24 July 2015
After writing about India Clarke’s murder yesterday, I got to thinking about “the state of the union”, if you will, for transgender people.
Lots of people—including yours truly—said that Caitlyn Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer and photo shoot for Vanity Fair was a “turning point” for us. I still believe that: By transitioning as late as she did in her life, declaring that she’s never been attracted to men and saying that she is (ahem!) a Republican, she shattered a few stereotypes about us.
Still, it’s hard not to think about these facts: She is rich. She is famous. And she is white.
All of those things insulate her from some of the harsh realities too many of us face. Although I don’t expect her, or any individual or even any number of transgender people (let alone cisgender public figures) to change any of those facts, they remain: A transgender person is ten times as likely to be unemployed and sixteen times as likely to be murdered as an average American. Those figures rise for a transgender person of color—especially if she is a male-to-female transgender.
I must say, though, that she is not immune to the backlash against the increased attention she, and we, have received in recent years. Some might claim that the increase in the number transgender people who are murdered or victims of other violent crimes is a result of better reporting. I wouldn’t dispute that, any more than I would argue against the notion that an increase in the number of rapes could be, at least partially, a result of the increased willingness of victims to report such crimes against them.
But it still can’t be denied that the haters are growing more hateful—and sometimes more violent. All you have to do is look at the comments left in response to online articles about anything having to do with transgender people, whether it’s Caitlyn’s “coming out” or India’s murder. Their language is growing more phobic and even violent. So are the proclamations of more public figures who use warped interpretations of their religion—or pure and simple hate—to denounce us and our allies.
In short, we should be happy—and cautious.