It’s not unusual for an issue to lose steam once it reaches peak visibility. If everyone is aware of an issue, it can be vague as to what the group is fighting for. When issues gain popularity, brands will often capitalize on the emotions of those who are fighting for their rights. While capitalism sinks its teeth into an issue, movements become accessories instead of rally cries. As transgender issues come to the forefront of the media, it’s important to remember that it’s still the time to fight. Now is not the time to ease the pressure.
In early September, the Marco Marco runway show during New York City Fashion Week featured a line of 34 unique transgender models. The models, both male and women, were of all races and showed the industry that transgender people have a place at the table.
Many people at the show were using the hashtag #TransisBeautiful, which was made popular several years ago by actress and activist Laverne Cox. Cox has become a representative of the transgender movement by using her platform on the show Orange is the New Black to drive visibility to trans issues and to call for inclusion in the media.
Since then, there’s been a firestorm of exposure. From Vanity Fair to Playboy, Hollywood has made it clear that they want their piece of the rich culture, personality, and experience that trans people have to offer.
However, the plight of transgender people has not improved with the increased exposure. In fact, 2018 may be the most deadly year for transgender people yet. In 2017, the Human Rights Campaign published that 29 transgender people were murdered.
As of September 2018, there have already been 22.
While Hollywood wants a piece of the trans-media prize, they have been relatively silent about the mounting death rates. Instead, as many outlets cry for more inclusion, and more acceptance, they try to minimize the cases of exclusion. Hollywood still regularly casts cisgender actors in transgender roles. The distance shows that while Hollywood is happy to allow trans people to have a seat at the table, they prefer it to be the kid’s table.
While there are many communities that are safe for transgender people, there are still many that aren’t. For every New York City Fashion Week, there is a town that is not safe for people to live their truth.
We have to ask what is the cause of trans violence, and what we can do to stop it.
In recent history, there have been several pieces of legislation passed that create unsafe spaces for trans people. In many cases, even going to the bathroom can be cause for conflict, and result in a trans person being outed.
Being outed is a violation of privacy, but also a violation in the anonymity that many trans people use to keep themselves safe from transphobic rhetoric and violence.
Many transgender people of color also live in poverty, which reduces their access to shelter and proper identification. These are critical resources that can save a person’s life. When trans people lack identification with the correct gender, they can be outed in public. Further, without a safe place to retreat, they can become the focus of anti-LGBTQ+ violence.
The intersection of transgender issues and poverty underscores the fact that trans issues are human rights issues. If there are no proper resources for people to escape violence, it will undoubtedly continue.
Another aspect of rising trans violence lies in how the current administration rewards anti-transgender views. The Trump administration has shown a pattern committed to erasing trans people from existence.
In October of this year, the New York Times reported that the Department of Health and Human Services is attempting to define gender in relation to sex, as either male or female, and unchangeable. This seeks to erase the concept of transgender people entirely and disenfranchise from the tapestry of America. The policy aims to change how sex is enforced under Title IX, a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
So far, this administration has already rolled back Title IX protections of trans people in schools, prisons, and homeless shelters.
This proposed definition would wipe out any hope for trans protection under the law. It would re-open an opportunity for discrimination, and only enable those who seek to erase trans people from the planet, not just in the definition.
If people of power who are responsible for the safety of trans people are not held accountable, then the trend of trans violence will continue to grow. We have to remember that while catwalks in New York City are a step in the right direction, this movement does not stop at the end of the runway. It keeps marching until every town is safe.