For the Love of Humankind: Addressing Inequities to Uplift the Transgender and Nonbinary Communities
“The richness, beauty and depths of love can only be fully experienced in a climate of complete openness, honesty and vulnerability.”
– Anthony Venn Brown
HAPPY PRIDE EVERYONE!
If you haven’t connected the dots by now, you know that my blogs come from the heart. Okay, they are actually derived from intense neurological activity within my brain’s prefrontal cortex and limbic system, just to be anatomically correct. I’m a nerd. What can I say? All joking aside, when it comes to topics related to LGBTQ+, my heart is on full display for all to see. As a cisgender homosexual person, the LGBTQ+ community is where you’ll find huge pieces of my heart and soul. I am a staunch advocate for LGBTQ+ human rights, equality, and equity. Part of being an advocate is being cognizant of social practices and disparities that perpetuate damage to marginalized groups. Within the LGBTQ+ community, transgender and nonbinary folks, especially those of color, are those targets.
There is no denying the amount of progress that has been made in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality in the past 60 years, however, the fight is still far from over. The LGBTQ+ community, as a general collective, still faces undue hardship and discrimination in many aspects of daily life. But here are the facts and the reality: the inequities faced by the transgender and nonbinary communities, especially those of color, are erroneous and cannot be ignored. Transphobic and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric is deeply rooted in our society and their effects are far-reaching and debilitating. We must defend and speak out for members of the LGBTQ+ community who are distressed and in need of extra support. So why wait? Let’s begin.
As a general refresher, let’s define some integral terms:
Gender identity is your psychological sense of who you are, and who you know yourself to be.
Gender expression is how you portray your gender identity to the world in the form of personality and outward appearance, (i.e., haircut, clothes, behavior, etc.).
Nonbinary is a type of gender identity that rejects the strict binary parameters established by society and embraces fluidity within the gender spectrum. Other common synonymous terms for nonbinary include gender non-conforming, agender, genderqueer, and genderfluid.
Transgender refers to anyone whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth, with the opposite of that definition being cisgender.
Many transgender people will transition to more closely align their gender expression, and gender identity. Transition is merely a process of change from one state or condition to another, which can vary from person to person. Transition typically takes an extended period of time, and often involves social and legal changes to name and gender markers on important documents (i.e., driver’s license, birth certificate, social security cards, etc.). The absence of gender-affirming hormone therapy or surgery DOES NOT invalidate one’s transition. Lack of access to gender-affirming healthcare, medical conditions, lack of community support, and/or risk to personal safety are valid reasons why some experience difficulty with transitioning.
Transgender and nonbinary people have been in the crosshairs of violence and discrimination for decades, and the evidence is overwhelming. These two communities have been marginalized in society and unfortunately, also within certain subdivisions of the LGBTQ+ community. Their unique gender identities and staunch challenges to the exclusive and narrow-minded nature of the binary system are often deemed too radical and farfetched. Ostracizing a group of people because they are different from the social norms makes them vulnerable. Transgender and nonbinary people of color, including Black, Indigenous, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Latinx communities, are even more vulnerable. These communities are more likely to be targeted by violence, experience homelessness and food scarcity, and face higher rates of suicide than their White cisgender and transgender counterparts. The statistics on the mistreatment of the transgender and nonbinary communities are abhorrent, to say the least. If you don’t believe me, take a look at some of these.
At least 44 transgender or gender non-conforming people were fatally shot or killed by other violent means in 2020, the vast majority of which were Black and Latinx transgender women. (Human Rights Campaign Report on Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence)
These communities face higher rates of harassment and physical assault. Forty-three percent of transgender youth report being bullied in school. (Human Rights Campaign Report on Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence)
Thirty-eight percent of transgender and nonbinary youth reported having difficulty affording enough food in the past month, as compared to 24% of cisgender LGBTQ+ youth. When broken down by race/ethnicity, 35% of Black, 36% of Latinx, and 50% of Native/Indigenous LGBTQ+ youth have faced food insecurity in the past month, as compared to 27% of White and 18% of Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ youth.
Forty-two percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, including over 50% of transgender and non-binary youth. Twelve percent of white LGBTQ+ attempted suicide in the past year, as compared to 31% of Indigenous LGBTQ+ youth, 21% of Black LGBTQ+ youth, 18% of Latinx LGBTQ+ youth, and 12% of Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ youth. (Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health)
Transgender and non-binary youth are twice as likely to be subjected to conversion therapy than their cisgender LGBTQ peers. Conversion therapy has been linked to higher rates of suicide (Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health)
Eighty-seven percent of nearly 17,000 LGBTQ+ students ages 13-21 have heard negative remarks specifically about transgender people, with 43.7% of students reporting hearing such comments frequently or often. (GLSEN 2019 National School Climate Survey)
Of nearly 17,000 LGBTQ+ students ages 13-21, many avoided gender-segregated spaces in school because they felt uncomfortable or unsafe. Forty-five percent avoided bathrooms and 43.7% avoided locker rooms. (GLSEN 2019 National School Climate Survey)
The statistics mentioned above are merely numbers. The numbers paint a shocking picture, but cannot fully describe the real, everyday struggles that transgender and nonbinary people face. Achieving LGBTQ+ equality has been a long-standing goal, but equality will not fully resolve the issues at hand. We must instead focus more deeply on equity, and the lack thereof, in order to better understand the additional resources and needs of transgender and nonbinary people; especially BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) communities.
