What is Transgender Awareness Week?
Why it’s important and what allies can do to help support the transgender community
Transgender Awareness Week was created in order to celebrate and give visibility to transgender and gender nonconforming people. It’s typically held on November 14th until the 20th, culminating on Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to honor those whose lives were lost to senseless acts of transphobic violence.
Gwendolyn Ann Smith created Transgender Day of Remembrance to commemorate the death of Rita Hester, a well known member of the Boston transgender community and a fierce advocate for transgender rights.
Hester, who was brutally stabbed in the chest 20 times, was miraculously still alive when she was found in her apartment but later died of cardiac arrest after arriving at the hospital.
Hester was only 35 at the time, another victim in an endless sea of hate crimes committed against anyone perceived to fall outside the gender binary, a dualistic system of gender that Western society sees as the default.
Stories like Hester’s are not uncommon. In fact, while all transgender people are at a higher risk of violence compared to cisgender people, transgender women of color face an even greater risk of being targeted, dealing with the intersections of both racism and transmisogyny.
In 2013, two-thirds of LGBT homicide victims were transgender women of color, according to Mother Jones.
With the alarming rate of anti-trans hate crimes and documented bullying of transgender youth, it’s no surprise that almost half of young transgender people have contemplated suicide, and about one quarter reported a suicide attempt.
This is why the celebration of transgender individuals is so important.
In a society that consistently seeks to undermine and deligitimize trans identity, the visibility of trans people is crucial if we are to dismantle the narrative that being trans is somehow abnormal or wrong.
Dehumanization often leads to violence, and thus it is vital we make a conscious effort to combat the stigma surrounding trans identity and instead normalize trans existence.
Ways We Can Support the Trans Community
There are many ways allies can help support transgender and gender nonconforming individuals.
1. Call out transphobia when you see it happening.
If you are in a situation where it is safe for you to do so, stand up for your trans brothers and sisters who could probably use the extra help in fending off transphobic bigots. Transphobia is so deeply ingrained in our social and cultural institutions that we sometimes don’t realize when it’s occurring. Once you’re made aware of it, “you begin to notice it in personal interactions, on television, and in social movements and political campaigns,” reports Everyday Feminism.
2. Support trans centered films and TV shows.
Support shows like Orange is the New Black and Sense8 that feature a prominent transgender character and paints said character(s) as fully fleshed out people with normal quirks and aspirations. Often times you’ll find TV shows or movies that include trans characters only to use them for shock value or fetishization. All publicity is not good publicity, and the same goes for trans representation. Trans people are also regularly passed up for roles in favor of cis people, even for trans characters, similarly in the way white actors have historically and presently played roles originally intended for people of color.
Here’s a list of 7 TV shows and movies featuring a transgender character as a main lead that you can support.
3. Simply talk to friends and family.
In a study done by Stanford professor of political economy David Broockman, it was noted that “a single 10-minute conversation with a stranger could reduce prejudice toward transgender people and increase support for nondiscrimination laws.” By educating your friends and family through active perspective taking, or allowing them to imagine being on the receiving end of discrimination, participants were able to let go of their preconceived notions and look at trans issues in a new light.
By talking to friends and family members through active engagement and helping them understand the harmful effects of transphobic discrimination, we can make the world a little bit safer for our trans and gender nonconforming friends.
As a bonus check out these 10 transgender creators below, changing hearts and educating minds, one YouTube video at a time.