Defending My Transgender Friends and Countrymen
During his State of the Union address in January 2015, President Barack Obama stated:
"As Americans, we respect human dignity… That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender."
Since then, there has been a great deal of upheaval in our country. We have a new president that has a less than 40% approval rating, a Congress that is moving to dismantle policies that were put in place during a more liberal administration, and earlier this week - the removal of protections for transgender people to use the bathroom that matches their identity.
Much has changed.
However, my beliefs on the matter (and those of many other people) have not. We still respect human dignity. And today - I want to address some of the arguments against transgender people that I have heard over the past few weeks.
Aren't Transgender People Just Confused?
First off, let's define what transgender means. From the Center for Equality:
"Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity vary from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth. Gender identity is someone’s internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or as someone outside of that gender binary)... So most transgender people seek to bring their bodies more into alignment with their gender identity."
Other terms that transgender people may use are (but not limited to) transsexual and genderqueer. The best policy is to ask what people want to be referred as, as well as their gender pronouns.
Transgender People Are Crazy / Sexual Deviants.
Not true. Transgender people are just that - PEOPLE. They have the same brains, emotions, and ambitions as everyone else. Just because their identity doesn't match their birth certificate doesn't mean that they have a mental illness or engage in criminal behavior.
People Will Use This to Assault People in the Bathroom.
Unlikely. In the states that have prohibited discrimination in public accommodations, there has been no affect on assaults or complaints. Surprisingly, people just need to pee. In fact, violence is ALWAYS a crime, no matter why someone claims to enter a restroom.
According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, "transgender respondents who experienced rejection by family and friends, discrimination, victimization, or violence have a higher risk of attempting suicide. 78% of survey respondents who suffered physical or sexual violence at school reported suicide attempts, as did 65% of respondents who experienced violence at work."
And this doesn't bring to light the fact that transgender people are more at risk for housing discrimination, find it hard to become employed, and are seven times more likely to experience violence in interactions with the police.
This isn't really about bathrooms though - this article helps to explain that this is really about not allowing transgender people the human dignity of being in the public sphere.
What We Can Do
So, what can we do to support those that are affected by the withdrawal of federal transgender protections today? First, you can see if you live in one of the states that have transgender protections on the books. If you don't, call your representatives to fight to become one. Second, make sure you support those around you that may be transgender. And third, keep an open mind and always stay curious.