Time for Change

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.

Works Cited

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.

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5 thoughts on “Time for Change

  1. Jac

    Hey Mac, this was such a great post!

    This was an excellent analysis of how race and gender intersect in systems of oppression which obviously put trans women at greatest harm. I like your emphasis on love and understanding, just like Cox’s. I really like how you emphasize the ways trans people are misunderstood and as a result are often viewed as weird or different and therefore targets for violence. This is definitely reinforced in media, as Julia Serano has written extensively on, as the depictions of trans people are either of the deviant (typically very sexual, and are often victims of murder or witnesses to a murder, they are very rarely positively associated with anything) or the “pathetic” trans person whose gender identity is used as a joke. These forms of media probably tend to reinforce this thinking, which is why I believe that Cox’s vocal advocacy and her portrayal on Orange is the New Black is so important.

    How do you think other forms of oppression (such as ableism, classism, homophobia, etc) may influence trans people’s experiences?

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  2. MJ

    Mac,

    I agree with your views on the intersection of race, gender and transphobia. I think that change must come from the oppressor, rather than the oppressed as often, people who are uncomfortable with their sexuality tend to harass others for being comfortable with theirs. I also think that changes in the beliefs of the oppressor is applicable to all cases of oppression and not just with the oppression of transgendered individuals.

    In addition, I think that the new curriculum on sex education that is to be implemented in Ontario within the next year, will help to teach children that there is no right or wrong way to express gender. I think that children are more open to these ideas than are given credit for, and if they are taught from a young age not to be transphobic, it will carry over into a society of individuals who are more accepting of all. This being said, I realize that there are still going to be people or parents who remain transphobic or homophobic, but I do believe children are the right place to start.

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  3. aba

    Mac, it’s good to see that you got a lot out of Laverne’s wise words, just as I did.
    I really like the Christian Burgess quote you included; it has always stood true. It is almost as if some people are afraid of what they do not understand. Transgender and transsexual people are constantly bombarded by outsider’s placing their judgement on them on top of the stress they have already faced or are still facing to find their gender identity. But when is it ever okay for someone else to tell you how to live your life? Unfortunately these are the social constructs that we all face every day.

    My questions for you: How do you think an individual witnessing transphobia in action could encourage these values of understanding and acceptance? What other steps do you think public services, educational systems, etc…(anything that could reach a large group of people, really) could make to move towards ending transphobia?

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  4. Ash

    Mac, awesome work! When I learned about the statistics regarding the violence against the trans community, especially transwomen of colour, I was astonished. What shocked me even more was that I was completely unaware of how severe it was until this speech. It truly goes to show just how overlooked and misunderstood those who don’t fit the gender binary really are. When the statistics become humanized in front of you, the realities become even more daunting.

    It’s great that you recognized that it’s up to the oppressors to see the flaws in themselves as the first step to dismantling systems of power, and that everyone should practice love and understanding. This is such a powerful perspective. What are some other ways we could dismantle these power imbalances and create safer spaces for those who identify as trans?

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  5. rau

    Great piece, Mac!
    I agree with you when you say that progression has been, and is being, made towards LGBTQ individuals within society. Regardless of the progression from the past, we can all see that the oppression of these individuals, and these communities, is still hugely prevalent in society. I agree that love is the answer. Depending on how we look at it, love can be the answer to everything, to some extent. How do you think we should, or could, go about reaching the levels of love and general acceptance to make individuals who are victim to oppression feel like they belong in this society just as much as “normal” people?
    As I have learned from PSYC 100, it is normal for people to feel like they are dominant over others and that their approach to everything in life is the correct, or best, approach. I think that this might be one of the reasons that some people are so quick to oppress others- they think their views and values are the ones that everyone should have. However, this view obviously turns negative when people oppress others for the sole purpose that they believe, after first glance, that since this person is different from themselves, they deserve to feel like nothing. There is a difference between feeling dominant over others and oppressing them. This is something that I think people need to be more aware of.

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