Unapologetic progressive. Fearless activist. Plucky liberal.

This is another belated attempt to shed light on a marginalized population: trans women. A trans woman is a person assigned a male identity at birth whose sense of self is female. Unfortunately trans women and men are at a very high risk of committing suicide and suffering violent attacks. (The most famous case in American media is probably Brandon Teena, whose story was told in the movie Boys Don’t Cry.)

A survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found:

A staggering 41 percent of transgender people in the United States have attempted to commit suicide, according to a new survey. About 19 percent of transgender people report being refused medical care because of their gender-nonconforming status, and a shocking 2 percent have been violently assaulted in a doctor’s office.

Those numbers are very discouraging, but today a report recommends studying gay and transgender people in order to understand their different health needs. Scientists have only recently started studying how certain diseases affect men and women and whites and blacks differently, and there’s even less research on the health of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people:

Changing that starts with a seemingly simple step: Researchers should start asking people about their sexual orientation and gender identity, just as they routinely ask about race and ethnicity, in all government-funded health studies, the panel concluded.

That’s a big step forward in equality. It comes too late for trans women who were murdered for who they were, including:

That’s just a small list of the murders that make the news. Often when trans people are victims of violence and murder, police and media erase their chosen identities and discriminate against them even in death. Here are a couple of well-written pieces on how not to act like that: Transmisogyny is misogyny against all women and What transmisogyny looks like. The former includes bits like “If you hate, dislike, or mistrust trans women, you’re misogynistic. Trans women are included in the big ol’ group known as women. Want proof? Well look at their name, silly. We call ‘em trans women, not trans chia pets, not trans beach towels, not trans schmeggeggies.” The rest is just as poignant and funny. On a more positive note, look here to see some trans woman success stories.

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Comments on: "WHM Day 31: Trans women are women" (10)

  1. > Researchers should start asking people about their sexual orientation and gender identity

    This isn’t as simple a step as it sounds. Many trans people are not out, and transphobia is serious enough that a survey isn’t a good enough reason to out themselves.

    Of course, that’s a problem with bisexual identity as well, and to a lesser extent, lesbian and gay identity.

    And it doesn’t hurt to at least *ask* the questions, as long as it’s understood that the respondents may have very good reasons to lie / refuse to answer.

    • You have a good point. I would hope surveys would be confidential between the government and responder, but that’s not necessarily the case. Still, I think it’s a step forward that a medical board is recommending the government invest in more research on the health of gay, lesbian, bi, trans and queer people. I hope that will help give them more standing with the medical community as well as society at large.

    • The other thing is that because ENDA hasn’t happened yet there are still many states (29) where being outed could result in the loss of a job, or housing. Considering I’ve read horror stories about trans people being denied medical coverage at the Emergency Room I can only imagine what would happen if such a list were leaked to the general public.

      I live in San Francisco now and I still have to be careful about which doctors I choose simply because there are many who will not treat a transwoman. I’m ‘out’ and have a good job and a decent apartment here, but I don’t think I’d be as lucky in many other states.

      • Thanks for the comment. I’m sorry to hear about the discrimination you face in getting medical care. I hope at least some trans people will feel safe answering a survey that could lead to better, more responsive health care for them down the road. I think it’s a small step forward that the government realizes there’s a need for it.

  2. Brandon Teena was a transman, his murder was a travesty but it’s not an example of violence against a transwoman. Duanna Johnson, or Gwen Araujo are two transwomen whose murders were high profile.

    • Looks like I miss read that sentence, you had included transmen in the statement, my bad.

      • That’s OK. Unfortunately there are many murders of transmen and transwomen, all of whom deserve to be remembered.

  3. No they aren’t

  4. […] I wrote in this space a couple of years ago, trans people face incredible challenges in terms of protection under the law and basic physical […]

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