Humanists Mark Transgender Awareness Week

Transgender Awareness Week, November 13th – November 19th, serves as an opportunity to both elevate positive awareness of and bring attention to the issues facing the transgender community. The week ends on November 20th with Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), memorializing those lost to senseless violence and transphobia. According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), “Transgender Day of Remembrance was started in 1999 by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. The vigil commemorated all the transgender people lost to violence since Rita Hester’s death, and began an important tradition that has become the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance”.

A 2022 study from UCLA’s Williams Institute estimates 1.6 million people ages thirteen and up are transgender in the United States, and a 2022 Pew Research Center survey found 1.6 percent of U.S. adults are transgender or nonbinary. The number of people who personally know someone who is transgender has increased in recent years. According to the Pew Research Center, “a 64% majority of Americans favor policies that protect transgender individuals from discrimination in jobs, housing and public spaces such as restaurants and stores, including 37% who strongly favor them”; however, Pew also finds that Americans’ views on trans issues in policy practice remain “complex”, and members of the transgender community face massive adversity and bigotry on multiple fronts.

Transgender people can often lack support from family, are twice as likely to live in poverty, experience “poorer health outcomes…[and] encounter unique challenges and inequalities in their ability to access health insurance and adequate care”, regularly feel misunderstood, and are confronted with discrimination and marginalization in school and in the workplace. Given the hardship experienced by transgender individuals, the community encounters high prevalence of mental health issues: a 2022 Trevor Project survey found nearly one in five transgender and nonbinary youth attempted suicide in the last year.

Particularly alarming, transgender people are over four times more likely than cisgender people to be victims of violent crime. According to tracking by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), 2021 was the deadliest year on record for transgender and gender non-conforming people, and thirty-two people have died from violent means in 2022 thus far (which, the HRC notes, may be an underestimate, due to these crimes being unreported or misreported). HRC found in a 2018 report that victims are disproportionately transgender women of color, who are further impacted by the risk factors of racism and sexism.

In recent years, the introduction of anti-trans and anti-LGBTQIA+ bills has ballooned in state legislatures across the country. In regard to anti-trans legislation, the Washington Post reports “more legislation has been filed to restrict the lives of trans people so far in 2022 than at any other point in the nation’s history, with trans youth being the most frequent target of lawmakers.” Legislation targeting youth includes bills related to gender-affirming surgery, youth sports, access to restrooms, and the dictation of school curriculum. As just one example, eighteen states have passed laws banning transgender students from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity just within the past two years.

While the climate can certainly seem bleak, conversation around and consideration of trans issues has indeed made strides. President Biden became the first president in office to officially commemorate Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31st), and lawmakers, including those part of the Transgender Equality Task Force, have worked to introduce bills and resolutions, such as the Trans Bill of Rights and the Equality Act, that would enact protections for trans and nonbinary people and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. States are also becoming proactive in promoting inclusivity in school, for example, and recent court rulings have helped the community “gain broadened legal protections” in the workplace.

A plethora of individuals and organizations are working tirelessly to protect, support, and advance the rights of all, both on the ground and within the legal system, such as Mariah Moore, a senior National Organizer for the Transgender Law Center and a steadfast advocate for trans women and her community in New Orleans. She remarked in a piece by the HuffPost that “in order to see consistent change our organizing efforts must be broad and consistent. It’s going to take calling out all the institutions and having all the uncomfortable conversations necessary to make the work worthwhile”.

With anti-trans legislation sure to materialize in state legislatures this upcoming year, speak out and support inclusive and affirming policy by volunteering and organizing with your community and local human rights organizations. It may be the case that you or those you know may not be aware of, or as knowledgeable as you would like to be about, common and appropriate terms utilized in the transgender community: Yale Medicine and GLAAD offer glossaries of terms to learn for educative purposes that can serve as references. Check out and uplift resources from organizations working to defend and advance transgender rights and support the LGBTQIA+ community, such as GLAAD, the Transgender Law Center, the Trevor Project, or the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), to name just a few. You can also uplift hotlines like the US Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860 and the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.

The American Humanist Association is committed to ensuring transgender people can live free from the violence and misogyny deeply ingrained in American society. Be sure to look out for action alerts in the Humanist Action Headquarters during the new upcoming Congress to urge the passage of legislation that protects and advances LGBTQIA+ rights, such as the Equality Act, the Do No Harm Act, and the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act.