Nicole Stone / Staff Writer
Friday, Nov. 20 marks the day we mourn the transgender individuals who fell at the hands of discrimination, hatred and injustice. The murders of trans women, especially those of color, are seeing a devastating statistic that is steadily on the rise.
According to the “The Advocate,” an LGBT-interest magazine, 2015 has observed the murder of 21 transgender women of color. This is nearly double the 13 souls lost in 2014.
It is already difficult to be a non-white member of society. However, to be a person of color with a gender identity that is in disagreement with the way society perceives your body is what Dan Capote, president of the Stonewall Pride Alliance, calls standing at the “intersection of oppressions.”
“In our human culture… there is greater respect for white people; and white people’s bodies and white people’s agencies. And there is lesser respect for people of darker skin colors.” said Capote.
To be a person of color while also identifying as transgender or non-binary means stepping outside the “script” of what is deemed as “normal.” We use scripts so we know what to expect and so that we can prepare a response. If the script isn’t followed because of this problematic dependance on the script, the response can be deadly.
According to Capote, a white trans woman may be assaulted, catcalled or just beaten severely, but she won’t be murdered. A black, hispanic or native trans woman would be murdered.
While racism plays a huge role in the marginalization of trans people, there is also an issue with how gender and gender identity is represented in the media.
Capote explained that social stigmas against feminine men have created this strong tendency towards their portrayal as villains in television, comics, literature and many other storytelling mediums. Their femininity is used to emphasize the manliness of the hero.
Capote specifically brought up the “man in the dress” trope, in which a man must dress as a woman to deceive other men. The example he used was Bugs Bunny dressing as a woman to trick Elmer Fudd out of hunting him. When this trope arises, especially in children’s media, a seed is planted towards the idea that a trans woman is a “man in a dress;” a deceiver.
“This perception of trans people as deceivers, as harmful [and] as tricksters, is a big part of the violent murders.” Capote said.
With these murders of transgender individuals, the persisting issues of both homophobia and racism atop the harmful representations we still see in storytelling, we as a culture have a long way to go until we reach equality.
We have witnessed some overdue victories such as the legalization of gay marriage. Other overdue victories will be the day people can walk the streets without anxiety and when ‘gay’ stops being used as an insult or used synonymously with the word ‘stupid’.
There are still so many parents, friends and families who fear for the very lives of their loved ones because hatred has placed a taboo on who they are.
Capote emphasized that a step towards a solution would be to “humanize the problem.”
“There are people and lives that are being affected by these laws and these perceptions and these societal constructions…” says Capote.
As the support system to an individual who identifies as transgender, as the daughter of a gay man, as a human being who becomes disheartened every time a news station needs to mention the word “murder,” I acknowledge this as a crisis.
People are dying for acceptance, or dying from the lack thereof. Humanity faces a time where the saying “be yourself” remains advice that is difficult to follow. My advice for humanity is to remember to be humane.
[image from Flickr]