In a time when laws surrounding the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) community are becoming clearer, granting the community greater social and legal standing, the transgender community continues to lag behind in recognition and legal protection.
Transgender is an umbrella term encompassing those who do not identify with their biological sex. It includes such identifications as transsexual (transgender identifiers who surgically change their sex) agender, androgynous, intersex, cross dresser and many others. Cassidy Medicine Horse, a local writer and activist as well as founder of TransMSU — a support group for transgender students — defined transgender as “a personal understanding of who you are as a gendered individual that is not limited by the biological and social imperatives associated with one’s birth. Self recognition as gay, lesbian, or bisexual addresses sexual predisposition. Self recognition as transgender is a declaration of selfhood.”
The trans community does not have the protection offered by hate crime laws. Hate crimes include singling someone out based on race, ethnicity, sexuality, and other prejudices. Medicine Horse mentioned that legislation is being introduced in the next year that would stop discrimination on the basis of gender presentation or identity nationwide.
Many, however, do not take trans violence seriously, even where it is against the law. Medicine Horse stated, “the reality is how laws are enforced is of equal importance as to what the law is.” And it doesn’t help that the trans community is “the marginalized of the marginalized.” While the LGB community is pushed to the side less often, the trans community continues to be ignored and silenced.
While lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are all included within one acronym, transgender differs from LGB in that it’s the only one of the four that relates to gendered identity of the self, not sexual attraction. Medicine Horse commented, “the ‘T’ in LGBT got tacked on as an afterthought. The singular commonality between LGB and T is that none are products of choice.”
After her own transition, Medicine Horse lost lifelong friends. She believes people use labels because they’re easy, and become uncomfortable when others change and leave their designated boxes. They toss them out as mistakes, rather than simply expanding the box they’ve made. Medicine Horse desires a box that “just says ‘human.’ Build on that, accept that. You’re human, with all the innuendos and additions and subtractions and wonderful things and horrible things that that term involves, and that’s okay.”
When asked what advice she would give to those considering transition, Medicine Horse said, “Be very sure of what you’re doing, go very slow, think it through. There is nothing easy about it.” Transitioning is difficult, expensive and you will lose friends, though you may find others in unlikely places. Medicine Horse advised reading, doing your own research and talking to those who have transitioned themselves. “You cannot do it by yourself.” She stated that whatever is going on, whatever problems you have, changing gender will not cure that. “Those problems are still going to be with you. Just because you transition gender doesn’t mean you have this instantaneous cure for all those problems.”
In discussing her own transition, Medicine Horse said she’s much happier now. Whatever was happening before her transition, there was always a sadness, a heartache. She is now completely comfortable in her own skin. Someone’s advice to her was to be comfortable being who she is, that she has to own it.
To those who value the designated boxes, Medicine Horse said, “the only box we fit into is human. Stop trying to put trans people in your box and then wonder why they don’t fit.”