Among the firestorm of articles about "bathroom bills" and "protecting our children," there are some sobering statistics that have come to light. According to the recently-formed Trans United Fund:
- One in four trans individuals have been physically assaulted
- So far this year (May 2016), nine trans individuals in the U.S. have been murdered
- 41% of trans individuals have attempted suicide
- More than 50 pieces of panicked legislation targeting trans individuals have been introduced across 20 states
Some of the panic is coming from bigots who will do whatever they can to demonize anyone they perceive as different from them. One especially noteworthy case is seen in a recent project of the AFA (American Family Association) in which they send men into women's restrooms with the goal of instigating terror and castigating individuals who have a brain structure opposite from what they look like (that is, trans individuals)—as if trans lives weren't already complicated enough.
Some of the panic is coming from people who think that cisgender men will dress up as women—that is, pretending to be transwomen—to gain access to women in vulnerable places such as restrooms and gyms. The problem is that these fearful people haven't thought deeply enough about what it would mean for a man who hates women to make himself appear to be one of them, let alone to do everything it would take just to get to one of these locations without being discovered as a fraud.
There are a number of things both of these fearful groups need to consider:
- Trans individuals have been using the bathrooms of their choice for many years, and there has not been even one incident of them attacking anyone
- The men who have attacked women in restrooms have not done anything to conceal their sexuality
- The people attacked most often in restrooms are trans individuals
There is a distressing incompetence shared by far too many people: the inability to feel compassion for someone who is different from them unless that difference has direct personal meaning. This plays out in ways such as politicians who become more lenient about drug policies when their child becomes addicted. We see lawmakers become more understanding about LGBT issues after a relative comes out of the closet. We need to consider how we treat even people we don't know personally—an especially important task for those of us who claim to belong to a compassionate, loving, and forgiving religion (that means you, AFA).
One problem trans people have is that they have been among the cisgender population without revealing themselves to any remarkable degree until very recently. As noted above, transwomen have been using women's bathrooms FOR YEARS. And they've been invisible.
They are invisible no longer.
In fact, a new practice in India should put to shame any U.S. lawmaker who proposes or supports the hateful legislation we're seeing. In places like Mumbai, the transwomen have become visible to a deliberate and extreme degree: They are wearing dayglow jackets.
Rather than hiding in the shadows and hoping no one will notice them, some transwomen have been joining the Indian police forces, assisting with traffic management and even chasing down criminals. Not only does this help them find jobs, but also it puts them into a position of authority. According to a BBC News article, "They are suddenly viewed in a position of authority by members of the public who had previously looked down upon them and mocked them. "
If you're someone who's afraid you won't know when a trans individual is in the same bathroom as you, then you shouldn't watch these two videos. But if you'd like to understand transgender better than you do, if you're willing to consider treating others with compassion, then please. Watch the videos. You'll see that trans people are just... people.