear that the sexual stereotypes, that of the jezebel, the welfare queen, the mammy, and the matriarch are not only inherently tied to female sexuality but that they have political influence as well. But the one thing that I took from the class is his discussion about TLGBQ issues. On campus or at least in the UHS (University Health Services) we always talked about TLGBQ with the L in front. So, when I asked my professor why he put the T in front, his statement was simple but it stuck with me…because Transgender people are the most misrepresented and discriminated against and they are often thought of as just another addition to the collective term LGBQ without acknowledgment of the different issues and obstacles they face.
So with this, the Senate Briefing “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey” reinforced what my professor had said to me over a year ago. While all the statistics presented were rather alarming, two things the presenters said stuck out to me. First, 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide compared to the 1.6% of the general population, and not only were the rates of HIV+ transgender individual higher than the national average, but within the Black community 1 in 4 were HIV positive. And the assumption is made that transgender folks don’t exist in our various communities
, they do, and need jobs and affordable health care just like everyone else.
Also, Washington Post
published an article about a kid, who's only five but clearly understood that his body didn’t match up with his gender identity. Tyler, born biologically as a girl, insisted by age 2 that he was a boy. Ultimately bringing awareness to his family and community about what it means to be transgender over the course of three years. After the article was published, the columnist Petula Dvrak said she received many emails for parents, teachers, and transgender people alike relating to Tyler’s story.
Within the couple of weeks there is been positive dialogue and education on the issues facing the transgender community and I hope that this doesn’t phase out, but that it continues.