National Women’s History Month is celebrated throughout March, but when thinking about the achievements and struggles of women, transwomen are often excluded from this conversation. The definition of transgender may vary, but it is generally used to refer to a person who does not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. It may sometimes be shorthanded as trans and the word may also be modified to further describe a person’s identity (e.g. trans woman, transgender man).[i]
Kids who identify as LGBTQ+ are six times more likely to attempt suicide, twice as likely to report being the victims of abuse, and black transwomen account for 90% of the violent deaths among transgender people.[ii] People who identify as trans or gender-non-conforming face greater rates of discrimination, poverty, poorer health outcomes, and violence.[iii]
Trans people experience challenges in their day-to-day lives and sometimes take extreme measures to keep themselves safe. In a 2015 survey from the National Center for Transgender Equality, more than half (59%) of respondents avoided using a public restroom in the past year due to fear of confrontations or other problems they might experience. Nearly one in ten (9%) reported that someone denied them access to a restroom, 12% reported being verbally harassed when accessing a restroom. Nearly one-third (32%) limited the amount that they ate and drank to avoid using the restroom in the past year, with 8% suffering a urinary tract infection, kidney infection, or another kidney-related problem as a result of avoiding restrooms.iii Transgender people often face discrimination throughout different areas of their lives, in public, in the workplace, and sometimes even within their own families.
On February 11th, 2020, Dwyane Wade, former professional basketball player, shared on The Ellen Show that one of his children identifies as transgender. Born Zion and assigned as male at birth, Wade’s child came out to “live their truth” and identify themselves as she/her along with the name of Zaya. Dwayne Wade and his wife Gabrielle Union made an effort to seek out information and educate themselves to support their daughter. They saw their job as parents to unconditionally love their child and to provided them with an environment to grow and thrive.[iv] While some fans criticized Wade’s actions, he defended his daughter against the online trolls. They see themselves as the proud parents of a child in the LGBTQ+ community and consider themselves allies.ii The importance of being comfortable in one’s skins is highlighted by Zaya on a tweet posted by Gabrielle Union, where she explains the importance to live life as one’s true self rather than hiding who they are, even when dealing with many of the hardships that come with it.[v]
The anxiety and stress associated with the frequent harassment can lead to negative health outcomes. Trans people often forego medical treatment to avoid negative experiences with healthcare providers; and they also hesitate to request help from the police in a time of need for similar reasons.
Much like taking the time to properly pronounce someone’s name, acknowledging someone’s pronouns shows a sign of respect toward their identity. While language can be heavily gendered, asking someone for their preferred pronouns (he/him/his or she/her/hers) or simply using gender-neutral language (they/them/theirs) can be an easy step to respect a person’s gender identity. It is important to be aware of our own biases and use of language to create a more inclusive environment where people can feel safe and thrive.
Written by: Andros Garcia Saldivar-Health Educator, Robert Crown Center for Health Education
[i] “Frequently Asked Questions about Transgender People.” National Center for Transgender Equality, 5 Oct. 2018, transequality.org/issues/resources/frequently-asked-questions-about-transgender-people.
[ii] “Dwyane Wade Opens up about His 12-Year-Old’s Gender Identity l GMA.” YouTube, 12 Feb. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaTVlsdOg30.
[iii] James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.
[iv] “Dwyane Wade’s Candid Talk About Supporting His 12-Year-Old’s Gender Identity.” Dwyane Wade’s Candid Talk About Supporting His 12-Year-Old’s Gender Identity, YouTube, 11 Feb. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=AG9-Q6UabfQ.
[v]Union, Gabrielle. “Meet Zaya. She’s Compassionate, Loving, Whip Smart and We Are so Proud of Her. It’s Ok to Listen to, Love & Respect Your Children Exactly as They Are. Love and Light Good People. Pic.twitter.com/G2lLVdD2VT.” Twitter, Twitter, 11 Feb. 2020, twitter.com/itsgabrielleu/status/1227310066254131200?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1227310066254131200&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodmorningamerica.com%2Fculture%2Fstory%2Fdwyane-wade-opens-12-year-olds-gender-identity-68907299.