Last Friday, Vice President Joe Biden released a statement saying: “violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people, particularly Black and Brown transgender women, is an epidemic that needs national leadership.” The outpouring of appreciation from the transgender and gender non-comforming community has been strong. Within mainstream politics, transgender and gender non-comforming issues are rarely paid much heed, and it is even the explicit policy of our nation’s ruling party behind some of the issues. Consider the GOP platform’s position on Title X: “That same provision of law [Title X] is now being used by bureaucrats — and by the current President of the United States — to impose a social and cultural revolution upon the American people by wrongly redefining sex discrimination to include sexual orientation or other categories.” An entire political party is devoted to the disestablishment of LGBTQ+ individuals as a protected class- as a group themselves!
Biden, to his great credit, has been one of the strongest fighters for LGBTQ+ advancement in recent years, even calling transgender rights ‘the civil rights issue of our time’ all the way back in 2012, and famously endorsing gay marriage before President Obama did. His platform includes extensions of protections for LGBT+ individuals, especially transgender individuals. Yet while political action to curb the plague of violence against transgender and gender non-comforming individuals is certainly extremely helpful and will be of great benefit to those communities, I fear that it will not be enough to address the epidemic as a political problem. It must instead be conceived as a cultural issue, much in the way that we are seeing with race relations and police violence.
Let us look at the facts: 33 transgender or gender non-comforming people have been killed this year nationally, the most on record since the Human Rights Campaign started tracking the issue. Whilst it must be noted that murder rates have increased this year, the figure is still alarming. As far as can be established, many of these attacks were directly provoked by the identity of the victim. The majority of these attacks were upon members of Black and Brown communities, perhaps indicating a correlation with anti-transgender and intersectionality with other marginalized or impoverished groups.
Beyond murder, there has been a rash of violence, both physical and psychological, committed against the transgender and gender non-comforming community. From a lack of ease of transition to assault to the simple barriers to name change, America is hostile towards these people. However, it is not the mere presence of violence that is so concerning, but the increase in violence. We like to imagine our society as socially progressing on its own, with merely the rectification of old social problems being our main concern. However, as the rise in violence proves, anti-trans sentiment has itself arisen or become worse.
The reason why I call this problem not only an epidemic, but our nation’s newest shame, is because we are letting a new social problem develop nigh unheeded, with no sense of an organized war on the issue. You’d think in the more-prescient modern era that we’d appreciate that we are simply letting what could perhaps become the greatest cultural crisis of our next generation fester and grow. Just like Founders let slavery “slide”, we are letting an epidemic of violence slide. It is simply shameful that we are not crushing this issue when it is still nascent.
Consider how anti-immigrant movements (against certain migrant groups) were crushed incredibly quickly during America’s past. Now contrast that with the fomentation of racism as a cultural issue. We can prevent the creation of these damaging movements, all it requires is an effort on our part to do so.
We must take upon an overwhelming initiative to provide for trans and non-binary acceptance in this country and prevent violence against those groups. More importantly, we must come to redefine the way in which we think of the issue. Many don’t appreciate that anti-trans or nonbinary violence isn’t simply because of transphobia, but also because our society consistently dehumanizes those groups, both in the way we are taught about them, the way the government interacts with them, or the way we percieve gender. It is not about hate so much as it is about incomprehension. It is incredibly obvious that those who are educated about trans and nonbinary people are way less likely to be transphobic or nb-phobic.
I’m not particularly qualified to write about these issues . But, I would implore you to appreciate how if I’m cognizant of them, it means they’ve gotten incredibly harrowing for the people they actually affect. We are seeing record rates of people, particularly young people, identify as transgender or nonbinary. Let’s make our country safe for them.
Per Gladium Causa,
Joshua Z. Miller