Editor's note: Allison Hope has written for The New Yorker and The New York Times. She also contributed to CNN, Slate, The Washington Post, The Washington Post and other publications. These are the views of the author. CNN has more opinions.
Love our trans family members and friends in private is not enough.
"Telling you that you love me privately is not enough. Any less would be detrimental to my survival. J.D. said, "Your silence is another nail." Melendez is a transgender friend that was recently on social media.
I need my family to be brave. They said, 'Show the courage that I display by simply existing.
Transgender Day of Visibility is celebrated on March 31, each year. It's a day to celebrate and acknowledge the lives and experiences of nonbinary and trans people.
Trans advocate Rachel Crandall, of Transgender Michigan, started the designation in 2010 as a response to the lack of coverage trans people received in the media and the stories that focused solely on the violence they faced. The vision Crandall began must be expanded across all our media channels to normalize trans experiences and lives.
You can't just be a spectator if you claim to be an ally. You have to speak out. It has never been more important to speak out in support of transgender rights and against attacks on our friends, family and loved ones who are trans. Allies need to combat misinformation they hear or see, whether it's on social media or in the water cooler conversation at work. People who claim to care about the trans community or freedom of speech must reach out to legislators pushing these anti-trans laws and ask them to stop. Allies must validate trans lives for their children and parents, and engage in dialogues that promote gender inclusiveness and fight back against gender policing.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, there is still much work to do: in the first three month of 2023 state governments introduced over 400 bills that targeted the LGBTQ community. The measures include removing or threatening to remove access to lifesaving health care, preventing trans people from using restrooms and other facilities in a safe manner, denying them the ability to play sports, having identity documents that match gender, and sometimes even their right to exist.
A particularly offensive bill being reviewed in Florida could force children to leave homes where gender affirming health care was under consideration. According to a study by the Williams Institute, more than 144,000 transgender youth have lost access to gender affirming health care because of new laws.
"I am more upset by the silence from my family and friends who say they support us, than I am that they are coming after us. I expected that from them. It broke my heart.
Trans people still face disproportionate violence (4 times higher than cisgenders, according to the 2021 Williams Institute Study), but cultural shifts have allowed for a broader and affirmative representation of the diverse experiences of trans people. It would be encouraging if the trend of increased visibility hadn't been met by state-sponsored attacks or misrepresentative media coverage. As allies we need to help dispel disinformation. We can do this by speaking out, stopping false narratives and fighting ignorance with facts.
Trans people are not okay. Trans people are not OK. Transgender people need loud voices from allies who are willing to fight for them, whether at school board meetings, city hall, or state legislatures.
The fact that Americans know fewer transgender people (42%, up five percentage points over the last five years according to the 2022 Pew Research Center study) and are far less likely to know lesbians, gays, or bisexuals (nearly 90% according to the 2016 Pew Survey).
It's easier for those who want to restrict trans rights to condemn an invisible person at a meeting of the school board. You don't have to share a table, a classroom, or a play area with them. It is easier to pass laws against people who you've never met. As long as transgender people are still a hypothetical concept, it is harder to understand their humanity, their need for safety, and their right to equal civic participation.
This is partly because transgender people make up a small percentage of the population (about the same as redheads), but it's also because they are often invisible, whether on purpose or not. Trans people are more invisible than they need to be because their self-proclaimed supporters remain silent when it's time to speak out.
It's not just about adults. Trans kids need us. Trans kids are forced to use bathrooms which don't reflect their identity and they are banned from participating in sports. The American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and other organizations have supported mental health counseling and hormonal blockers as life-saving health care.
What would you think if your trans child was told that their well-being is the only thing they are responsible for? What would it feel like to know that the elected officials making the rules are not considering the impact on the people who they claim to be protecting or even getting their input? Imagine you're a teacher at a school where all gender identities are banned. You may be forced to misgender students or hide curriculum or books that discuss LGBTQ people and identity. What kind of world would we like to live in?
It is not necessary to go back to the US history textbooks to see how disingenuous these attempts are to suppress gender diversity. Men wore togas and dresses in ancient Rome for many centuries. This included nobility, government officials, and even royalty. Drag entertainment dates back to Shakespeare's actors who cross-dressed when playing female roles.
A person's choice between a dress or pants, a bag or a briefcase, a truck, or a doll, is not inherently dangerous. Trans people and drag queens have not caused harm in a systematic way. In fact, policies that prevent transgender and gender-expansive children from being themselves have hurt them. People who believe they are entitled to violate the constitutionally protected right to freedom to speech and expression pose a threat.
Drag is not the same as trans. Trans is not synonymous with drag. In both number and severity, the attacks against any deviation from a strictly male or woman identity are increasing. The freedom-squashing legislation is aimed at everyone. A single attack is an attack against us all. The silence of the moderates is deafening. You haven't studied history very well if you believe that those who wish to limit the rights of others will not come after you.
Haters don't distinguish between a gay man and a drag star; or between a couple of dads, or between a nonbinary teenager; or between a teacher that wants to display a rainbow flag in order to create a safe space for her students. People who are against trans rights at their extremes want us all to be gone. The number of detractors of transgender people is increasing and they take more bold actions. They are also erasing the LGBTQ community with each piece of legislation and every epithet.
The problem is not trans people or drag queens. Politicians who are more willing to throw their most vulnerable constituencies under the bus rather than work, are not the solution. People who are not trans can be allies and help. Remember, our trans family and friends are listening.