Here's How You Can Support the Trans Community Following That New York Times Article
This article was written in response to a New York Times article profiling recent transphobic rhetoric released by the presidential administration. If this topic is triggering for you or you’re in crisis, text one of our Crisis Counselors at 741741.
The New York Times recently reported that the Trump administration is considering re-defining gender as a “biological immutable condition determined at birth." This policy would effectively eliminate the estimated 1.4 million transgender Americans from federal documentation. The definition is in sharp contrast to that of the World Health Organization, which distinguishes sex as “biological” and gender as “socially constructed characteristics.”
What Does It Mean to Be Transgender?
Transgender is an umbrella term for those whose gender differs than their sex assigned at birth. Genderqueer, genderfluid, and gender non-binary are just some of the identities along the transgender spectrum. Gender identity is not related to sexual identity. Someone who is transgender can fall anywhere along the sexuality spectrum (straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual etc.).
How the Transgender Community is Responding
Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of the Trevor Project, explained how this news can be detrimental to trans youth: “When a young person hears that their existence and gender identity will not be recognized by their government, they hear that they are not worthy to be a part of that nation. Transgender youth seeing this report should know that they are not alone and that their identity is valid – nothing the government does can change that."
Following the report, the National Center for Transgender Equality encouraged people to tweet their response using the hashtag, #WontBeErased. It was trending within a few hours. Trans people, celebrities, and other allies banded together to show their support for the trans community.
Protecting Transgender Rights
The news comes at a time when there is an increase around the struggles facing the the trans community. Some of these struggles include:
Lack of legal protections
There is very little national policy protecting people based on their gender identity. According to the Human Rights Campaign, only 19 states prohibit employment and housing discrimination, 18 states prohibit public accomodation discrimination, and 16 states prohibit education discrimination based on gender identity.
Identity documents present one of the biggest institutional problems facing trans people. Laws vary from state to state, with some states flat out refusing to issue new documents based on gender identity . Among those that do allow it, many require evidence of medical transition. These surgeries are often expensive and may not be part of an individual's transition plan. Without an accurate piece of identification, it can be hard for trans people to travel, apply for a job, enroll in school, or engage in many aspects of daily life.
Harassment and Stigma
Though there has been increased visibility surrounding trans issues, many trans people face severe levels of harassment and stigma. Trans individuals are at a significantly higher risk for bullying and violence. This can have serious negative effects on mental health. Recent research found that over half of trans male and nonbinary youth had attempted suicide during their lifetime. Trans youth are also at a significantly higher risk of experiencing depression, anxiety, and issues with self-harm.
Barriers to Healthcare
Little research has been conducted on the health disparities among trans people. Trans people struggle to find doctors who are competent in trans health issues, particularly in rural areas. Some trans people have even reported being denied coverage because of their gender identity.
How to Support the Transgender Community
Regardless of the administration’s next steps, we at Crisis Text Line are doubling down on our commitment to the trans community. Here are some of the recommendations we're giving our Crisis Counselors in order to be a good trans ally:
Don’t assume pronouns. If you’re unsure about someone’s pronouns, ask, rather than pushing them into an identity they aren’t comfortable with. If you need clarification on something, respectfully ask. The person will tell you as much or as little as they feel comfortable with.
No probing. Avoid probing questions such as, “What kind of trans are you?” and ”Have you had the surgery?” The trans experience is different for each person, and doesn’t fit into one mold.
Validate their experience. Trans people experience marginalization and abuse just for being who they are. Listening doesn’t require labels—simply demonstrate that you understand and accept them for who they are.
Ready to put these skills to the test? Consider applying to be a Crisis Counselor.
Everyone deserves to be themselves. If the news is making it hard for you, don’t be afraid to take a break. Step away from social media. Text one of our Crisis Counselors at 741741 or click the text button below on mobile. We’re here to support you.