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Transgender Awareness Week: Why It Matters

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.


Gains Have Been Made, Yet Violence Continues

History was made on November 3, 2020 when Sarah McBride won the election for United States Senator. I don't typically follow the senate races in a US election; sure, I was thrilled when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected as US representative in 2016, but that was about the extent of my interest. Sarah McBride is another matter.

You see, Sarah McBride is the first openly transgender state senator, and that's kind of a big deal. She's now the highest-ranking openly transgender official in the United States, and in a world where transgender individuals still face prejudice - if not blatant hatred and violence - that's incredible. Taylor Small of Vermont also became Vermont's first transgender state legislator, according to Global News. Some might now argue that these individuals are now the tip of the spear, if you will, in breaking barriers surrounding transgender individuals, but the sad truth is, there's a lot of work that still needs to be done.

The Survey of Safety in Public and Private Spaces identified five dimensions of gender-based violence that it explored in its 2018 report: unwanted sexual behaviour while in public, unwanted sexual behaviour online, unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace, sexual assault, and physical assault. For instance, according to Statistics Canada, those who are transgender had experienced incidences of violence since age 15, and also were more likely to have experienced inappropriate behaviours in public, online and at work than their cisgender counterparts.Violence targeting members of what Statistics Canada identified as the sexual minority was also more likely to result in injuries than violence committed against cisgender Canadians. These incidences of violence were also less likely to be reported to the police if they were committed against those in the sexual minority.

According to this survey, approximately 75,000 Canadians stated that their assigned birth gender was different than their current gender, which boils down to approximately 0.24% of the Canadian population over the age of 15. The numbers of those who still undergo gender-based violence is still completely unacceptable and wrong. This could be your friend, neighbor, or family member living with this level of violence, and yet, they are no different than you or I.

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As part of its Transgender Awareness Week campaign, GLAAD (the Gay And Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has suggested that people looking for information about being transgender should watch the documentary Disclosure, which is executive produced by Orange Is The New Black star Laverne Cox and is currently airing on Netflix. In part, the film reportedly examines the stories of trans individuals, particularly those who were involved in the documentary's creation. Disclosure also sheds light on their own unique experiences as members of the trans community and what those experiences have meant.

Certainly, watching a film is not a cure-all, but in the case of Disclosure, it's a good first step in gleaning further understanding of the trans community. GLAAD also offers a pretty detailed primer about basic terms associated with being transgender, and also outlines why transgender equality is important. In the United States and other countries, there is little to no protections offered to individuals for housing, employment, health care, and other areas where discrimination based on their gender identity or expression might be experienced.

Therefore, allyship with the trans community might become even more critical in order to help navigate these issues of violence and discrimination. As with any group who experiences prejudice or discrimination, support through the situation is incredibly important. However, when you're discriminated against because of who you are, that becomes even more of an issue. Being an ally means being safe, for starters. It means challenging anti-trans language or jokes, and it certainly also means respecting the gender identification of transgender individuals, whether that means respecting their names - and not deadnaming them - and pronouns or simply acknowledging them for who they are.

The more people in the trans person's life, the better. It's true for any of us, really, but particularly for this community, which experiences more violence and discrimination than many others, support is key. Doing what we all can to stop the violence and the hatred and educate others about the transgender community is so important.

We need to see more of that support, especially now.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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