While liberal gay rights advocates celebrate the recent marriage equality victories in states like Nebraska and Florida, another much more deadly battle is being fought without a fraction of the media attention. Just two months into 2015 and there have been at least seven verified murders of trans women in the United States.
Trans people, specifically black trans women, face disproportional levels of hate and fatal violence. Even after passing away transgender people are further disrespected and misgendered. Seventeen-year-old Leelah Alcorn, who committed suicide after enduring long periods of isolation and conversion therapy, was buried in boys clothing and referred to by her birth name at her own funeral.
Mostly thanks to offensive media representation and a lack of actual education, transgender people face rejection and downright hurtful behavior their by peers. A trans person is anyone who was assigned a gender at birth that does not match with his or her true gender identity. They are not cross-dressing or pretending, and insinuating either of these things is highly offensive. A trans woman is a woman, and a trans man is a man. End of story.
Let’s go over some basic vocabulary. Cisgendered, usually shortened to cis, means that a person feels comfortable with the gender that they were assigned at birth, and usually has never felt any disconnect between how others view them and who they truly are. Transphobia, as you can probably guess, is a dislike or prejudice against trans people, and transmisogyny is the specific form of misogyny that trans women face.
Sadly, there are a lot of misconceptions about trans people. But if you just take a few minutes and a Google search you can sufficiently educate yourself on the bare minimum of the subject. Blaming your actions on ignorance is understandable up to a certain age, but at some point everyone has to become and adult and take accountability for their own actions and how they affect other people. Just because you didn’t mean to offend someone doesn’t mean it hurt them any less. A small commitment of time and a willingness to admit your mistakes and learn from others is all it takes to learn to be a kinder person.
As long as you understand one simple thing you will be fine: a trans person should be treated with the same respect you show any cis person. This means calling them by their name, using their pronouns, respecting their gender, and not asking any personal questions about their bodily autonomy. Move your own curiosity and instincts to crack a joke on the backburner and ask yourself, as a cis person who will never have to face disproportional oppression and violence based on your gender identity, is the safety and wellbeing of a trans person less important than your right to say whatever insensitive thought that comes to your mind? The answer should emphatically be no.
Let’s remember the trans lives lost already in 2015 and make the best effort possible to ensure a future where trans people do not have to live in fear. Rest in peace: Goddess Edwards, Lamia Beard, Ty Underwood, Leelah Alcorn, Yazmin Vash Payne, Taja DeJesus, Penny Proud, Bri Golec, Kristina Gomez Reinwald, and Sumaya Ysl. You will be missed.