Wednesday, November 24, 2010
The transgender community: Invisible victims of violence
When it comes to violent crimes, there is one sector of the population that is virtually invisible. There are no statistics for the crimes committed against them and they often do not receive media coverage.
They are the transgender community.
I recently met Michelle Fox-Phillips, of Transgender Detroit during Oakland University's Anti-hate Week, which ran in conjunction with Transgender Remembrance week.
She says it is often hard to get local, mainstream media to attend conscious-raising events focused on violence towards LBGTIQ community.
Why the phobia? The reasons are many and range from simple misunderstanding, to prejudice to pure hatred.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines transgender as:
"of, relating to, or being a person (as a transexual or transvestite) who identifies with, or expresses and gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person's sex at birth."
I don't know if I necessarily agree with the inclusion of transexual or transvestite, but there are different thoughts on the issue -- and they are complex and personal.
In my mind, gender refers to roles men and women play in society. Sex refers to a person's biology. So in this context, perhaps the difference between transgender and transexual would be between someone who decides switch roles as opposed to someone who wants to undergo changes either through hormone therapy or surgery.
Perhaps my view is incorrect, or over-simplistic.
I think transgender activist, writer and web designer Gwendolyn Ann Smith puts it beautifully:
"I'll gladly admit that I did not grow up like many other women. I have a history that some would regard as incongruent with the gender I inhabit today. As such, I have an adjective -- transgender -- that sits in front of the word woman. It's a modifier for the modified, I suppose, but it does not diminish the value nor the importance of the word "woman" in my life.
I absolutely love the Wikipedia entry for transgender and encourage you to check it out. It is well documented, although the neutrality of a couple of sections is in dispute.
Yet, the bottom line should be nonjudgment -- that is unconditional acceptance or at least an attempt to understand. After all, we are all human beings.
Gwendolyn Ann Smith's website
Gwendolyn Ann Smith's essay, "Transmissions: Ain't I a Woman?"
Transgender Detroit's website