There’s a very disturbing reality to being part of a minority, not just transgender but any group that has been oppressed throughout the course of history, there will be words designed to hurt you, belittle you and further that oppression. It’s something that goes back as far as human history, as long as there has been more than one group words will be used to degrade others, especially to those not in power. Every single one of you is aware of these kinds of situations, a lot of you will be witness to it, some of you will be victims to it, and sadly some of you will be some of the people who have taken part in that oppression.
Whether its women being called bitches, people of colour being called niggers, homosexuals being called faggots or transgender people being called trannies it doesn’t matter, it’s all oppression and hate speech and it all has to stop.
Thankfully, for the most part at least, the civilised world will recognise that a lot of these phrases and more are wrong. Society as a whole has tried to destroy racist language, made it punishable to use those words. People are moving forward with the erasure of homophobic language suck as dyke or fairy. Most of the world is opening their eyes that such things are wrong and calling in to account those who say them.
However, there’s one area where this kind of oppressive language seems to be so much more prevalent, where people not only openly use these foul insults, but get the support of the general public when those offended call them out.
I’m talking about the open use of transphobic language.
Now I know what some of you are going to be thinking, ‘here’s another trans person saying that they’ve got it worse, that they’re being oppressed when there’s so many other people being targeted for so many other things’. You’re right, to a certain extent. I’m calling out the overt use of transphobic language because as a trans person I’m subject to it, not only in my personal life but in the reports I see in the media or stories my friends tell me. I’m not by any means saying that the problem exists only for the trans community, it’s just the community I can speak the best about due to first-hand experience.
The level of oppression you suffer isn’t a competition, I’m not going to say trans people have it the worst. All I’m saying is that it’s pretty bad for us. At the time of the writing of this article the rate of transgender murder stands at one death every 29 hours, and 47% of trans people attempting suicide, and I feel that the open use of transphobic slurs is a major contributing factor to this culture of murder and suicide.
Something that I found absolutely shocking when I came out was the amount of people who had no idea what words were and weren’t acceptable to use when talking to or about trans people. I had friends, very open minded left wing friends, who didn’t know that tranny was a slur word.
I think that a lot of the problem comes from the fact that people in places of influence freely use words that should never be used in reference to a trans person without any repercussions or punishment. I’m talking about how celebrities make comments about ‘trannies’ and ‘she-male’ for cheap laughs. I’m talking about how we’re always portrayed as overtly masculine men in cocktail dresses and big wigs. I’m talking about how we’re shown to be sex workers, killers or murder victims.
The media and those who work in it are given free rein to put the transgender community in the poorest light possible, that whenever they’re challenged on it we’re the ones being unreasonable. Whenever a trans person calls out on this kind of inequality we’re at best ‘trolls’ or ‘haters’ trying to cause trouble, or worse we’re ‘freaks’ and ‘mentally disturbed men’ trying to cause harm.
You don’t need to look far to see those kinds of reactions. There are anti-transgender bathroom bills being lobbied based on the accusation that transgender women will attempt to sexually assault women if we are allowed into female rest rooms, despite evidence to the contrary. If anything it’s infinitely more dangerous for trans women to be forced into male only spaces as that’s how we get assaulted and murdered.
When trans people want positive representation it’s for attention or fame. When someone famous transitions they get told that they’re doing it to further their career or for money. Our whole identities and state of mind are called into question and insulted. I’ve seen news articles call us ‘freaks’, ‘delusional’, ‘self-mutilators’. I’ve seen news reporters laugh and tell transphobic jokes whilst ‘Dude Looks Like a Lady’ plays in the background. And once again every time it’s complained about we’re being ‘too sensitive’ or ‘oppressive’.
People site that they have a freedom of speech, which they should be free to express their own opinions, and they’re right, they totally do have that right. But there is a massive difference between free speech and hate speech. When your opinion is that people of a certain minority should have their rights taken away, should be locked into institutions or put to death that’s not free speech, that’s hatred and oppression and it needs to be stopped.
That’s the problem though in a nut shell, nowhere near enough people are saying that these things are problems. The trans community and their allies call bullshit on these things but because that voice is too small we’re vilified. The majority control the perceptions of others. They can spin situations to their liking and manipulate the views of those on the outside. Those people calling us trannies or shemales or shims are the majority. They’re the ones telling the world that it’s okay to do so.
So many people will look at this and say ‘but it’s not my problem’ or ‘I’m fighting another fight at the minute’, I’ve even once been told that we need to fight for equal rights ‘one group at a time’. The problem with that though is that if people don’t speak out about inequality, or think that one cause is more important than another nothing is ever going to change.
Minorities are small, those who oppress us are the bigger group, so of course we can’t beat them if we’re trying to do it on our own. We need to work together to fight this. Together those minorities make a bigger majority than those who have power over us. Don’t let those who oppress us tell you what’s right and what’s wrong. If a minority group is saying that something is offensive or oppressive then listen to them, add your voice to theirs.
Standing by someone saying that it’s okay to insult and disrespect trans people because they have political power, or you’re a fan of theirs, or because they support the LGBT community is allowing hatred and oppression. If you see it and you don’t speak out then you’re no better than those who oppress us. If anything you’re worse because at least they’re standing for something, even if it is wrong.
If I see inequality or hate I speak out against it. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s my fight or not. I won’t let racism go unchallenged just because I’m white. I’m not going to let ageism go unchallenged because I’m young. I’m not going to let ableism to unchallenged because I’m able bodied. We’re all human beings, no matter what differences set us aside. We need to help and support each other even if we don’t think it’s our fight because one day you might be fighting your own battle and be in need of the support of others.
Please, please I beg you stop the use of transphobic slurs. Challenge those you see do it, and if you’ve done it in the past stop now. You may not understand transgender people, you may not even approve of us, but please acknowledge the basic concept that we’re human beings. We have feelings, we feel pain and those actions hurt us.
47% attempt suicide. One murder every 29 hours. Those numbers should scare you. They should make you feel ashamed. Now think too that trans people only make up less than 1% of the worlds’ population and death that rate should horrify you.
Casual transphobia adds to those figures. It contributes to the murder and suicide rate. It’s part of the reason the life expectancy of trans people in their mid-thirties. Our lives are in danger every day, every time we step out of our door. Help us. Please. Stand up with us and say enough is enough. It doesn’t matter who you are, black, white, straight, gay, rich, poor, transphobia is never right and never excusable. Your words hurt, your words kill. Enough is enough.