Recently, as I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across an article- “Transgender Man Stabbed on Subway.” Of course, I click it. The story is of a black transgender man being stabbed by an angry white woman because she refused to sit next to a black person and muttered racial slurs to the friend she was with. The man got up and moved, but the woman decided to follow and attack him.
The situation described was disgusting, and I couldn’t help but think about what I would’ve done had I been on that train and witnessed this, but another thought soon occurred to me- this was an act of racism. From every article I’ve read detailing this story since, it’s blatantly obvious that transphobia had nothing to do with it.
“It doesn’t matter that he’s transgender, this sick attack had to do with the color of his skin.”
I felt disgusted for a completely different reason. It doesn’t matter that he’s transgender, this sick attack had to do with the color of his skin. I never understood why the media, no matter what the subject, no matter what the political affiliation, no matter what the legitimacy of the source, feels the need to tag on that someone is LGBT. Why is it made such a spectacle? We exist! We do the mundane things- we get coffee, we take out the trash, we walk the dog, and we take the subway places.
It’s even worse in this aspect for transgender people. While people of a different sexuality are certainly becoming a more of a “norm” to the majority of people, gender identity is still left behind. It still seems to be “shocking” to the world when a transgender person is made note of. It’s not only frustrating, it can be seriously dangerous- what if the person you’re reporting on didn’t want to be identified as transgender? What if there’s someone who knows them or happens to live nearby who despises trans people? What if by outing this person on a large scale, you have put them in serious danger?
“At times, even those who are ‘accepting’ can’t seem to understand that someone’s gender identity is not for public entertainment.”
At times, even those who are “accepting” can’t seem to understand that someone’s gender identity is not for public entertainment. I know a lot of people don’t like the term “Gay Best Friend” (the LGBT community as a whole seems to be on the fence about it) but imagine the term, “Trans Best Friend”. The fact that more people wouldn’t nowadays even blink at someone being so openly gay, but would become enraged at someone so openly transgender is a reminder that we are still looked at as something enigmatic (the fact alone that one term could put someone in more danger than the other honestly made me cringe). When I joined a theatre group some of my friends were a part of, a production team member apparently was excitedly talking to the others on the team about how they will have a trans person in the show. They felt the need to announce this before they even said my name! Why focus on someone’s gender identity or sexuality, period? There’s so much more to me than just my gender- my name is Bailey! I have a love of Broadway and want to be an actor! I can’t stop eating sunflower seeds and drinking French vanilla coffee! I dabble in Tai-Chi, and prefer nonfiction books! But, instead the world chooses to focus on the fact that I was assigned female at birth.
I have to point out something in all of this, though. What’s a lot less obvious to us, is that in our own community, our fixation on being trans can make it worse. Now, I’m in no way saying that our constant fight for our rights to live as we see fit is the thing making it worse, but it’s the fact that even we can lose sight of our own selves outside of being transgender. In a local trans group I sometimes attend, the person in charge gave us the assignment to do a creative project that reflects who we are outside of our gender identity. It was actually a lot harder than you’d imagine- and I sheepishly admit with all my schoolwork; I never finished the project. I’m ashamed because I didn’t see it a priority to talk about myself. The “me” that’s utterly fascinated by psychology, the way the human body works, and the ever-expanding universe outside our solar system. The “me” that loves to make fun of bad movies. The “me” that loves animals of all sorts. The “me” that is overshadowed by the T shots I give myself each week.
That guy on the subway is an everyday example of how we need to constantly remind the world that there is more to us all than our gender. (And more to us than the color of our skin, as well.) Being transgender is NOT a three-ring circus for the world to enjoy.