Transphobia in the United States is on the rise, both among the populace and policymakers. You can’t browse the news without stumbling into debates over the legitimacy of trans lives — literally whether we should be granted the privilege of being allowed to exist. Trans rights are seen as a terror, something to fear and revile. Much uproar is given in the name of protecting the children, and yet little is given about trans kids forced into the wrong puberty.
Bills in Ohio are being proposed in the state Congress that are specifically targeting trans folk. Rep. Gary Click is pushing for mandated conversion therapy of trans minors, Rep. Jena Powell is trying to ban trans athletes from participating in youth sports and others are trying to prohibit trans folk from using the bathroom that they identify with. These bills are only increasing in number as time goes on.
It’s only getting worse, and with political spearheads like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis jumping on Fox News to warn of “woke” evils supposedly plaguing the nation, it’s easy to become fearful. What exactly is going to happen to us? It’s a question without an easy answer, and as much as optimism is desired right now, in many parts of the country, there’s no place for it. There’s only survival — making sure that we as trans people are able to continue on against every foreseeable odd stacked against us.
I’m scared. There’s no doubt about it. I wake up with endless anxiety and dread over what’s to come, constantly wondering what will happen next, what I should do, what trans people as a whole should do. And yet nobody has a solution. It’s not hard to see why; changing the mindset of millions has been something sociologists have struggled to figure out for decades. It takes great political change to do that, but I worry we’re running out of time.
This feeling follows me wherever I go. I’ve moved states several times in the past few years, and in every one I’ve felt the same over and over — will this be where I’ll meet my end, someone attacking me from the back of a beat-up Ford F-150 flying Trump flags? Or will it be because of some haphazardly designed policy at the hands of the next state’s version of Marjorie Taylor Greene?
I’m plagued by it in social interactions as well. My day job cycles through a lot of new people and every time I see a different face, I can’t help but wonder if they’ll be the one to chase me out to my car at the end of my shift and harass me, or if they’ll corner me for going into the "wrong" bathroom and threaten me.
I’ve had strangers jeer at me and call me slurs while circling me in public places. I’ve been stalked, car honking at me because of how I present. And I’ve been threatened by those I once called family. This trend seems to get worse with each passing year.
Even only just a few months ago, I found myself getting photographed and laughed at by random people with ill intent, and have had to leave public spaces for my own safety. There aren’t many places I can go without feeling unsafe, without that continuous fear.
I’d love to think that this fear isn’t justified, that it’s somehow just a product of my imagination and that I need to just shake it off with some good old fashioned therapy. The world, however, has different ideas. News articles showing the next dead trans woman pop up on my social media, repeating this same general sense of dread that I feel. A worry that one day my name will be the one mourned on the headlines. Or worse, that of someone I love.
I don’t even know my own safety in this state, as trans murders are horrifically underreported in Ohio, and all I can know is that there are dozens a year on the federal level (that we know of).
My hands haven’t been kept idle while this has been happening. I have been trying to do the work to combat transphobia around me — going to rallies, sorting out issues in my local area or just offering words of support to other trans people around me. But none of it feels like enough, because none of it is enough on its own. I can’t make a movement show up overnight. All I can do is try and contribute my small part.
Beyond small contributions to movements and scenes, I’ve been focusing on finding solutions for making sure my loved ones and I don’t get hurt in this assault on trans rights. Escape plans have been the central thing on my mind for staying protected, to places either inside the country or even outside of it. These plans aren’t ones I want to make — I don’t find any pride in them — but it’s just the reality of everything right now.
I have to make these plans. I’ve been made homeless for being transgender, and have only just worked my way out of it. The fear I felt, constantly worrying for my safety in stranger’s houses and in hotels, is not something I ever want to relive.
There are a lot of places I’ve had in mind. Outside the country, I’ve made plans for places like the Netherlands or Australia, trying to bargain the feasibility with safety in law and culture. I’ve never lived outside the U.S. before, so this thought is especially terrifying to me. Inside the country is much more comfortable, albeit a bit more worrying. New York, Oregon, Washington, California and — most realistic for me right now — Michigan have all been different places I’ve considered trying to settle if things go even more south in Ohio.
Michigan in particular is the most feasible — it's a neighbor to Ohio with more progressive policies at the state level. I also wouldn’t need to be too far from the connections I’ve made here in Ohio if I ever wanted to come by and visit those I care about.
I don’t like the thought of leaving the state again. I’ve done that too much in my life. But if society’s shift toward transphobia continues, I’ll have to find somewhere to take refuge. I can only hope that some place will take me as I am.