Equity is rooted in fairness, and fairness is not synonymous with equality. The numbers paint a clear picture that transgender and nonbinary communities face far more frequent and intense hardship than the rest of their LGBTQ+ peers. The additional disparities faced by transgender and nonbinary communities of color are undeniable and can be directly linked to numerous long-standing inequities that are embedded within every level of the social system. Here are some steps we can take to promote transgender and nonbinary equity...
1. Seek out education and resources. Learning is key to growth. Learning requires humility and the adoption of a growth mindset. Put forth the effort to learn about subject materials that you are unsure about. Reach out to local and national LGBTQ+ organizations, LGBTQ+ friends and family, and community educational resources.
National Center for Transgender Equality (https://transequality.org/)
Trevor Project (https://www.thetrevorproject.org/)
Human Rights Campaign (https://www.hrc.org/)
American Civil Liberties Union (https://www.aclu.org/)
2. Be respectful. You do not have to fully understand or agree with this topic in order to treat transgender and nonbinary human beings with the decency and respect that they deserve. Purposely making someone else’s life more difficult, and denying basic human rights simply because you do not agree with who they are is unjust, dehumanizing, and dangerous. When transgender and nonbinary people aren’t valued, their lives are viewed as disposable, putting them at higher risk of violence. Use the person’s correct pronouns and preferred name. Eliminate transphobic language and deadnaming (calling a transgender person by their birth name prior to their transition), and acknowledge everyone’s unique gender identity.
3. Be mindful of your words. They matter. Here’s the deal. Our language practices are deeply gendered with androcentric bias, or the assumption that the male view is the norm for all people. People view changes to long-standing language practices as unnecessary, daunting, and taboo. When our language practices both implicitly and explicitly perpetuate inequality and inequity for large groups of people (i.e. women, transgender, nonbinary and intersex), they must be changed. You can disarm taboo subjects by having informed discussions and adopting more inclusive practices into your everyday life. Inclusive practices such as identifying your pronouns, adopting more people-centric and gender-neutral language, and addressing this topic amongst your social circles will benefit you, and the rest of humanity. These changes pose no net loss to you whatsoever. No one will ever fault you for taking steps to do better.
4. Access to LGBTQ+ mental health support is critical - According to the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 80% of LGBTQ+ youth across all races and ethnicities say it is important to have access to a crisis line, and mental health resources. LGBTQ+ people, especially youth and people of color, are more likely to be the victims of bullying, discrimination, and all forms of assault. Therefore, more help and resources must be made available to groups combating additional hardships.
Trevor Project Hotline (Queer Youth Suicide Prevention): 1-866-488-7386
LGBT National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
LGBT National Senior Hotline: 1-888-234-7243
LGBT National Youth Hotline: 1-800-246-7743
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
5. LGBTQ+ and gender-affirming practices save lives. Period. Transgender and non-binary youth (ages 13-24) who reported having their pronouns respected, having safe spaces that affirmed their sexual orientation and unique gender identity, the opportunity to change their name and/or gender marker on legal documents, attempted suicide at nearly half the rate of their peers who faced opposing circumstances (Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health).
6. Strive to be an LGBTQ+ ally. Take action. Support the LGBTQ+ community. Listen, speak up, donate, volunteer, support pro-LGBTQ+ initiatives, or get involved with local policies to promote equity for the transgender and nonbinary communities. Defend the marginalized, and denounce the language and actions that continue to hurt them. Stand up for everyone’s unique existence in the world, and their right to live a life free of harassment and violence.
I know this blog was heavy. I completely understand. It was equally as difficult to write, but I can shoulder the emotional weight. These words needed to be said because transgender and nonbinary people need extra help. Honesty, openness, and vulnerability can be messy, but that is the only way to discuss the truth. The truth must be followed by bold action in order to take meaningful steps towards equality and equity. The injustice, violence, discrimination, and harassment that continue to batter the transgender and nonbinary communities must be met with unwavering love, compassion, empathy, education, and support. I said it before and I will say it again: I am, and always will be, a staunch advocate for LGBTQ+ human rights, equality, and equity. I will continue to be a fierce advocate and ally for transgender and nonbinary folks. I will continue to stand up, speak out, and support anyone who needs it. I challenge you to do the same.
Remember, you are all beautiful. You are all amazing. Your differences make you extraordinary. Be kind to one another, and most importantly, yourself.
Dr. Corinne Alexander, D.C., Chapters 115 & P01
Corinne Alexander, D.C. is the Chapter 115 Cupertino Ambassador, Chapter P01 Member, 2021 Diversity and Inclusion Council Chair, and has been a member of the Women’s Networking Alliance since July 2019. She is the owner of Optimal Spine & Sport. Her interest in joining the Diversity and Council was fueled by her personal experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. She aspires to be a positive role model in her community by promoting kindness and education, and creating an environment of mutual respect among others.