Trans rights are at a crisis point. Transgender people have seen their rights attacked via regressive legislation, while at the same time the far-right is mobilizing in the streets to protest the rights of transgender people. Several American States, such as Mississippi, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Alabama, have passed bills banning trans youth’s access to gender-affirming care. Recent rightwing calls to “eradicate transgenderism from public life” use a frightening transphobic ideology, endangering trans and gender non-conforming people.
In the Global North, queerphobic protests against drag performance art scapegoat gender non-conforming people and art. Simply put, the rightwing is constructing a moral panic over trans existence. Now more than ever, we must act in solidarity with trans communities. Meaningful trans liberation is intersectional; it requires networks of solidarity, action, and compassion.
Protect trans youth
Much of the panic surrounding gender non-conformity within the public sphere uses a children’s rights rhetoric, justifying legislative attacks on trans youth under the guise of child protection. The anti-trans moral panic frames trans youth’s access to gender-affirming care as a form of child abuse. The moral panic manipulates fears about sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse, framing trans women and drag queens as ‘predatory’ and ‘dangerous’ to children. By mythologizing transness as a dangerous ideology, the violence of capitalist patriarchy slips under the radar.
In a recent op-ed, Kai Cheng Thom, an author and trans woman of colour, further dissects this crisis:
“[Transphobia] is, in large part, a moral panic over the apparently terrifying spectre of ‘men in dresses,’ whether trans women or drag queens, who are supposedly lurking like wolves among innocent sheep, waiting to pounce on women and children. Yet for all the drama over women like me, the truth is that sexual violence, misogyny and child abuse are genuine social problems whose origins are far more mundane – and horrific – than any nefarious transsexual conspiracy.”
Rather than taking action against patriarchy and rape culture, the anti-trans moral panic doubles down on oppressive and violent systems in order to deny accountability and uphold the status quo.
These fear mongering narratives willfully ignore the identities and experiences of trans youth. Genderqueer and trans children often hold a deep awareness about their relationships with gender, and may begin to identify their relationship with their gender from ages three to four and may develop gender dysphoria at age seven.
Despite the familiarity and comprehension with gender identity, the anti-trans moral panic paints trans and gender expansive children as victims of a broader trans rights struggle. However, due to a lack of trans-positive education in schools, and the effects of systemic transphobia, trans youth experience high rates of bullying and suicidality. Yet, the lives of trans and gender expansive youth are conveniently excluded from discourses about children’s rights.
Children don’t need protection from drag performers or queer-positive sex-ed, they need protection from transphobia. Trans youth matter, they deserve our solidarity.
Today, March 31, marks the annual Trans Day of Visibility. In recent years, trans people have made strides with representation in mainstream media. Although positive trans representation is incredibly important in dismantling cissexism and rehumanizing trans and gender expansive people, trans liberation requires much more than just visibility. With the recent waves of socio-legal violence against trans bodies, it is clear that in order to keep trans and gender expansive people safe, trans visibility must be coupled with action and solidarity.
Trans visibility cannot exist without safety. Those in solidarity with trans people must act in solidarity with trans communities. The fight against transphobia is necessary in order to dismantle patriarchal capitalism. Trans liberation allows us to dream of possibilities beyond rigid structural binaries, encouraging transformation and freedom for all. Ultimately, none of us are free until all of us are free.
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