The following piece is dedicated to Jaida Peterson, 29, and Remy Fennell, 28, two Transgender women who were shot and killed in Charlotte, North Carolina over the last few days. For them, and our Trans siblings globally, we fight.
Being Transgender or gender expansive in the United States is living a reality of constant fear of workplace and community stigma, violence in the streets and in our homes, as well as institutionalized acts of state-sanctioned violence. To be frank, Transgender people do not need anymore allies, we need co-conspirators in the efforts for a liberated future past the sex and gender binary. We need our cis friends and family members to work with us towards a world free from institutional and social violence. While I do not wish to speak on behalf of every Transgender person - especially as a masculine presenting, genderqueer person - I do hope to provide insight and guidance to my cis coworkers and others on a part of the Trans experience in the United States.
As of April 9th, state legislators from at least 28 different states have introduced over eighty pieces of legislation to strip autonomy, dignity, and life from Transgender children, adults and supportive families alike. In North Carolina, lawmakers introduced legislation that would criminalize physicians for including surgery, hormone treatments or puberty blockers to anyone under the age of 21 and mandate state employees to ‘out’ children to their parents, if they “demonstrate a desire to be treated in a manner incongruent with [their] sex.” Similar legislation has been introduced in Arkansas and is now law, while state legislators in North Carolina and Texas continue to debate the non-issue at hand. In those same states, as well as many others, Republican legislators have introduced legislation to restrict Transgender people's participation in school-sponsored sports, if their sex assigned at birth does not match with the school’s gender specified sport.
While Transgender youth face the highest rate of self harm engagement and mental health issues in the country and the number of reported anti-trans murders reached an all time high in 2020, our legislators have too chosen acts of violence against Transgender people rather than a path of healing from this historical trauma and harm. It is on each of us - both Trans and cis - to bring healing, justice, and full liberation for our Transgender friends, coworkers and community members.
Below you will find ways to support Transgender and gender expansive people today.
Work With Us Towards Systemic Change
- Contact your legislator. With a simple google search of “anti-trans legislation and [INSERT STATE],” you may see the laundry list of anti-trans legislation introduced or on the books in your state. As a co-conspirator, it is your duty to contact the bill sponsor, co-sponsors and your state legislator to combat these laws and push for pro-LGBTQ+ legislation. This pro-LGBTQ+ legislation looks like everything from a state or municipal level Equality Act, as well as the decriminalization of sex work and drug use, to guaranteeing health care and housing for all.
- Diversify your feed, so you can get in the streets. By now, it should be clear that your social media feed should not be a completely white, cis-hetero space - if you wish to truly educate yourself on the plight of marginalized peoples. However, if this has not been made clear within the last year in the efforts to fight against anti-Black violence, I, again, implore each of you to diversify your social media feeds. In doing so, you’ll be able to hear from and engage with the Trans community in a way that will directly support Trans-led calls for civil unrest and ensure mass turnout at direct actions across the country. If you’re looking for Trans-led organizations to stay up to date with, I suggest the following: The Mahogany Project, The Okra Project, The Transgender District, TGI Justice Project, and DECRIM NOW DC.
Supporting Healing and Ending Stigma in the Workplace
- Respect and acknowledge pronouns. This looks like voluntarily putting your pronouns in your Zoom name and openly acknowledging your own pronouns in work spaces to signal the level of security a Transgender or gender expansive person may have within the space. Past this, it is critical to educate yourselves on the variety of common pronouns and neo pronouns used globally.
- Reach out to close Transgender and gender expansive coworkers. I am not asking you to reach out to the Transgender intern who you’ve never spoken to, as it can do more harm than good to intrude on one’s personal traumas. I am asking that if you’ve built up a relationship with a Transgender or gender expansive coworker, you should check in to ask how they’re handling life and what level of support you may be able to provide as a close, caring coworker.
- Challenge gender and sex stereotypes. If a coworker misgenders a coworker, whether it be intentional or not, it is important to ‘call in’ the person doing wrong to (1) point out the issue and (2) ensure it does not happen again. Additionally, if you are close to the coworker who’s been misgendered, it is good to intentionally reach out and ask how they are feeling.
- Review and change internal policies. A complete review of internal policies is absolutely necessary to ensure the Transgender community is supported in the workplace. This means looking for gendered language within documents, ways in which gender or sex stereotypes may be reinforced through training materials, ensuring gender and sex based stereotyping is systematically taken seriously, and including trainings on gender and sex based harrassment - ensuring that Trans narratives are included. This, of course, is not a complete list.
- Pay your Transgender workers a living wage, ensure health benefits, and unionize. This one is simple but still, sadly, needs reasoning. In one study, it was found that Transgender women workers’ earnings fall by nearly one-third after transitioning. Additionally, it is not guaranteed that all provided health insurance plans fully or partially cover expensive hormone therapies, gender affirmation surgeries, and more direct forms of mental health care. To combat this, it is critical that employers tackle the issue of pay discrimination, low wages, and the cost of health care by raising wages, fully covering all medical costs, and empowering workers to unionize as a method to ensure broader solidarity amongst cis and Transgender workers.
Supporting Healing and Ending Stigma in the Broader Community
- Support Trans-led mutual aid groups and organizations. Whether it be through volunteering, financial support or event attendance - it is critical that you show up and show out for the efforts and organizations that are striving to better the lives of Transgender people in the community.
- Reach out to close Transgender and gender expansive friends. Similar to reaching out to a close coworker, it is imperative that you are checking in with your Transgender and gender expansive friends in an effort to show your genuine care for their livelihoods. Right now, as it has always been, is an extremely difficult and isolating time for Transgender people. It may cause many to revert to old habits of hiding one’s true identity, as a means to protect against systemic and social violence. But the impacts of isolation and not living one’s truth can often mean life or death. Please check in on your Transgender and gender expansive friends out of genuine concern for their livelihoods.
- Experience the narratives of joy and struggle written by Trans individuals. In an effort to educate yourself and others, it is critical that you read, watch and listen to the joys and pains of Transgender people and share it with the broader world. This, in turn, will not only expand your knowledge of the varying experiences of Transgender people but it will signify your deep commitment to the global struggle for Trans liberation.
- Get into the streets, again. Finally, as always, you need to take action when Transgender and gender expansive individuals tell you to. This means putting your body and future on the line for full liberation, as we do every single day.