Enough Is Enough: How We Can Defeat Transphobia

Robert Crohan/Staff Writer

We all know by now that Black Lives Matter—or at least we should. 

Given the promises left by our founding fathers and higher power(s), the injustices faced by every group in our country that is not white and straight just doesn’t make sense. Transgender people are no exception.

Few issues anger me more than transphobia. I have written about how government measures and ignorance have contributed to the marginalization of our trans community, but the problem is nowhere near at an adequate level of awareness and discussion. 

That’s why, when three trans women were violently assaulted in Los Angeles last month, the incident was largely forgotten. Three men appeared to be angered at the women not being cisgender, and decided to mock and harass them, nearly killing them. The attack was captured on video, revealing how onlookers showed no remorse. Two of the three attackers were arrested.

We can crush transphobia. We have the manpower, resources, resolve and determination in our populace to mobilize and turn our country and world more inclusive. America has accomplished so much, so there is no reason why we cannot achieve equality.

Our university is home to many transgender individuals from a variety of backgrounds. We have a variety of resources to assist transgender students, but the community faces many struggles that non-trans people might not identify or understand, such as homelessness and drug addiction. I have met several transgender people and seen the goodness—and fear—in their hearts.

In Florida, transgender individuals may be immigrants who fled nations where their identity would mean persecution. Central America in particular is notorious for transphobic murders. In Miami, patriarchic tendencies (“machismo”) might encourage violence against trans women, in a city with high homelessness and much sex work—both affecting trans people heavily. A fellow Panther might, frighteningly, be “next.”

To take action, we must look at the facts: in 2019, over 27 murders of trans people were recorded in the U.S., and most perpetrators come from marginalized communities, including black cisgender men. In 2020, we have already hit 26. 

Oftentimes, the attack occurs as a supposed defense mechanism—the “trans panic defense,” according to FIU student activist Rosen T. Gordon, a junior majoring in women’s and gender studies, as well as Latin American and Caribbean studies. Zhe explained that this is an “attempt to get no or a lighter sentence based on so-called momentary mental instability.”

According to Gordon, who is also the incumbent president of FIU’s Honors Pride Club and is currently running for reelection unopposed, the trans panic defense can be halted through “legal protections against discrimination in school, healthcare and the workplace. Gender affirming care needs to be more accessible in terms of costs, location and inclusion of non-binary people and people without gender dysphoria.”

There is so little education on what it means to be trans that the general population scoffs at it, and find themselves inclined to assault us for our differences, especially sexually.

Nathan Nayor, Honors Pride Club

This highlights how perpetrators feel obliged to further reinforce how Black women and transgender people are not valued in society. The victim mentality of many straight men in America comes full circle and blocks the progress of marginalized communities. A solution, according to Gordon, is to “value Black trans women as their identities and as people in general.” Yes, our parents taught us to not stare, but this goes much further: tolerance must be ingrained, made systemic.

We must also eradicate the “cotton ceiling,” a term coined by queer trans woman Drew DeVeaux, and introduced to me by Gordon, to refer to how transgender people are excluded from dating, sex and romance. Imagine all the meant-to-be couples in history torn apart by this. As a straight man who has been attracted to trans women, it sickens me to imagine discriminations faced towards couples with at least one trans person.

Education is essential. I have observed remarkable progress among my peers in adapting to gender-inclusive language and customs. The country and world definitely have ingrained transphobic stigma that promotes violence and a refusal to understand. Through intersectionality, we can embrace our differences and hear from those on the front lines of the transgender experience in order to normalize their identities.

Arguments against transgenderism on the basis of “logic” and “biology” are exclusionary, misinformed and harmful. The same holds true for religious arguments, and there are ways to incorporate transgender acceptance with religion that must be pursued, especially in FIU which has large religious communities. Transgenderism is completely natural and must be treated as such, and introduced to unfamiliar people.

“There is so little education on what it means to be trans that the general population scoffs at it, and find themselves inclined to assault us for our differences, especially sexually,” notes Nathan Nayor, a freshman biology major who is running unopposed as treasurer of the Honors Pride Club. 

Keep in mind that transgender lifespans are much shorter than those of people without gender dysphoria. Trans people much more likely to experience mental illness, homelessness (40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+), family rejection (3 in 4 trans people have heard anti-LGBTQ+ remarks in their family), and suicidal thoughts or actions (4 out of 10 trans adults have reported attempts at suicide).

Take it from Nayor, who faced harsh disregard from his family and moved onto campus to escape. He says he faced verbal abuse and threats for his identity, especially in middle and high school. Thankfully, he has found a better place on campus. 

Given this, resources must be open to a variety of perspectives, races, cultures, and personalities in addressing transgender issues. We must mobilize around politicians and organizations that legitimize trans people and do not discriminate on the basis of identity, while encouraging transgender people to run for office. Very little legislation exists addressing these issues. And businesses, services (including police), and employers must familiarize themselves with transgenderism and its pertinent issues.

This may be the rockiest obstacle towards equality. Nayor adds that “there is no law that penalizes assault on trans people as a hate crime, and it is encouraged by Gay/Trans Panic Defense policies around the nation that allow someone to assault or murder a queer person if they claim the person was either ‘making unwanted approaches’ or if the suspect was in a ‘temporary insanity.’” This reveals how institutions dehumanize trans people as inherently criminal and suspicious.

In terms of opportunity, transgender people are less likely to be employed or protected. If non-discrimination practices are brought to all businesses and facilities, society should grow more accepting of our trans citizens over time. Health care is crucial and must be expanded to all transgender people, especially as the pandemic has endangered trans communities everywhere. Mental and medical health, along with transgender-specific resources must be made available to protect as many lives as possible. 

This will be a long fight, and there are so many facets of injustice towards the trans community that must be addressed. But progress has been made: even conservative states like Pakistan are taking measures to protect their transgender populations.

If you are unfamiliar about transgenderism, or may have had negative feelings about it—don’t fret. There are plenty of activists who can guide you on a journey to awareness. Rosen runs an Instagram page @RevolutionRosen with insightful information and advice. FIU also provides resources for the LGBTQA+ community online and in-person.

But change will not happen overnight. We all have a role to play in eliminating hate and injustices of all stripes strangling this community. 26 trans people were murdered so far in 2020. Let’s make that zero in 2021.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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Featured image by Kyle on Unsplash.

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