In many ways, 2016 has been a roller coaster of disappointment and turmoil. For many of us in the transgender community, the rise in populism has become a source of renewed fear about the future of our rights and acceptance.
With all the media attention focused on the negative, things can feel really bleak.
Nevertheless, 2016 actually had its moments of progress, and there are reasons to be excited about 2017. So as we say goodbye to this year and get ready for whatever lies ahead, here are a few reasons to be proud of being transgender in 2016:
1. ‘We see you’ (or they’re starting to, at least)
US Attorney General Loretta Lynch recently spoke out to the transgender community with the simple message: ‘We see you’.
The truth is, people really have begun to see us, more now than ever before.
Transgender visibility was up sharply in 2016. A Pew Research survey showed that, in 2016, 30% of those interviewed said they knew a transgender person. Only a year earlier in 2015, a GLAAD survey showed that number standing at 16%. That means in only a year, trans visibility doubled.
The rise in transgender visibility can be attributed, at least in part, to an amazing year for trans people in the media. Most recently, National Geographic has dedicated its entire January 2017 issue to gender identity (thought it came out a little early, so we’re going to let it count for 2016).
National Geographic is only the latest mainstream publication to begin covering trans people. Earlier this year, Cosmopolitan and Teen Vogue also showed that the world is waking up to trans people, their needs and their diversity. Meanwhile, on television, a new HBO documentary on trans lives was released, while the United Kingdom saw the first ever trans woman host of an all-female talk show.
GLAAD’s 2016-17 Where We Are on TV report found that transgender characters had doubled on TV in the past year, going from seven to 16, representing 6% of all LGBT characters. Narratives are also changing. With the hiring of more transgender writers, 2017 has promise to take characters beyond stereotypes and the ‘transition story’.
2. You know what else doubled this year? Us!
Statistic keeping about transgender people is still very primitive. Many parts of the world keep no statistics at all. In the United States, however, a landmark publication by the Williams Institute, based on new federal and state data, showed that the number of people who identified as transgender had doubled in the five years since the last report using similar data. That means that in the US alone, there are now 1.4 million transgender people living in the United States.
Admittedly, it can be dangerous to celebrate the fashion industry. The sector is rife with false promises and unrealistic expectations. That can be especially dangerous for a community where self-image and self-esteem are already delicate.
Nevertheless, the presence of TV, magazines and advertising is part of our reality. In GLAAD’s 2016 media study, 84% said they “only learn about trans people through the images they see in the media.” That means that our presence in such spaces is really important.
And boy were trans people present in 2016:
Hari Nef modeled for H&M and also became the first ever trans model on the cover of Elle UK:
While “Loiza Lamers” & “Benjamin Melzer” posed for Diesel
Shay Neary became the first plus-size transgender model in a major fashion campaign, Laith Ashley blew away an LA crowd on a Marco Marco Runway, Benjamin Melze became the first ever trans model on the cover of Men’s Health Europe, and Amelia Gapin became the first ever trans person on the cover of Women’s Running. And there were plenty more….
Hopefully, all of these achievements, and the many more to come in 2017, will continue to spread the word, that #transisbeautiful.
4. Books and Comics!
Many of us grew up in a cloud of confusion and frustration. In most spaces, not so long ago, it was quite possible you had never even heard the word ‘transgender.’ Thankfully, the next generation might be more fortunate and the amount of books for children and teens that have sprung up recently is a very encouraging sign.
Take, for example, the story Introducing Teddy, featuring a loveable bear that transitions from male to female.
Lists of ‘back to school’ books also sprung up this year.
Comics can be a wonderful way of poking fun at otherwise serious problems, or simply to lighten the experience of everyday life. Thankfully, a number of comics about trans people have gotten recognition this year, with Trans Girl Next Door being picked up by the SF Weekly, Los Angeles-based artist Julia Kaye being covered by Mashable, Yahoo and others, and Assigned Male in Comics Alliance. Alters, a comic book about a transgender superhero, also made its debut in 2016.
5. The rise of self-determination.
One of the most promising advances in transgender rights has been the rise of self-determination. A number of European nations passed laws in 2016 allowing individuals to declare their gender without having to see a doctor or undergo medical procedures. Ireland, and United Kingdom have both passed laws easing the process. In fact, as of this year in Norway, you can now change your gender with the click of a mouse.
Similar laws are also in draft in laws drafted in Spain, Finland and Belgium.
Canada appears to be moving quickly towards self-determination, passing multiple laws this year for the identification of transgender visitors and says it is ‘exploring’ the possibilitiy gender-neutral IDs.
6. Trans people have a new vacation hotspot: Bravo Malta!
There is a new summer holiday destination you should be looking into.
In 2014, the tiny Mediterranean nation of Malta sat at 14th place in the ILGA’s annual Rainbow Index. By 2016, it had sprung to first place, dethroning the United Kingdom. The ILGA has called Malta’s transformation “an irresistible combination of determined activism and unprecedented political leadership at a national level.”
Malta’s journey to the top began in 2015 when it enacted the Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act.
Malta shows no signs of waning in its commitment to LGBT rights. Earlier this month, it became the first European nation to criminalize conversion therapy.