Transgender Awareness Week has rolled around once again. This internationally recognised LGBTQ event is a chance for transgender folks to make their struggles known. The week ends with Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual day to look back in horror, disgust and sadness at the lives of transgender people who've been taken from our world for living as their authentic selves.
However, I'd like to propose something to you. Transgender violence and bigotry is on the rise. Organisations like GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign both note that murders committed against transgender folks have skyrocketed - particularly against trans women of colour. Around 70% of violence against trans people is against women of colour. Religious hatred, online trolling, right-wing attacks, and totally false and fear mongering news articles from our biggest news sources are commonplace in Australia, during a time when LGBTQ acceptance should be at an all time high. I mean, the marriage equality campaign was a success. The average Australian seems relatively accepting of same-sex couples. Yet, transphobia seems to have only become more intense and more prevalent in our society. We seem to have lost allies along the way and made those against us despise us even more so.
Could it be because of awareness? Are we too aware? Transphobes certainly seem far too aware of us at the moment.
I don't believe for a second that it is sheer coincidence that visibility into LGBTQ issues - transgender issues, in particular - and the sharp increase of bigotry, verbal harassment, and physical violence have aligned. Public debate into the very existence of LGBTQ individuals has brought us into the forefront of the minds of people who had probably never thought about the community before. Now, average parents fear transgender kids who are supposedly having their genitalia mutilated. They fear anti-bullying programs that mention gay love and gender diversity because that may very well turn their child into a homosexual. Some women fear that they will be assaulted in a bathroom by a 'man in a dress', despite the fact transgender people generally don't commit those sorts of crimes. Athletes now fear their titles will be taken from them by transgender competitors who are pretending to be transgender in order to do better in their chosen sport. It seems that the hyper awareness of transgender people in the media is turning the entire world against us.
What we need isn't more awareness. It is understanding that we are people just trying to live. It is caring that we are being murdered for trying to live. Finally, it is showing humanity in the face of an anti-trans tidal wave that is pervasive in every form of media at the moment; from comedy shows, to the news, to sports reports, to those letters to the editor from total strangers who just want to say "well, I think…"
I do believe that Transgender Day of Remembrance is an incredibly moving event that holds significant value to the LGBTQ community and our allies, please don't get me wrong. I also believe that Transgender Awareness Week does serve an important purpose. But, I hope in the future that this week can focus less on the awareness of trans people existing, and more on helping.
What does helping look like?
Make a post on social media indicating that you are a safe person for trans folks to be around - after all, you never know who could be in the closet in your life. Knowing you're an LGBTQ ally means if and when they do come out, they know that you will be a supporter. Maybe talk to your co-workers or friends about transgender issues. Put up a poster at your place of employment or school explaining pronouns or gender diversity. All these small gestures can be helpful. Most importantly, check in with your transgender friends and family. Are they okay? Do they need support? Are they safe right now? Asking these questions means a lot more than merely stating that trans people exist.
Aren't we aware?
Written by Finnian Danger. Finnian is a genderqueer person living on the outskirts of Hobart with his partner, his four cats, and his giant self-sustainble veggie garden. For several years he worked as an LGBTQ youth support person, and now hosts Tasmania's only LGBTQ radio program, Bent Air.
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