Trans Awareness Week ⚧️
What are Trans Awareness Week and Trans Day of Remembrance?
Transgender Awareness Week, typically observed the second week of November, is a celebration leading up to Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). TDOR was founded over 20 years ago by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, a transgender woman, to memorialize the murder of fellow transgender woman Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts. Today it is observed in the memory of all Trans people lost to violence.
Honoring Transgender Awareness Week and Transgender Day of Remembrance serves many important purposes. Education and information help eradicate misconceptions and biases towards the Trans community (note: our use of the term Trans represents an inclusion of all non-cisgender identities, since these identities are so vast and diverse). Although this needs to happen year round, having a dedicated week to really focus on these communities is essential to continuing the fight for equality and to shine a spotlight on the Trans experience.
Education can save lives. Misinformation is often weaponized against the Trans community, as seen in the debate over bathroom laws, the exclusion of Trans athletes from many sports teams, the difficulty many Trans folks have changing their names, and so on. Healthcare disparities have a huge impact: lack of access to hormone therapy and mental health services, exclusions from insurance companies for gender affirming care and surgery, as well as incorrect treatments by hospitals, doctors, and/or clinics.
Trans folks are also often targeted with violence for no reason other than their gender identities. As a November 11 Forbes post noted, over 350 Transgender individuals had been killed in 2020; 34 of those deaths happened in the US. Stats on violence against the Trans community do not necessarily give a full account: there may be unreported and (intentionally or unintentionally) misreported cases, including misgendering of victims by law enforcement, the media, and even family.
Trans Women of Color bear even greater stigma. Last November alone, at least 20 Trans Women of Color were found killed. Racism, transphobia, sexism, job discrimination, housing discrimination, and targeting by police all disproportionately affect Trans Women of Color.
A quote highlighted at Transgender Resilience marches reads: “Give us our roses while we’re still here.” The LGBTQ+ community, women, and so many other marginalized groups have Trans Women of Color to thank for so many of our rights today--protecting our most vulnerable communities and fighting for them is essential. There’s no equality without everyone.
Transgender Awareness Week and Transgender Day of Remembrance serve as a time for learning, memorializing, and mourning--but also as a call to action. Our entire communities-- not just Trans and Queer folks--need to take action to help eradicate violence and discrimination against all members of the Trans community. We need to continue protecting the trans community on a daily basis, validating the trans experience. This is not a political conversation, but one about humans being treated as such. Trans people are people.
So, what can we do?
● Call out transphobia when you see it. Confront it and don’t let it slide, whether or not it was intentional. Report transphobic comments on social media, correct those who misgender, and challenge any policies that may discriminate against non-cisgender folks.
● Educate yourself and others. This is especially important for cisgender folks, as it shouldn’t be the job of Trans folks to educate you. With that, make sure that the Trans community is not excluded from the conversation! Read writings by Trans folks, and pass the mic to them when it isn’t about you. Here are some titles we recommend:
○ PFLAG’s Guide to Being a Trans Ally
● Offer support to your Trans friends and family. If you notice someone has changed their name or pronouns on social media, check in with them in private. Ask how they would like you to refer to them in public and private. Remember, never out someone without their permission.
● Normalize pronoun use. Even if you are cisgender, adding your pronouns to your signature or bio and introducing yourself with your pronouns makes it clear that correct pronoun use is important to you, and fosters a more respectful culture where people will ask rather than assume. Try using non-gendered terms like “they” instead of “he or she,” or “esteemed guests” rather than “ladies and gentlemen.”
○ If you misgender someone-- just apologize, correct yourself, and move on--i.e. “Sorry, [they/he/she/etc.] were…”
● Don’t ask personal questions you wouldn’t ask a cis person. Don’t ask what their genitals are like, how they have sex, what gender they were born, if they’ve had surgery or are on hormones. Don’t ask what their “real” name is--the name they use is their real name. Though some folks are happy to share their experience, first check if it’s okay to ask, make sure you are doing so in a way that is considerate and isn’t commodifying their bodies or experience, and respect if they don’t want to share--it’s not your business.
● Donate or share fundraising information. Here are some Trans-focused organizations we love:
● Recognize the diversity of Trans lives. Trans folks represent so many identities, experiences, and perspectives--and these intersect with so many other elements such as sexual orientation, race, class, and so on. Don’t assume that all experiences are the same (they aren’t). Don’t assume gender is black and white (it isn’t). Don’t assume there are levels of Trans-ness (there aren’t). Oversimplifying the Trans experience is misinformation, and that is exactly what we are trying to end.