transgender Issues across america hit home at hillcrest
by: sokhna fall, '19
My identity is not a choice, it is me being inclined to my individuality, which I have every given right.”
- “Michael”, a transgender Hillcrest student whose name we changed for privacy
Transgender people originate from all walks of life. They are dads and moms, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. They are our coworkers, and our neighbors. They are a diverse community, representing all faith, racial, and ethnic backgrounds, facing a deep and brutal oppression due to their courage and strength, which resides in their refusal to suppress their true identities and individuality.
They are also our fellow students. A growing population of transgender students are emerging inside of Hillcrest High School. “Michael” is one transgender sophomore willing to share the heartbreaking story of his struggles. He chooses to remain anonymous in this article, revealing the personal difficulties he faced exposing his true self to his parents, friends, and classmates.
Discrimination against those of the trans-community is universal. They still face endless shame and neglect based on centuries of being characterized as mentally ill and socially deviant. Although these misleading views have faded in recent years for lesbians and gay men, transgender people still receive ridicule from a society that does not even respect them enough to begin to understand them.
“It took me such a long time to feel comfortable with myself and who I am, and to understand why people hated me so much for it, but it seems that people fear change now more than ever. They are not accepting of anything that opposes what they are accustomed to,” Michael said. Inescapable situations of harassment and bullying, as well as verbal and physical violence, are committed against transgenders everywhere in all types of environments, even those that are intended to be socially friendly such as school.
The persecution of transgenders exists in a variety of contexts. They fall vulnerable to those of high diplomatic power, who attempt to leverage anti-transgender propaganda to score cheap political points. In addition, their very own family and friends, those who have raised, loved, and cherished them their whole lives just as easily reject them upon learning of their true transgender distinction.
Michael’s parents themselves are trans-phobic and have struggled with his change. His parents grew up poor overseas and migrated illegally here to America. They claim that their adversity in that struggle far outweighs what Michael deals with from his peers. “They believe that I have it easier, and that their obstacles overpower mine. I am a member of the trans community, and the pain I feel from the never-ending parade of discrimination and intolerance from the transphobic is just as atrocious,” Michael said.
Michael states that religion, and the negative light in which it portrays the trans-community, plays a huge role in their rejection and discrimination. “People want to believe that they are correct, and that their faith is honest and displays what the model of a good person should be. Consistently having a front row seat to the very actions that their religion goes against is what makes them believe that their hatred and mistreatment of others is justified.” As an example, Michael refers to one of the worst massacres in U.S history which occurred at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, claiming the lives of 50 gay, lesbian, and transgender people and injuring 53 others.
Michael also believes that the only way in which we can solve these issues is through attempting to educate others. “Issues like this can only be resolved through adopting the concept of ‘stepping into someone else's shoes’ in order to perceive life through their perspective, and become more knowledgeable and understanding.”
Nevertheless, the effects of trans-phobia begin early. According to the article "Facing our problem with transphobia and violence," it is often harder for transgender people to receive an education, as bullying results in depression, and many drop out of school earlier and more frequently than the rest of the population. Transgender people are also more likely to struggle with finding and keeping employment, with over 15 percent making less than $10,000 a year.
Transgender people are also less likely than the rest of the LGBT community to seek medical attention. Expenses related to transitioning can be very high, and they are not covered under many healthcare plans. In addition, it can be virtually impossible to find a trans-friendly health care provider, making it even harder to get regular medical attention. According to transequality.org, transgender people also have high rates of homelessness: 11 percent report having been evicted solely because of their gender identity, and yet only eighteen U.S states have protections in place against trans-phobic housing discrimination.
While advocates continue working to remedy these disparities and inhumane actions of social terrorism, change cannot come soon enough for transgender people. Visibility (especially positive images of transgender people in the media and society) continues to make a critical difference, but is not enough and comes with real risks to their safety, especially for those who are part of other marginalized minorities.
Sadly, these issues have reached intense peaks not only in the United States, but internationally, that force us to question whether we will ever be able to fully abolish transgender discrimination on a global scale. In Malaysia, there is no legislation expressly allowing transsexuals to legally change their gender, as their government even refuses to amend the gender of a transsexual on their identity card and birth certificate. In Senegal, homosexuality, as well as transgender actions, are outlawed and even punishable by years of imprisonment or even death. Same goes for Guinea, Uganda, Burkina Faso, Niger, and endless other countries.
No. There is no easy or quick solution for this, but transphobia is an issue that we can do something about. We can make an effort to stop misgendering transgender people. We can speak up when we see harassment or discrimination. We can object to transphobic policies, and make it plain that such ideas will not be tolerated. These may be little things, but they are also actions that we as individuals can do to spark some change. We must commit to continuing to support and advocate for the transgender community, so that transgender Americans who are and will become your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family members, have an equal chance to succeed and thrive. It is time to pull ourselves together and recognize that our reflection extends far beyond the white, straight, able-bodied, cisgender, neurotypical, male ideal.
It’s time for America to make room for everyone. It’s time to grow up. It’s time to listen. Like it or not, those of us who don’t fit within that inane ideal are already here, standing their ground and constructing their own definitions and aspirations of greatness, for the generations of bold and unrelenting transgenders like Michael to come.