We are in Trans Awareness Week from the 13th to 19th November. This week leads up to Trans Remembrance Day on 20th, which memorialises transgender people who lost their lives due to transphobic violence. Although the awareness and visibility of the trans community is increasing, this is not enough – as violence against trans people is spiralling, and so liberation, solidarity and action is much needed.
The visibility of trans people in the media, the workplace, social and political life is growing. This exposes the cis-normative assumptions inherent in the structue of society. As these assumptions are challenged, a regressive backlash against trans people has transpired in every corner of society from politicians attacking the legal protections and rights, to best-selling fiction writers like JK Rowling and TERF academics framing the intellectual environment. The go-to strategy for these conservative forces is creating a moral panic around the issue to counter the liberation and acquisition of rights. Nonetheless, this regressive backlash is not unique. Rather, many movements of equality and liberation are receiving backlash from the parts of society feeling threatened by the “radical” changes in power relations. As Shon Faye puts it: “The demands for true trans liberation echoes and overlaps with the demands of workers, socialists, feminists, anti-racists and queer people. They are radical demands, in that they go to the root of what our society is and what it could be.”
The presentation of the issue in media matters as it could reinforce this backlash by encouraging prejudices and abuse towards people, especially minority groups. The UK mainstream media is particularly problematic when it comes to the representation of trans people. Research by Mermaids UK states that transgender people are receiving greater news coverage but mostly in an ill-informed and misleading way such as portraying them as being too aggressive or having a propensity to be involved in conflicts. There are also growing numbers of televised debates in TV shows like Good Morning Britain mocking trans identities and questioning their existence. This media climate has severe consequences for trans people as violence and hate speech is on the rise. It is particularly severe with respect to trans people of colour.
A recent article published by the BBC is one example of this wider trend. This article makes a case that cis-lesbians are being pressured into sex by some trans women and these are not isolated incidents. The article is transphobic because it takes either unrelated or isolated incidents and frames them as a general behaviour of trans women. People of all genders could commit sexual assault, yet targeting a specific group of people without sufficient data is a discriminatory act. If there would be a claim that heterosexual women are coerced into sex by some lesbian women, it would be easier to see the homophobic tendency. It is more difficult to see the transphobic tendency since the awareness about transphobia is only recently getting more attention. We should be on the lookout for indirect transphobic discourse because transphobia is not just outright hatred. It is also stereotyping or ‘debating’ the basic rights of trans people.
I would like to finish with a quote again by Shon Faye: “It is only through solidarity, compassion and radical reimagining that we can build a more just and joyful world for all of us.”
Love and solidarity to all trans+, non-binary, gender-nonconforming people and allies.
image source: wikicommons