I am Trans and I am Angry!
CLIO SCHWARTZ // NOVEMBER 9, 2018
When the news alert popped up on my phone that the Trump administration was considering defining gender as a biological condition assigned based on genitalia at birth, essentially “defining transness out of existence” and making discrimination against trans people legal, no part of me was shocked. Upset, frustrated – sure. But shocked? How could I have expected anything else?
What was shocking to me was how quickly cis people managed to center their experience of this threat of executive action. And that reaction was naïveté on my part, because again – how could I have expected anything else? Any time I went on Instagram in the days immediately following, at least three cis people had posted a screenshot on their story that read something like “What to do if you are cis and feeling helpless.” Frankly, I don’t give a shit if cis people are feeling helpless. That is absolutely not the priority here or in regards to literally any trans issue ever. Cis people have plenty of opportunities to talk about their feelings and worries and are taken seriously while trans people are silenced. Cis people are the last people who should be feeling helpless.
The ubiquity of this screenshot on Instagram is just the latest example of cis people performing good allyship. Reposting it provides reassurance – at least you’re doing something, right? And surely someone else who sees it will follow through with real action. But it all seems a farce to me. What are you actually doing for the trans people you like and love? What are you actually doing for the trans people you don’t like? And what are you doing for all the trans people you don’t even know? Why is this particular action the time you chose to say something?
The state perpetuates violence against trans people, especially trans women of color, and cis people aren’t busy posting about feeling helpless about that. The National Center for Trans Equality (NCTE) counts 28 people who were murdered for being trans in 2017, and that is just the tip of the iceberg of the very real threats trans people face. Not to mention that these are only the reported deaths and it is extremely likely that the actual numbers are much higher – especially because trans people are often misgendered in their deaths. And it is worth knowing that a large majority of these victims were trans women of color. NCTE has also run surveys that show that 57% of trans people are afraid to seek police help. Transgender inmates in prison are frequently put in prison based on their assigned sex at birth, are disproportionately abused and assaulted by staff, and are frequently refused access to medical care. So what makes you think the government has ever had trans interests in mind?
Whether the government chooses to acknowledge us or not, we will continue to exist. This is the least of my concerns about the trans existence. I am terrified by the prospect that we can all be so distracted by bureaucracy that we forget that there are imminent violent and mortal threats to trans people.
I suppose my point is that I am sick and tired of your efforts to make yourself feel better about being cis in a world that is made for you. You took something that has been very destabilizing and traumatizing for many trans people and made it about your cis experience. You took up space and made sure everyone saw you doing it. I am too exhausted to pat you on the back for doing the bare minimum.