In the two and a half years since I came out as a trans woman, it has been easy to occasionally forget that my existence in the world isn’t necessarily taken for granted. Trans people may make up a significant portion of the U.S. population (1.4 million people, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA), but the struggles we face are still almost countless in number.
Leave it to 2020, as ever, to put things in perspective.
I only learned last month about Transgender Awareness Week, an entire week devoted to “[raising] the visibility about transgender people and [addressing] issues members of the community face,” according to GLAAD.
Those issues run the gamut, from accessibility to medical care, that so many of us need in order to live life as ourselves. I have been lucky enough to avoid most of the problems of transitioning and violence but so many of the people I consider my trans siblings aren’t so lucky. Such is the extent of that violence, even now, that the week concludes with Trans Day of Remembrance, a day devoted to remembering all the trans lives lost across the country over the past year.
The amount of lives lost each year can be sobering. According to the Human Rights Campaign, as of November 25, 39 trans or gender non-conforming people – so many of whom black or Latinx – have been killed in the United States so far this year. That may sound small, but in the several years HRC has been keeping track, that’s the most deaths counted in one year. This year has already been so saturated with death.
Worse, defendants in court cases across much of the country are still allowed to claim a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity contributed to the actions they took. This defense has been successful as recently as 2018, according to the LGBT Bar. Thankfully, some states – including Illinois – have passed laws over the past few years prohibiting such a defense. However, it’s still legal in 39 states, according to the Movement Advancement Project.
That is inexcusable in 2020. Our lives are not of lesser value — we are human beings, and deserve to be treated just as any other human being ought to be treated: with dignity and respect. As necessary as Transgender Awareness Week is, it is no longer enough to just acknowledge that we exist. We’ve undoubtedly made much progress but there’s still so much to improve.
We cannot let trans people continue to suffer.
Those trans lives that have been lost, both this year and in years past, cannot be forgotten. We can’t go back…we need, now more than ever, to keep moving forward. So the fight continues – not just for trans people, but for all those who know that trans people, especially trans people of color, deserve better. Let’s work to create a future where we never again have to mourn another trans life lost to violence.
The fight must go on, for the sake of ourselves and for the sake of all the trans people yet to come.