Every day, thousands of transgender Americans have to deal with several kinds of injustices. Whether it be trying to do basic, everyday activities, grow up in an unsupportive household, come out to family, or obtain basic healthcare, there is always trouble in the lives of transgender people. In America today, the negative stigma surrounding transgender people has begun to dissolve, and the community has acquired more support over the years, but prejudice is still awfully prevalent despite the efforts to stop it. This topic is important because transgender people are not always treated like people, when all they want is to be accepted by their families, peers, and communities, just like everyone else. Transgender Americans deserve the full rights to live that every other citizen in this country takes advantage of, and the discrimination that they face is unfair.
Transgender people are normal people who feel they were born in the wrong body, as the wrong gender, and are either female transitioning into male, or male to female. This can mean extremely expensive “top” or “bottom” surgeries that alter the person’s body to match the gender identity of the person. Gender identity is the gender that a person feels like they are, rather than the sex they were given at birth. A common condition that most trans people have is something called gender dysphoria. This is caused by distress that someone experiences because of the difference between the appearance of their body and their gender identity. Gender dysphoria is often confused with body dysmorphia, which is the mental disorder that distorts the image of one’s body and causes anxiety about one’s appearance. Although some transgender people might have both of these, they are different conditions (Callahan 2014). According to Planned Parenthood, transphobia can be defined as the “fear, hatred, disbelief, or mistrust of people who are transgender,” though it is most commonly characterized by bullying. It can take many forms and cause the victims issues such as depression, suicidal thoughts or tendencies, and hopelessness. Roughly 50 percent of trans people in America have thought about committing suicide because of transphobia (Ettachfini 2016). Unfortunately, in attempts to stop trans kids from being transgender, some conservative parents choose to send their trans children to conversion therapy. Conversion therapy is a “service” given by churches or religious groups to try to change an adolescent’s sexual orientation or gender identity through electric shock, psychological conditioning, or a number of other cruel methods (2018). Several issues are common for the victims of whom are forced to participate in this continually debunked as unfunctional. According to the Human Rights Campaign, depression, anxiety, homelessness, drug use, and suicide can be the result of conversion therapy.
There are several misconceptions about the transgender community. For example, some people who are uneducated or ignorant to the topic of gender identity believe that being trans is just a phase gone through by someone who is confused about who they are, and will grow out of it. Also, contrary to popular belief, transitioning fully does not just take one simple operation; legal, social, and personal changes are common in addition to reassignment surgeries to fully become the people they want to be. Gender reassignment surgeries can be difficult to schedule due to lack of funds or a support system from family and/or friends. Many people do not approve of trans people using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. This is because of the false belief that if trans people used the bathroom of their choice, they could be sexual predators in disguise, there to prey on young people, but this is untrue and trans people just want to use the restroom. Seventy percent of transgender people surveyed in Washington D.C. said that they received some form of backlash or harassment for using the bathroom of their choice (Wang, Soloman, Durso, McBride, & Cahill). This negative response can also lead to health concerns and embarrassment in young people. Students are more likely to develop urinary tract infections, be constipated, or have accidents at school, as a result of being afraid to using the bathroom (Ettachfini 2016).
If a trans adolescent does not have a solid group of people to be there for them while growing and transitioning, they may suffer from depression and deal with higher rates of harassment and bullying at school than children who are not trans (Ettachfini 2016). In highly extreme cases, trans kids could become suicidal, and children over 14 have taken their own lives as a result of how they were treated at home or school. An example of this is the story of Leelah Alcorn. Leelah was a transgender girl from Cincinnati, Ohio, who had felt like a girl and not a boy since the age of 4. Her parents refused to accept that she was not a boy, and rather than loving and supporting her regardless of her gender identity and sexual orientation, when Leelah was 14, they sent her to conversion therapy after she came out to them. “My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to Christian therapists (who were all very biased), so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression,” she wrote in her suicide note, giving up hope, “I only got more Christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help (Farrell 2014).” At age 17, Leelah could not take living with parents who did not acknowledge her gender identity anymore. Leelah posted this suicide note on her Tumblr account and then took her life. In this note, Leelah wrote, “My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year,” and concluded with, “Fix society. Please.” She intended for the purpose of her death help to bring change to the way that transgender people are treated. Even after her death in 2014, her parents still call Leelah by her birth name and referred to her as their son, because of their conservative religious beliefs (Farrell 2014). Soon, her story went viral and the world became devastated about what happened to her, and furious with Leelah’s parents for neglecting their child’s needs. Soon, after her death thousands of people from around the world, including President Obama, were advocating for “Leelah’s Law.” This was meant to be a national law that would ban conversion therapy, named to immortalize both Leelah and what she wanted her death to stand for. Although people have not stopped pushing to make conversion therapy, in all its forms illegal, and seven states and several U.S. cities have passed laws that protect minors from conversion therapy, Leelah’s Law has unfortunately not yet been passed (2018).
