November Is Transgender Awareness Month

November Is Transgender Awareness Month

November is Transgender Awareness Month, and November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day dedicated to remembering the lives of transgender people lost in anti-trans violence. It’s important to revisit some of the events that have occurred in history and the present-day, in order to get a better understanding about some of the issues that are happening now.

Let’s take a look at some of the statistics about transgender violence and discrimination order to take news into context. A 2011 study incorporating gathered census statistics states that 700,000 people in America identify as transgender, although some researchers believe that the figure soars higher than that. According to the International Transgender Day of Remembrance website, 73 trans* people have been killed in acts of anti-transgender violence so far in 2015. In the U.S., a report released by Human Rights Campaign and Trans People of Color Coalition stated that 21 trans women had been killed since the year started, and all were women of color. Just this week, Congress held a forum on acts of violence against transgender people.

In recent years, there have been some prolific coming-out stories: Chelsea Manning, who was convicted in 2013 of espionage for leaking almost 750,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks, began her transition in prison this year. Caitlyn Jenner, a former Olympian and reality TV star, came out in June 2015.

It could appear as if things are looking up – some all-women’s colleges are beginning to accept transgender women, transgender people are allowed to serve openly in the military now, and some public schools are beginning to provide gender-nonconforming bathrooms, or allow trans people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. On paper, this is all a move in the right direction, institutionally. However, the reality is still uglier than that.

Many remember the death of Leelah Alcorn, a 17-year-old transgender girl who committed suicide and posted a note on micro-blogging platform Tumblr pleading for readers to become more aware of the personal factors that affect many trans women. While some of us may live in areas that are more accepting of people of different gender identities and sexual orientation, many do not. It can be especially difficult for people like Alcorn, who grew up in a conservative family who cites religion as a factor for not supporting their daughter and as a result, inflicted psychological harm on her.

Even with families who do support trans people, communities may not be as accepting. This can manifest in microaggressions, which are unintentional statements or actions that come off to the receiving individual as a slight on their behalf, such as calling someone a “tranny” or saying “no homo.” While we may characterize a microaggression simply as being one off-color remark in an entire conversation, what we may forget is that those insults pile up over time. When your behavior and actions are treated negatively, even for a second, those moments can stick with you for a long time.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to transgender visibility and issues. We can clear the pathway for better legislation and institutions, but we must keep in mind that it is also these micro-scale interactions that contribute to the culture of inclusivity in our society. There are vast amounts of resources for us to utilize when learning more about social movements and issues, and it is up to us to use them well as compassionate human beings.

Cover image courtesy of Frontiers Media.