A world that pretends you don't exist

Illustration by Colton Starley

Over the last decade, society has rapidly changed to be more accepting and less harmful to minorities. However, transgender people all over the country — and the world — are still treated as if they are invisible, no matter how much we have progressed.

Transgender people are still largely disregarded and marginalized. Whether they’re being murdered by cops, killing themselves because they do not have access to the resources to allow them to finally be themselves or being thrown in the wrong jail due to an inaccurate sex marker on their documents, trans people are at high threat.

Let me begin with some statistics. According to a lecture given in my course called Introduction to Transnational Feminism by Amanda MacNair, an NAU graduate student and transgender woman, transgender individuals are likely to be financially strained, harassed by police enforcement and have limited access to adequate health care.

Nineteen percent of transgender people experience homelessness. Sixteen percent must rely on sex work for income. Fifty-five percent are harassed at homeless shelters. Forty-one percent attempt suicide. Fifty-seven percent experience significant family rejection. Twenty-two percent report harassment by police enforcement. Nineteen percent are denied medical care.

Fifty percent have to tell their own health care providers about transgender care, treatment and maintenance. The life expectancy of trans people is only 23 to 35 years old.

Based on statistics alone, the transgender experience in the United States is a tumultuous one. While I can’t speak from personal experience, upon opening my ears to the trans community, I can say the reality is harsher than the stats.

Transgender people are largely treated as if they don’t exist.

According to MacNair, 99 percent of healthcare providers don’t acknowledge trans treatment, such as hormones or “the surgery,” more accurately known as a genitoplasty. In order to receive any treatment, trans people have to have consistent therapy for a year to “prove” they experience gender dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria “involves a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify,” according to the American Psychiatric Association. It must be persistent for at least six months before it can be diagnosed.

Beyond that, the government and law enforcement further marginalize these individuals. One example of many is President Trump’s 2017 ruling to ban transgender people from entering the military.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, despite the fact that the bill was blocked by four courts, the military followed through with the ban. It was formalized on April 25, 2017.

Josh Block, a lawyer for the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, told the organization, “They made an exception to the policy for people who are already in the military and diagnosed with gender dysphoria to get around the court orders in place. But that is a small exception. The actual policy is that if you are transgender, you can’t serve.”

Despite the government and all the systems rooted within it, the daily life of transgender people is one of frequent harassment and questioning.

A predatory phrase, “Are traps gay?” has gained traction on Twitter in the past year or so. YouTuber and transgender woman Natalie Wynn aka “Contrapoints” produced a video on this topic in which she breaks down the reality of the phrase bit by bit.

At the bottom of everything, transgender people, oftentimes trans women, are treated as traps who maliciously target men and turn them gay. This notion gives these men permission to harass, beat and even murder these women, like Celine Walker, Tonya Harvey or any of the other 24 transgender people who were murdered in 2018.

I cannot conflate the transgender experience — one that is not even mine — in 600 words. I simply hope that when faced with the statistics, people start realizing that transgender people are real and they are abused.