Looking Back and Looking Forward on Trans Equality

transgenderDeja Nicole Greenlaw at a former Pride celebration circa 2012.
Photo: TRT Archives
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Trans Equality means full protections and rights, just like cisgender people have them 

By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist—

I first entered the trans community in late 2001 and let me tell you, times have greatly changed since those days. Back then most people had never even heard of the word, “transgender,” and they had no idea of our existence. In the past, the trans women who were visibly trans were seen as either gay men who wore women’s clothing or as sexual deviants. Of course, today most people know that we are not gay men nor sexual deviants. But before, that was what a lot of folks thought was true. Because of their invisibility, trans men (people who were assigned female at birth but are really male) were not even given a thought. It was all centered on trans women (people who were assigned male at birth but are really female) and the general thoughts were that trans women were really confused or deranged men.

To many folks, even the thought of a man wanting to be a woman was a ridiculous thought. There was a lot of ignorance, fear, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny in the public’s thoughts about us. I remember going to Transgender Days of Remembrance, TDoR, back then and hearing about the awful stories of how some trans women were brutally murdered in an overkill fashion and many criminal cases were not adequately followed up because we were considered “undesirables” and that our lives didn’t matter.  I would also hear of stories of how we, as trans people, would quite often lose the support of some family members, friends, co-workers, and in many cases even lose their jobs because they were trans. We had no legal, social rights, or human rights. It was pretty awful realizing that who you really are is looked down upon by the vast majority of society.

Today, there are some laws on the books that protect us. We still have a long way to go but we are making progress. There are still some folks who still believe that we are sexual deviants and undesirables but there are many more folks who now accept us for who we are. The over-killings heard at today’s TDoRs, however, are still just as bad and there are a higher number of killings because of our increased visibility.

Increased visibility is a double-edged sword. The good edge is that it shows that we truly exist as trans people and many non-trans folks are beginning to accept us and welcome us into their lives. Lawmakers are now even beginning to understand us and laws protecting us are being passed. The bad edge is that the people who don’t like us now can easily come in direct contact with us and they may give us a hard time, or much worse, kill us.

It seems that everyone is looking at each other these days and trying to figure out if someone is trans or not. This may lead to problems for cisgender men who are feminine looking and cisgender women who are masculine looking, as well as trans people. As a matter of fact, visibility is so prevalent that some trans people who used to slip by unnoticed in society with no problems before are now having their gender questioned. Yes, increased visibility has helped us and also hurt us. It also has hurt other people who may look like they are trans people. Yes, the ignorance and hate is still out there.

So what can we expect for the future? I can’t really say, but I think that as time goes on trans people will become more accepted and welcomed as equals in everyday life. I can currently see some progress in the workplace, housing, public accommodations, and health care.

As I stated earlier, we still do have a long way to go, but we are seeing some progress in those four categories. One category I do not see much progress at all is non-trans people openly dating, loving, and coupling with trans people. Yes, there are some folks that are open about it, but as far as I can see, they are few and far between. When we get to the point when we, as trans people, are viewed as possible significant others by most of society, I will then say that we have finally reached true equality. Only time will truly tell when it will happen.

*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a trans woman who has three grown children and is retired from 3M. She can be contacted at dejavudeja@sbcglobal.net.

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