Nov. 20 is recognized as Transgender Day of Remembrance, when we honor the lives of those we lost at the hands of anti-transgender violence. In 2017, advocates tracked at least 29 deaths of transgender people in the U.S. due to violence, the most ever recorded. This fatal violence disproportionately affects trans women of color.
Trans people in the United States are more likely to be homeless, unemployed and lack health insurance, and they often live at the complex intersections of racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism and classism. As we reflect today on the immense loss and violence the trans community faces, it’s critical that we as allies strategize our place in the movement for trans equity and justice.
One of the most prominent spaces where trans communities historically have been made invisible is within mainstream feminism. Transgender women and communities are largely excluded from prominent cultural conversations about gendered oppression, the harms of patriarchy, and how to advance and fight for gender equality, despite being the most vulnerable in a binary-enforcing culture.
And because feminists have long contributed to trans erasure, it is absolutely critical that feminists step up and put themselves on the front lines fighting for trans liberation today and every day.
Take, for example, the Women’s March ― of which pink “pussy hats” have become synonymous. Where the Women’s March included the leadership of many prominent women of color activists, the exclusion of trans women and the utilization of “pussy hats,” which equate a place in the movement for gender equity with having a vagina, was alienating to many trans and nonbinary people.
Trans communities have so much to lose under the Trump administration, so this blatant oversight is all the more problematic.
Since Donald Trump took office, this administration has taken numerous steps to roll back LGBTQ rights, from refusing to protect trans students to denying visas to diplomats’ same-sex partners to banning trans individuals from serving in the military and dismissing the advisory council for HIV and AIDS. Last month, The New York Times reported that the Trump administration is planning to exclude transgender and nonbinary people from its legal definition of gender, which, if implemented, would have devastating effects on trans communities’ access to health care, housing, education and civil rights.
However, the erasure of trans experiences and identities existed long before Trump came to power. When we look at the national conversation on gender equity and feminism, from the Me Too movement to the gender wage gap, trans women and communities continue to be left behind in favor of centering the experiences of cisgender white women.