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I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
Trans people – and I am using the term in its broadest sense, inclusive of gender fluidity and nonbinary identities – tend to have a pretty short list of wants. Really, I can boil it down to one simple statement: we just want to live our lives.
Of course, I mean that literally: the rates of anti-trans violence and murder are sky high, and many of us simply don’t get a chance to live our lives to their natural end. That’s even more common for those of us who are parts of other marginalized communities, and who are dealing with multiple, intersecting layers of oppression.
It’s more than simply a matter of life and death, even though that is the clearest example. One can live a life without being able to live it to its fullest, and this is what trans people face most often in this world.
Indeed, much like those fighting against reparative therapy and for abortion rights, many of us also just want the right to do with our bodies what we want to. We’re not interested in telling others what to do with theirs without their consent.
For a lot of us, we want to be accepted for who we are, how we present and how we identify. We want to be heard when we tell you who we are, a right most people enjoy without question. We want the right to simply be recognized for who we are.
It’s a simple question of equality, and an understanding that we truly are who we say we are.
Understand, trans people don’t come to their identities easily. While it may seem an instantaneous event for those who are not transgender, understand that you simply haven’t known the soul searching and occasional torment your trans siblings have faced for years, sometimes decades.
If you listen to the voices of anti-transgender activists from all stripes, you’ll hear stories about how we’re going to assault women in bathrooms, or are trying to force people to sleep with us, or are even attempting to force children to undergo hormone treatment and surgery.
You should recognize each of those arguments: they are the same ones that were made up to use against the gay and lesbian community back in the 1970s and 1980s. It’s that same old, tired notion of “recruitment” that was discredited so many decades ago, with “transgender” freshly scribbled in the place “homosexual” was before.
To be transgender today is to navigate in a world that can be openly hostile to you. We are targets of harassment and violence at epidemic levels. We are openly mocked, and despised by people on the right and left.
We face an administration that is now adding a rollback of transgender health care standards to go along with its attempts to shut trans people out of the military, out of schools and out of housing. We are facing a constant erosion of our rights at the federal level.
This is, of course, a situation that is not unique to transgender people, especially in these retrogressive times, where racism, xenophobia, sexism, anti-Semitism and so many other horrors have bubbled up to the surface once more.
What does make transgender people somewhat different is that we also often face the same ill will from other minority groups.
Some days I feel a bit like a broken record, or whatever analogy applies in a post-LP world. You see, I have been a transgender activist now for nearly 25 years, and a lot of the ways I explain being transgender were used for decades before I came around. None of this is new, and yet so much still has to be explained, over and over.
I wonder if maybe the trans community hasn’t stated clearly enough who we are and what we want. Nothing I’ve said above is unique to me, nor is any of it markedly different from what myself and other activists have articulated before.
I find myself pondering if perhaps some are being deliberately obtuse, and no amount of explanation will help. I know there are many on the extremes who will never be won over, who have taken a supposedly radical stance against the rights of other human beings, but I also feel that there are some who may harbor less severe opinions on trans people, yet feel no need to evolve on their opinions.
If you, dear reader, are one of these folks: now is the time to change. I want you to take a moment and reread the beginning of this column. You’ll find nothing in there that is especially far-fetched. The goals of transgender people are, quite frankly, not that unusual, and – I suspect – are desires you share.
Here’s one more secret: trans people living our lives doesn’t take anything away from you. Our existence, and our right to be, doesn’t stop you from being able to be the person you are – with one exception. We only ask that you understand that we are not here for your scorn. Of course, I hope that you don’t have any derision for trans people, and that we can help you see where we’re coming from.
The thing is, we’re living in challenging times, and we’re all going to have to rely on each other. We don’t have the luxury of ignorance, and we need to have each other’s backs more than ever. Those who wish to roll back trans rights are counting on your silence and acquiescence and desire our inability to work together most of all.
Let’s not give it to them.
Gwen Smith lacks any really juicy secrets, except for that one time. You can find her at www.gwensmith.com.