What JK Rowling should know about a transgender woman like me: Every day in public is risky
LGBTQ rights have come a long way in the U.S. But the community still faces threats in the form of legalization, discrimination and even violence. USA TODAY
Trans people constantly adjust to the feelings of cisgender people. There aren't enough hours to fight every battle, enough rights to guarantee safety.
The Supreme Court ruling this week that LGBTQ people are protected from employment discrimination under civil rights laws was welcome news, particularly since this is the first time transgender rights have been explicitly codified by the high court.
But there is so much work left to be done that the ruling did not fix. The rights and dignity of transgender people are constantly under attack, not only legally but physically, as we see with continuing violence against trans people, and culturally, as evidenced by the controversy J.K. Rowling stirred up last week.
Her transphobic remarks attempted to deny the overwhelming medical and scientific consensus affirming trans people and peddled dangerous and hurtful myths about our community. In a rebuttal to the backlash that was riddled with inaccuracies and dangerous propaganda about the trans community, she claimed to know trans people.
It's really hard to believe that. I'll tell you why: Folks who have trans people in their lives — and actually care about them — know how much trans people generally go out of their way to accommodate cisgender people. Let me explain.
It's risky to be in the public square
Like any community, trans people are definitely not a monolith and our experiences vary widely, but there are fairly common actions we take just to be in the public square and avoid risking violence and discrimination from cisgender people. Here are some examples:
►I haven't been to the gym since I came out. Most cisgender women would be completely fine with a trans woman using the showers after a workout, but do I want to risk ticking off some random transphobe? No. Do I want to risk having someone take photos of me without my consent? No.
►If I'm out in another city, either for business or pleasure, I watch how much I eat and drink. I don't want to be in a position where I'll need to use a public restroom and feel uncertain whether it's safe.
►When I travel out of state, I look up nondiscrimination protections for where I'm going, including airport layovers. Just to know what's available to me. God forbid I have a layover in a state unfriendly to trans people and get assaulted or arrested for using the restroom.
►If I'm in Washington, D.C., and there's a long line to use a public restroom, I usually walk away if I can help it — which is often. I don't know who's a tourist from a conservative part of the country. I don't want to cause a scene or have someone take a photo of me standing in line.
►I have a membership to a women-only workspace. It's quite trans-inclusive and make a point of being affirming. I'm still not going to use its shower facility. Too risky. Some random transphobe makes a fuss, and it becomes a whole thing. Not worth it.
►I live in a city that has comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for trans people. If I face discrimination, I know that the Washington government will have my back, but the unspoken part of that is all the labor and mental anguish to go through the process. It's heartbreaking.
Even in places where we have legal protections, I worry about being a burden. I don't want to cause headaches. I have faced discrimination in places where it was illegal and let it go because I wasn't sure whether it was worth it. And I feel terrible about that. I feel guilty.
Transgender and nonbinary people are constantly adjusting and revolving our lives around the preferences and feelings of cisgender people, not because we want to do that but because there aren't enough hours in the day to fight every battle and not enough rights to guarantee our safety.
What rises from struggle: 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, nearly half of trans people will experience sexual assault in our lifetimes. Almost 60% of trans people have experienced mistreatment by police. About the same percent say they don't feel comfortable calling the police for help.
There is not a week that has gone by since I came out that I wasn't street harassed in some way. It's just something I don't even talk about anymore. I expect it and move on with my day. Put my headphones in and walk, so I can avoid hearing it.
There are videos of men beating the s--t out of trans women that go viral. Our murders are somehow considered insignificant. Our bodies are constantly sexualized. We are walking mirrors for the deepest insecurities of cisgender people.
Under threat, seeking protection: @cmclymer. This column was adapted from a Twitter thread.