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In Solidarity with Transgender Women

In Solidarity with Transgender Women

This Pride Month, it is necessary to address the pressing issues faced by our transgender sisters. Regrettably, in 2023, we’re witnessing a surge of anti-trans rhetoric and legislation. Trans journalist Erin Reed has tracked over 530 such laws proposed throughout the U.S. this year alone, with Florida enacting one of the most blatant. This legislation empowers the state to remove transgender minors from their families simply because they are receiving gender-affirming care.

At the very heart of this widespread discrimination is the unsettling reality: too many people refuse to accept that trans women are women. This denial fuels hate speech that extends from deadnaming and misgendering to outright slurs and threats. It’s a refusal that perpetuates harmful narratives, underpinning discriminatory policies, as well as a surge in violence faced by trans people.

I want to urge for empathy and solidarity with trans women. I want my cisgender sisters to see that the struggle of trans women is our struggle too. (Cisgender refers to people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.) Both cisgender and transgender women face the brunt of sexism, misogyny, gender-based discrimination and harassment. We all face societal expectations regarding appearance, behavior, and assigned roles, limiting our autonomy and opportunities. And yes, trans women also face additional forms of discrimination and marginalization.

The struggle of trans women is intertwined with the fight for the rights and acceptance of all women, and the onslaught of anti-trans bills is not only an attack on our trans sisters; it undermines the interests of all women. It bolsters the policing of women’s appearances, bodies, and gender roles. Legislation dictating how trans women should dress, where they can use the restroom, what medical treatments they can access, and which sports they can play threatens the freedom of all women. Laws that target trans women open the door to infringements on the rights and freedoms of all women.

Consider this: if we don’t allow trans women in women-designated spaces such as locker rooms or bathrooms, how can cis women believe they are exempt from this scrutiny? As a cisgender woman, have you ever considered that you too can be asked to “prove” that you are a “real” woman? Our identities shouldn’t be a battleground.Laverne Cox said it perfectly, in response to proposals to limit gender-affirming health care and abortion access: “It’s always been about scapegoating trans people, stigmatizing us and criminalizing our existence — making us not exist.” Laws that are intended to police our identities, don’t make these identities less of a reality. They just make life harder for people who are already marginalized.

In this time when anti-trans violence and legislation is escalating, the power of our words matters. When you say, “I support trans women, but…” you might not realize the harm you’re causing, the biased narrative you’re feeding into, and the real-life dangers you’re perpetuating. “Think about how your words affect other people,” London Villamayor, a trans actress, encourages us in a powerful video addressing cisgender allies, in the same video trans singer-songwriter Neverending Nina makes the request: “See us as you see yourself.”

I’ve heard women say they support trans people and believe discrimination is wrong, but then proceed to express concerns over trans women using women’s restrooms. These “buts” are indicative of a deeper problem. For instance, they often use the term “biological males” when discussing trans women in these contexts, reinforcing transphobic beliefs and undermining the identity of trans women. At the same time, they seem to miss the fact that these so-called biological determinism arguments, which rigidly define manhood and womanhood, limit all women.

As we begin to dismantle harmful stereotypes, we must acknowledge one key issue: the invisibility of trans people in many of our lives. Given that the trans community makes up a small percentage of the population, many people might not know anyone who identifies as trans. Moreover, not all trans people are out. It’s entirely possible that someone in your life — a mom, sister, aunt, daughter, teacher, doctor, or neighbor — is trans, even if it isn’t known to you. This lack of personal connection can create an environment where ignorance and fear fester. Under these conditions, it becomes all too easy to stereotype, dehumanize, and discriminate against people we don’t know.

Discriminatory language helps create an environment of ignorance and fear where stereotypes, dehumanization, and discrimination against those we don’t know flourish. As we honor Pride Month, let’s commit to actual steps toward change. Listen to trans voices, educate yourself on trans issues, correct harmful language when you hear it, and take a stand against discriminatory policies.

In true allyship, there is no room for “buts.” The world that is safer for trans women is a world that is safer for all women.

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