Can We Stop Being Shocked That Transgender People Are Treated Like Sh*t?

by Amber Leventry
Originally Published: 
A Black Trans Lives Matter memorial is seen outside The Stonewall Inn on June 20, 2020 in New York C...
Jamie McCarthy/Getty

People spend entirely too much time being shocked about transgressions that happen in this country to members of the LGBTQIA+ community, specifically transgender people. Folks put hands to their hearts and gasp because love is love, people should be able to live and let live, and everyone deserves to be who they are! They read headlines that should come as no surprise to anyone who is paying attention, share an article that likely wasn’t read, and then go back to what they do before another act of violence and discrimination hits my community.

There have been several uproars recently from the “I’m shocked!” group. First people were in disbelief that J.K. Rowling is a TERF with transphobic point of views. Then just when folks were done announcing they will never throw Rowling a penny again because Harry Potter is cancelled, Trump publicly announced that transgender people don’t have the right to health care and health insurance. Pause. Breathe. I am mad too, but shocked? No. And you shouldn’t be either.

There are pockets of good, but as a whole this country is not kind to LGBTQIA+ folks, specifically to us transgender and nonbinary people. I can’t speak for every transgender person’s experience, but transgender people are treated like shit all of the time. Individually, our security and overall wellbeing vary depending on the support we have, where we live, how well we “pass” according to society, and the color of our skin. Collectively, we are often lumped together as pedophiles, freaks, and nonexistent. We are called wrong, sick, and immoral. Our lives are less valuable than someone’s right to their religious opinions and bigotry.

Perhaps you, in your head, are saying you don’t think that way. How can anyone treat anyone so horribly? Because people don’t like to be uncomfortable, wrong, or forced to set aside their egos and ignorance to actually get to know someone. People don’t like to admit that my gender and that of my daughter has nothing to do with them. They don’t want to admit that their fear is based in insecurity of their own gender based on my ability to be so sure about mine. Transgender people aren’t breaking the rules, but to be accepted people need to realize the rules were garbage from the start.


Anyway, back to you. I am not going to congratulate or thank you for not thinking I am vile. Basic humanity is a low bar to reach. Don’t let this discourage you from learning or doing better, though.

I am exhausted, but not surprised, by your sense of confusion and stunned looks every time I tell people I have been harassed when using a bathroom. Why would people care where I pee? you want to know. Well, it’s not like I have gender neutral options and it’s not like society has offered grace for transgender and gender nonconforming folks. My question to you is this: Have you asked your local businesses, schools, and employers to offer multi-sex or gender neutral bathrooms? Then don’t be shocked that using a bathroom is a problem for me and other transgender folks. I have been asking for safe places to pee for years; maybe someone will listen to you.

Months ago I wrote about J.K. Rowling’s transphobic views. You were shocked then and shocked once more when she most recently wrote her nearly 4,000 word essay trying to defend her newest set of tweets. Her trash opinions backed with bad science and unlived experiences left many of you breathless and just…how could she? Well, science and activists and actual trans folks have been saying forever that sex and gender are not the same thing. We have been trying to alert you that there are still plenty of folks who don’t believe this. And there are plenty of folks who perpetuate this. Been to a gender reveal party lately? Hosted one? Okay, maybe not recently because COVID-19, but you get my point.

And then there is Trump. Folks were disgusted that Trump would approve of doctors, first responders, and health insurance companies letting transgender people suffer and die by the hands of people who are trained to help and save people. Guess what? It’s already happening but this encourages and legalizes it. I was disappointed, traumatized, and blindsided, but not shocked.

Drew Angerer/Getty

Sadly I was shocked when the LGBTQIA+ community got a win on June 15th when SCOTUS ruled that my ability to work was protected under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. WTAF? I shouldn’t be the one who stands in disbelief when I am actually seen and treated like a human being who has a right to employment.

And when it comes to health insurance or health care? I shouldn’t feel lucky that my top surgery was considered necessary. I shouldn’t feel lucky that my trans kid isn’t misgendered when she has to go the doctor. I shouldn’t have to cross my fingers when I cross state lines and hope that I don’t get into an accident. Because there is a chance someone could show up and decide not to treat my or my child’s life threatening injuries because they think trans people are freaks and go against their religious beliefs.

One of the best parts about staying home as a result of the pandemic has been not being misgendered several times a day. Yes, I still get daily hate mail from folks on the internet, but I am used to those and they don’t come with sound or actually having to witness someone’s confusion or discomfort.

I am not asking you to assume the worst in people, but it seems like you need to stop assuming others think the way you do if you. Because if you were truly an ally who can read a room, you would know what your transgender and nonbinary friends are facing. Being shocked, blown away, or scrambling to figure out what to do feels like performative allyship.

What we really need is for you to dig in, listen, learn, and move yourself from passive to active allies and bring your friends with you.

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