OPINION: The ‘scary trans woman’ trope? It’s a lie

by Danielle St James | Not a Phase
Monday, 20 November 2023 09:51 GMT

Transgender rights activists protest the recent killings of three transgender women, Muhlaysia Booker, Claire Legato, and Michelle Washington, during a rally at Washington Square Park in New York, U.S., May 24, 2019. REUTERS/Demetrius Freeman

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Despite the headlines, trans women face the same levels of abuse from men as any other woman

Danielle St James is the chief executive of trans+ charity Not a Phase

Monday marks Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual event in which transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming people, together with our allies, come together to show our love for those we have lost in the past year as a direct result of their gender identity.

This year, in its annual Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) update, transgender rights group TGEU revealed that in the past 12 months, 320 trans and gender-diverse people were reported murdered, down only slightly from 2022 when this figure stood at 327.

94% of those were trans women or trans feminine people.

It is worth noting that this figure does not include those whose lives were lost as a result of their gender identity, but not attributed to murder. Given that trans people only represent 0.5% of the population, whichever way you look at it, this figure is staggering.

Cisgender people (those whose identity is the same as they were assigned at birth) are being bombarded on a daily basis by a trans-hostile media that continues to drive clicks through sensationalist headlines.

This fact is putting us at direct risk of harm.

Hate crime against trans people increased by 11% in the past year alone; that shoots up to 186% when you look at the data over the past five years. And that’s just the incidents that have been recorded. Access to healthcare is a joke, with one freedom of information request revealing that trans people could be waiting up to 50 years for a first appointment on the NHS.

At last month’s Conservative Party Conference, we saw the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak deny our very existence and the Health Secretary, Steve Barclay, suggest that trans people should be prevented from receiving care on the hospital ward that aligns with their gender identity. 

My friends tell me of people they know who are being left in the corridor between wards because of uncertainty around where to ‘put them’.

The drip drip of messaging aimed at othering trans people, at creating fear, disapproval and dislike towards us is having a very real impact. Research published by the British Social Attitudes Survey revealed a decline from 82% in 2019 to 64% in 2022 in response to the statement that respondents were “not at all prejudiced” against trans people. 

In a recent post on Twitter, the mother of Alice Litman, a trans woman who tragically died byto suicide earlier this year, bravely shared how all this noise had seeded in her a mistrust of trans women, something that she would openly discuss with her children, while her daughter struggled secretly with her own identity.

As the saying goes: Be careful who you hate, it could be someone you love.

Despite being positioned as a threat to cis women, the reality is that the issues faced by trans women are the same. We suffer the same abuses; we have the same need for safety and protection from abuse at the hands of violent men. Statistics show that trans people are four times as likely to be the victims of violent crime.

In the cold light of day, it’s easy to see the direct correlation between the dehumanising narrative being pushed out and trans people being on the receiving end of dehumanising behaviour.

It’s when those messages are disguised as being in the best interests of cis women that the real truth is lost, and the hatred, towards a community that is simply looking to present the most authentic version of themselves to the world, is encouraged to grow.

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