By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist—
Since Caitlyn Jenner came out, it is not unusual to find in the daily news a story of a trans person or an article about the life of trans people. I think that this is terrific because it gives exposure to trans lives and to the struggles we face every day as trans people. Anyone can now be in tune to what’s happening in our world by checking their news feed. At the same time, people are discovering that there are trans people actually living in their lives, in their cities and towns, in their families, in their circle of friends—and many people are coming to terms with this reality. The news stories are there, the information is there, and the people are there to report, inform and live to show the trans experience. This is wonderful! It’s a far cry from just a few years ago when there were no news stories about us and any image of us that we had was not positive. We are entering the age where it is beginning to be a good time to be a trans person. However, it’s still not perfect, not by a long shot. There are many issues that we still face and these are very tough issues.
We still need to receive respect for being who we are. We were assigned a gender at birth, but that is not our true gender and we take the steps to align ourselves with our true gender. We need to be respected, thought of, and referred to as our true gender. Misgendering us is not respectful. Calling us by our birth name is not respectful. [pullquote]We were assigned a gender at birth, but that is not our true gender and we take the steps to align ourselves with our true gender. We need to be respected, thought of, and referred to as our true gender. Misgendering us is not respectful. Calling us by our birth name is not respectful.[/pullquote]
We also need to be respected in the work force, in the community, and in our circle of friends and family. We need to be able to earn our living, to thrive, and to live in a town or city. We need access to health care for both our male and female parts. We need to be safe and to not feel fearful that we may be targeted for violence wherever we go. We need to be respected as dating and love interests. We need to be respected as human beings.
As you can see, trans people still face a tough road ahead. It’s not easy living your life no matter who you are. Living life as a trans person is tougher. It is more difficult if you are a trans person of color and worse than that if you are a trans person of color living in poverty. Prejudices will work against you. Violence will be directed towards you, and sometimes you may even lose your life in the process. [pullquote]It is more difficult if you are a trans person of color and worse than that if you are a trans person of color living in poverty. Prejudices will work against you. Violence will be directed towards you, and sometimes you may even lose your life in the process.[/pullquote]
When it comes to support, yes, a trans person may have non-trans friends who are wonderful and respectful, but I don’t think that these friends can fully understand what the trans person has gone/is going through. They can sympathize, but can they truly understand the situations? I don’t believe so. The only folks who will truly understand will be other trans folk because they live the life. It is my opinion that it is very therapeutic for trans people to interact with other trans people at least every once in a while. It can get very lonely out there when the world is not treating you right and you may begin to lose confidence and become anxious and fearful. You might need someone to talk to and no one will be able to understand you quite like another trans person.
For the sake of true understanding I believe that it is important to spend quality time with other trans people. Trans support groups can be great for this. Everyone can talk to one another about issues that they might have in common, and maybe someone might even have a good solution to a situation that seemed overwhelming before. Even if there is no viable solution immediately available, you can still vent. It is so nice to be able to vent to people who understand you and it may be just enough for you to recharge and then go back into that big, cold, tough world and continue on with your life. No, it still isn’t easy to be a trans person these days, but solid support from non-trans folk and empathy from within the community can help immensely. We still have a long way to go.
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a trans woman who has 3 grown children and is retired from 3M. She can be contacted at email@example.com.