For many, the Trump administration’s reversal of federal policy on transgender bathrooms in K-12 schools brought the transgender experience to light. For me and my family, the transgender experience has been so long in the light that all of us own three sets of sunglasses. To put it bluntly, the transgender experience is ours.
I didn’t expect that to happen. Tired of living the dramatic life of a theater student twenty-five years ago, I opted for a predictable, domestic life and married a Wyoming cowboy. Unbeknownst to me, my nearly perfect husband had been hardwired as a woman which became clear twelve years and two kids into the deal.
Now that I’ve written a book about my personal transformation when my husband transitioned genders male to female, people ask me the same questions as we march into the Era of Trump:
- Is being transgender really unavoidable? I.e., is it possible that all of this hubbub will go away if we just make it hard to BE transgender? There’s documentation of transgenderism across cultures and races as far back as the stone age. Thomas E. Bevan, Ph.D, author of Transexualism and Transgenderism, says there is “evidence … across some 22 scientific disciplines” that it has a biological basis, including physiological differences in the brains of transpeople (before artificial hormones). Trust me, I exhausted the avenues. It’s real, and it’s not going away.
- Are the policies of Trump’s administration already affecting transgender people, and if so, how much? They sure are, and the damage grows at the same rate as alarm of incoming threats from the same camp. Fear directly correlates with violence. People are herd animals, and if the U.S. Transgender Survey reported in 2015 that 1 in 6 students were forced to leave school because of harassment and discrimination, you can bet this number is on the rise with youth now being forced to use bathrooms that don’t match the way they look, act, or identify in terms of gender. Despite the fact that being trans is a normal expression of nature’s diversity (in fish and other mammals, too), our uneasiness with the atypical and fear of exclusion leads to violence, even within families. Want proof?
- 1 in 10 transgender youth were physically assaulted at home and 1 in 12 were kicked out, according to the 2015 Survey.
- Even in the kinder, gentler political climate leading up to 2015, 1 in 10 transpeople had been asked to leave public restrooms, 12% had been harassed, 1% physically attacked, and 1% sexually assaulted (incidentally, there is no documented case of a transgender person perpetrating such an attack). When was the last time you couldn’t use the restroom while on a road trip, shopping, at school, or at work because you felt unsafe?
- More than half of transgender people reported avoiding public restrooms altogether, a third limited their food and drink so it’s easier to hold their bladder, and 8% experienced a UTI/kidney infection accordingly within the year.
- 30% of transpeople experienced harassment in other public accommodations such as public transportation, stores, and the DMV.
- 40% of transpeople surveyed had attempted to take their own lives at some point (the national average is 5%). Surprised?
When Trump reversed a policy aimed to support the safety of a vulnerable population, he offered a foothold to those who are highly vocal against and/or willing to physically assault transpeople out of fear and hatred just to keep them out of public spaces.
This is how such policies translate for us: If we visit our niece in North Carolina, my parenting partner with her long hair, breasts, beautiful smile, and vagina (no, not anyone’s business but her own, and yet genitalia is often the basis for exclusion) will be prohibited from legally using the women’s room because she was born with a penis. Her teen sons would surely join her in the men’s room (though she’d rather be arrested for using the women’s), and if she were assaulted, they’d get mixed up in the fray. My entire family could be hurt or lost to ignorance and violent bigotry.
Don’t even get me started on the supposed intent to pass a “Religious Freedom law” which would grant (some) Christians the “freedom” to legally discriminate against LGBTQ people and their families. Then, other human rights like food and housing as well as toilets could be out of reach.
Such discriminatory laws and policies are wildly unethical and will perpetuate violence. It’s up to us to educate ourselves and others about the impacts of these policies, call our representatives in support of basic human rights for everyone, and stand up to be counted as allies. Our actions can save lives and families like mine in communities across our nation. I’d thank you for that.
Kristin K. Collier is an educator and writer from Eugene, OR. Her words have appeared in The Sun magazine, and her poetry is a frontispiece for Michael and Kathleen O’Neal Gear’s People of the Sea. She has been teaching Compassionate Communication since 2004. Collier and her spouse were featured in NPR’s program, Snap Judgment, in their Valentine’s 2012 edition. As well, Collier has been urban farming since 2005 and was a keynote speaker for the Eugene Permaculture Gathering in 2007.