Trans Awareness is Great but Cis Folks Must Do More

Featured image: Photo by Vane Nunes on Shutterstock. Edited in Affinity Designer.


4 for Now

First, I want to reiterate the points I made in What do White People Know About Race? Replacing a few terms, the concepts hold true: I don’t know what it’s like as a transgender person and I can only speak of what I’ve learned, through the lens of my own experiences.

But cis folks need to talk about trans issues [Instagram] so we can finally move past the “which bathroom do we make them use” conversations to the “how to build supports for trans folks into our systems and society” conversations.

Trans Awareness Week: What are we supposed to be aware of, anyway?

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey Report:

  • 48% of transgender folks were denied equal treatment, harassed, or assaulted in the year prior to the survey, simply for being transgender.
  • 47% have been sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.
  • 54% have experienced some form of violence by an intimate partner.
  • 29% of transgender people live in poverty, versus the US average of 12%.
  • 1.4% live with HIV, versus the US average of 0.3%.

I may sound like a broken record, but race and ethnicity compound issues here, too. For the same bullet points above (respectively), the numbers jump to:

  • 70% for Middle Eastern and multiracial transgender folks.
  • 65% for Native American transgender people.
  • 73% for Native trans folks.
  • 43% for Latinx trans people.
  • 6.7% for all Black transgender people and 19% for Black transgender women.

That looks bleak, but there’s been some good news [Twitter], too:

  • Sarah McBride and Rachel Levine both made history as the first trans state senator and the first openly trans official confirmed by the US Senate, respectively.
  • Elliot Page was the first trans man featured on the cover of Time magazine.
  • Michaela Jaé was the first trans person to be nominated for an Emmy for a lead role (coming 7 years after Laverne Cox’s Emmy nomination for a guest role).
  • And in international trans news: Tashnuva Anan is Bangladesh’s first trans news anchor, Argentina is requiring 1% of all public sector jobs go to trans folks, and trans women are being allowed to participate in more beauty pageants.

Awareness Alone Doesn’t Solve the Problem

Don’t get me wrong, awareness is great. You can’t fix a problem (in this case, a lack of supports and an overabundance of bigotry for trans folks) without knowing it exists. But a solution requires action. So, what can we do?

I have some ideas below, but first I want to take a moment to acknowledge November 20, the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, honoring the trans folks who lost their lives to anti-trans violence. (2021 has been the worst year on record.) I encourage you to attend a vigil, watch the documentary DISCLOSURE (I don’t have Netflix, but GLAAD recommends it), express love and gratitude to the trans people in your life, and/or jump right into the list below.


4 for Later

  1. We all already use pronouns. (Don’t believe me? Try going a day without saying he, she, they, it, you, or we.) It costs nothing to use a person’s correct pronouns. Check out this 2-page Pronoun Guide (it’s also available en Español).
  2. If you’re cis, be aware of the privilege we hold (this list of 30+ Examples of Cisgender Privileges by Sam Killermann is a good place to start). Consider how you can use that privilege to help trans people.
  3. Listen to trans folks. They know better than us cis folks what is and isn’t helpful or supportive. For example, here’s a Twitter thread from Alex Petrovnia with information and action steps. Read trans authors. Keep an eye on Transgender Media Portal for an upcoming database of transgender filmmakers and their movies.
  4. Check out this Guide to Being a Good Ally for more tips on how best to show up for trans folks.