Tracing through history, it is evident that progression has been made towards LGBTQ communities, however there are a plethora of problems that are present in today’s societies that are in need of change. Transgender individuals often undergo an immense amount of harassment and violence. Trans women make up 72% of anti-LGBTQIA+ homicide victims, and 89% of those victims are trans coloured women (Cox, “Laverne Coz Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It)”). This is an astonishing number that reveals a profound amount about our society and relates to the intersectionality between women and race through the systemically oppressive society we live in. Race and gender overlap through the victimization of transgender women, which is why intersectionality can be examined through these statistics. When taking into account intersecting factors such as gender and race, clearly there is an immense difference between trans males, trans women and trans women of colour. It is crucial that we take these statistics into account and ask why are these women being targeted and what misogyny the prejudice against women, gender or race has to do with it?
Laverne Cox presents an enticing argument that depicts possible reasoning for the aggression towards trans women. Laverne begins with telling one of her stories about harassment in New York around ten years ago. One Hispanic male cat called her on the street while another Black male argued with him that she was a racial slur for a male. The Hispanic man then argued that she was a derogatory slur for a female (Cox, “Laverne Cox on Bullying and Being a Trans Woman of Color”). This was important to highlight as the harassment began with a male calling out to her out of attraction but further turned into an aggressive argument. Cox addresses that there are many intersecting oppressions such as racism misogyny and transphobia, which occur through trauma tracing back to times of slavery. Black people were often tortured; typically males through being lynched and their genitals were sold or pickled due to some sort of fear or fascination of the Black male body. This represents a historic type of emasculation, which Laverne believes many of her oppressors look at trans women as an embodiment of this and as a disgrace for the race (Cox, “Laverne Cox on Bullying and Being a Trans Woman of Color”). Cox then states that she has so much love for her oppressors, for they are in pain. Laverne discusses the violence trans women experience, informing the audience that in 2011 transgender homicide rate went to 43-54%, most of which being trans women of colour (Cox, “Laverne Cox on Bullying and Being a Trans Woman of Color”). She believes there is a link between bullying and violence and that there is a great need to create spaces for transgender people, as they do not fit in with the gender binary mode and because of this, many trans kids suffer from bullying and have no way to express their gender. Laverne concludes her speech by saying love is the answer and if people loved transgender people that will be a revolutionary act (Cox, “Laverne Cox on Bullying and Being a Trans Woman of Color”).
The speech given by Laverne Cox is extremely insightful as it introduces a solution to the injustice transgender people receive and highlights Cornell West’s famous quote that “justice is what love looks like in public”. I believe that acceptance is the key to ending oppression. Laverne Cox’s story expresses her experience with intersectionality and how she was oppressed because of her race and gender. Cox was targeted by a dominant group, two cisgender males simply because of her race and gender which expresses anger and hate that should be eliminated through love and empowerment. Cox explains that oppressors need to think, what it is about you that you have a problem with. I believe this point is powerful as it entails that there is a need for change within the oppressor which can be done through mutual respect. Clearly, transphobia, the prejudice against transgender people is an issue that is important to address and rid of within our society. Gender is a social construct that wields power over individuals in both positive and negative ways. Through the privilege of some genders over others, social construct is formed and disadvantages transgender people. Gender can empower an individual but it also introduces the opportunity of oppression. Gender is often viewed as a binary concept containing two options, male or female. Unfortunately, more times than not, this affects transgender groups in a damaging way. The traditional gender paradigm is not inclusive, especially for transgender people, as they do not identify themselves with the gender they were assigned at birth, which lacks presence within tradition gender paradigms. This negative way of thinking is the source of the bullying which is correlated with violence for the reason that it has the ability to condition the minds of people into thinking that there are only two genders that are acceptable within society and anything that differs is radical and repugnant. Transgender people are surrounded by and subjected to conventional gender boundaries, which often leads to mistreatment and being targeted for their differences. “Transgender people are among the most misunderstood and overlooked groups in our society” (Burgess, 35). This statement highlights how transgender people are constantly being judged, because they are different from the traditional gender norm, which leaves room for oppression and vulnerability. Transgender people as a whole face the complication of finding their true identity and have to do this in a society that invalidates the reality of what people may go through during transition, and have to go through this while enduring hostility due to the fact that it goes against traditional gender constructs. Through essentialism; the teachings of traditional ideas regardless of prevalent culture develops the mindset of traditional binary concepts of gender, that transgender are not included in the structural feature; people are rendered ill equipped to understand transgender individuals. The negativity through transphobia and misogyny often leads to bullying and violence, which can be only solved through the acceptance of transgender people. As Laverne Cox stated, creating spaces for transgender people is necessary for gender expression and for trans people to be true to themselves (Cox, “Laverne Cox on Bullying and Being a Trans Woman of Color”). It is crucial that we eradicate the binary gender model and develop an accepting and inclusive gender model, so that people are educated and can embrace the differences between each other. It is time for oppression to be an unfortunate past we look back on historically, and it is time for us to accept, empower, and spread love for each gender, race, religion, sexuality and class. Through love and acceptance we can achieve peace and justice and create a movement to end oppression throughout the world.
Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Everyday feminism. Magazine, n.p, 7 Dec. 2014. 3 Mar 2015.
Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox on Bullying and Being a Trans Woman of Color.” Online video clip, YouTube. Youtube, 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 3 Mar. 2015.
Burgess, Christian. Internal and External Stress Factors as-sociated With the Identity Development of Transgendered Youth. N.p. 2008.