A lot of trans people feel the direct effects of the current situation in this country. For example, Thomas, a transgender high school student at Bay City Central says that he has noticed that the trans community today is “better than it was, but still not good at all,” referring to the injustices and discrimination faced by himself and his peers. On a daily basis, Thomas has to deal with any combination of rude comments that intend to invalidate him, people who do not understand that he is a person, and those who choose to remain ignorant. He says that he feels genuinely scared for the future, because President Trump wants to make it even harder than it already is currently for trans people to legally change their names and gender marks. Thomas plans to move in with his boyfriend’s family over the next summer because he is incredibly uncomfortable around his family, who has not supported him since coming out. It is not right that Thomas, who has not even graduated yet has to find another place to live because he lives in a household that chooses not to support him.
The topic of transgender rights is complicated because it has many parts and layers. First, there is the issue of the way that transgender people are treated in society, and too often, as a result of prejudice, it turns violent. A survey carried out in 2015 by the National Center for Transgender Equality showed that 1 in 10 transgender people in America face violence from a family member after coming out, and that 46 percent of trans citizens in this country were verbally abused in the year before the survey took place. Second, transgender people sometimes have trouble with legal matters such as marriage, or obtaining healthcare. Trans people can have trouble accessing a marriage license that contains the gender they identify as on it, because some states do not allow for people to change their legal sex. Healthcare can also be difficult to attain because in several U.S. states, it is legal to deny trans people coverage for basic preventative care that everyone else has easier access to. Third, transgender Americans are more likely to be unemployed or homeless. About one in four trans people have reported losing a job due to workplace discrimination, and since there is no federal law prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, it is completely legal (Passy 2018).
It is true that many people disapprove of people being transgender at all. Some of these people believe that God made men and women in a certain way, and to be transgender is to go against what He intended. Of course, it is not wrong to be religious and to follow that religion’s ideology, but some religious groups fight against the very existence of transgender people. For example, an organization who promotes strict, conservative views, called Focus on the Family does not believe in “transgender theology” because it contradicts Christian ideals and scriptures (2018). On the topic of raising trans children, they support the idea of conversion therapy, and urge parents raising children to have them act more feminine if they were born female, and more masculine if they were born male to stop their child from becoming transgender. This company has been supported by both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence for a long time, with Pence giving occasional speeches sponsored by Focus on the Family, which shows that neither of them are friendly nor supportive toward the transgender community. Others like Ryan T. Anderson have concluded that there is no way to transition that will ever make a person whole and happy. He also believes that, “the sex of an organism is defined and identified by the way in which it (he or she) is organized for sexual reproduction,” or in other words, the gender determined at birth should be permanent for the reason of sexual reproduction. This assumes that all people want kids, as some of them surely do not, and it is wrong to think that a person’s sole purpose in life is to reproduce. Still, it is Anderson’s belief that trans men are will always be masculine women, and trans women will always be feminine men (Anderson 2018). This is simply not true because they do exist and can transition and be happy.
These beliefs, however, can be dangerous to the trans community because the people who follow anti-transgender organizations such as Focus on the Family may begin to have transphobic views, believe that trans people don’t exist, or be verbally or physically abusive toward them, which as mentioned before, can increase rates of depression and suicidal thoughts or tendencies in victims. If large groups of people continue to be transphobic, the current climate for transgender people could continue to get worse, and transgender erasure could persist, and the number of trans people who are killed, or commit suicide could increase greatly. Transgender people are just people, and they are valid, and deserve equality.
In conclusion, the topic of transgender rights is important and should be talked about more because many people do not realize all the misconceptions that are believed by the ignorant, mistreatment of trans people and youth that occurs, and the everyday things that trans people endure, while trying to be equal to people who are not transgender. There is a battle that most transgender people and allies to the trans community must fight for equality, and they will not stop fighting until it is achieved.