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Elizabeth Davidson discusses trans visibility and safety.

2017 now stands as the deadliest year on record for trans people in the United States. At the moment I’m writing this, twenty-seven trans people have been murdered in this country … and we’ve still got a month left. I would personally be willing to bet that two more trans people will be murdered by New Year’s Eve. (*Since writing that previous sentence last week, I’ve attended a vigil for a trans woman of color, Brandi Seals, who was murdered here in Houston. Citing numbers seems pointless now that the numbers are rising almost too quickly to keep track.)  Why is this happening? Is it because more and more of us trans people are coming out and living as our authentic selves? Are we seeing a pushback by bigots who can’t stand seeing us happy?  Or is the rhetoric of conservative politicians emboldening their supporters to attack us? In my opinion, it’s all of the above.

We used to be just a side-show attraction – if you have a free afternoon and a deep-seated desire to wound your soul – you can watch any number of Maury episodes that invite audience members to guess “is it a man or a woman?” Now, however, people take us seriously. And isn’t that just nuts? Likewise, if you’re loathing yourself or genuinely just find your curiosity piqued to know what the world has to say about trans people, you can tune into conservative media and hear about how “the transgenders” are out to get the women and children of America. But there still stands the fact that in 48 states, the murderer of a trans person can claim that they were “freaked out” to the point of murder, and will receive a less severe sentencing than if they’d simply pled guilty. That alone makes me think that in a lot of places around the country, any  reason to murder trans people is a good reason.

So what do we do about this? Honestly, if I had a way to change the hearts and minds of the country (or at least daytime TV programming), I would have already used that power a long time ago. Honestly, it’s going to take a united effort by more than just the trans community to convince the world that murder is bad; so, if you were hoping to find an easy solution to this problem in this essay, I’m sorry to disappoint you. However, there are some simple things we can do that can help make our lives easier, happier, and hopefully a little safer.

#1 Come Out!

I know that it’s scary and difficult; and yes, I know we have to do it over-and-over again to many different people, as it is rarely believed that we know who we are.I’ve come out to my family so many times that I’ve lost count. Are they supportive? For the most part, no. Maybe they’ll come around and realize through knowing me that trans people aren’t creepy weirdos lurking in bathrooms, but instead are bright, funny, talented, beautiful people. Conversely, they may leave me alone and stop telling me, “You have evil in your soul.” But by coming out, you’re letting others  know that they already know a trans person. And if people know one of us, it’s harder for them to believe the lies about us. We have a superpower here. A magical ability. You have the potential to change someone’s mind for the better. Now, be safe about how and when you decide to come out. If you think coming out will endanger your life or well-being, come up with a strategy so you can be safe and be yourself. Above all, I want you alive and well and able to shine your unique light into the world.

#2 Find your tribe.

I’ve found mine in a number of places. I realized my transness through drag performance; and my friends in the drag scene are still some of the kindest, sweetest, and loudest champions and supporters I have. Also, going to trans support groups when I needed them helped me find a community of trans men, women, and non-binary folks that I still turn to and rely on some 2+ years into my transition. Because my birth family isn’t so great, my family of choice consists of the people I love and who love me back unconditionally, as any real family (birth or chosen) should. Having a tribe means having a place where you know you belong, and a group of people who are concerned for your wellbeing and safety—people who will check on you and encourage positive, safe, healthy living.

#3 Watch your back!

It sucks and it’s going to sound like I’m putting the burden on us to not become victims, which is not my intention. With that said, it’s clearly a dangerous time to be trans. Don’t tell anyone that the funny-looking object on my keychain is actually pepper spray, but that’s what it is.I’ve been attacked before, and I don’t want that to happen again, to me or to anyone else. Talk to some cis girls about how they protect themselves—they’ve been dealing with creeper dudes since they were kids. Maybe Karen at work has some tips? Remember, Tiffany at the coffee shop told you to get your keys out of your purse *before* walking out to the parking garage! Bond with these people who can advise you on safety and maybe they’ll even end up being in your tribe.


There’s been a lot of stress and political upheaval this past year, and maybe that’s been driving the violence against the trans community. Personally, I hope 2018 calms down. Perhaps drawing attention to the issue will wake up the rest of the country. For information on resources and where you might find your tribe, contact About Magazine, the Montrose Center, Legacy Community Health, or search Facebook for groups to join.

And cis people, DON’T BE SILENT! If you hear a friend, family member, or coworker making jokes or disparaging comments about trans people, call them out and educate them. We need your help, because the only way we can change the world is if we do it together.

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