Photo by Denin Lawley.
“This is what courage is. It’s not just living through the nightmare, it’s doing something with it afterward. It’s being brave enough to talk about it to other people. It’s trying to organize to change things.” — Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues
The people of the transgender community are facing two major battles: a personal battle, fought in everyday survival, and a communal battle, for rights and representation on local, national and global levels. The obstacles keeping them from obtaining their goals were not haphazardly placed, but purposefully introduced to keep gender non-conforming people in the margins of society and to discourage any action that might endanger the binary system in place. These hurdles are many and affect every aspect of transgender health and well-being, making it almost impossible to achieve stability, let alone success.
Disenfranchisement in Healthcare
One of the biggest obstacles facing the transgender community is the lack of accessible or affordable healthcare. The Human Rights Campaign says as much as 25% of people who identify as Trans, have been refused or turned down healthcare services by their doctor or insurance.
The sad truth is medical coverage or a willing doctor — thank you Planned Parenthood — doesn’t always help when life-saving medications, therapy and procedures are made unaffordable. This study by the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law looks in-depth at the statistics behind the financial disadvantages various groups within the LGBTQ+ community face and how inaccessible necessities — like decent healthcare —become as a result.
Transitioning in itself is a demanding process that requires professional oversight in a medical setting to be done safely and effectively; to deny the trans community healthcare, is to deny them the affirmation and validation that comes from that process and endangers countless people to fatal risks.
Disenfranchisement in Legal Protection
The earliest cases of the word “transgender” appearing in legal cases did not appear until the 1960s, but the systemic process of diminishing the Transgender community dates back to early colonization of the New World. Within indigenous society and culture, gender non-conforming and intersex people were distinguished and respected under the label Two-Spirit. European colonizers, through violence and intimidation, persecuted those that did not abide by the new norms.
To this day, no federal legislation is in place to protect those outside of the gender binary from discrimination. As a result, and despite state-level legislation slowly becoming more inclusive, the Trans community is not completely safe from discrimination in relation to employment, housing, and education. Hopefully, the Equality Act finally changes that.
Another often overlooked side to legal protection is how long and arduous the process of changing legal documents can be. Many Transgender people find themselves stuck with important documents or means of identification that do not present them the way they identify and can make situations anywhere from awkward to impossible. The process is costly and often requires some sort of medical approval, which makes for a stressful and discouraging experience.
Disenfranchisement in Social Stigma
Social Stigma is the most general way in which the Trans community is discriminated against, and it’s the most relatable form of discrimination faced by the various groups within the LGBTQIA community. Every day is a little bit harder to get through when you know that people from everyday citizens to politicians (I am looking at you Marjorie Taylor-Greene) are aggressively against giving you respect, let alone access to basic human rights. It’s discouraging to know that only 30% of Trans Women are accepted by women’s shelters, or that just 30% of people in this country can say they know someone that is Trans, but these are truths we must understand to better combat. Yes, change needs to happen at the federal level, but for many Trans people, the struggles that make life so hard would be greatly relieved by an accepting community and local support. Leslie Feinberg, says it best:
“Genuine bonds of solidarity can be forged between people who respect each other's differences and are willing to fight their enemy together. We are the class that does the work of the world, and can revolutionize it. We can win true liberation.” — Transgender Liberation: A Movement Whose Time Has Come