November 13-19 is Transgender Awareness Week, which is meant to raise awareness around the experiences of transgender people and advance advocacy around the issues of discrimination, violence, and prejudice that affect the community. Here’s what you need to know.
Transgender Awareness Week always leads up to Transgender Day of Remembrance
Transgender Day of Remembrance is an annual observance on November 20 that honors the memory of transgender people whose lives were lost in acts of anti-transgender violence. The day was first started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith in 1999 to honor Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. There are usually vigils held on Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is an important tradition that many people acknowledge and participate in.
Visibility is important, but it’s only half of the equation
Raising awareness of the challenges faced by the transgender community is a good starting point. But as Travis Alabanza, a performance artist and writer, says: “...visibility is exhausting if it is not met with critical reflection and action.”
So, in addition to demonstrating your support on social media, it’s important to take meaningful action. This can take many forms, such as:
- Finding LGBTQIA+ organizations to volunteer at or donate to
- Speaking out against the rise of anti-transgender organizations and acts of violence against the transgender community
- Using your platforms to discuss challenges facing the transgender community, such as access to healthcare
- Learning how to use inclusive language when speaking about transgender people
While progress has been made, there’s still an ongoing struggle
It’s important to celebrate progress where it’s been made. Transgender issues have never been more visible in the general public, and that’s a step forward in many ways. However, that doesn’t mean that the journey is over—far from it.
In fact, 2021 was a record-breaking year for anti-transgender legislation. More than 100 anti-trans bills were introduced in more than 33 states. Anti-trans fatal violence also reached a record high in 2021.
These trends should serve as a reminder of the daily obstacles, struggles, and dangers the transgender community continues to face.
There’s no “right” way to be transgender
While some media may portray a specific image of what a transgender individual “should” be like, this is far from representative. The term “transgender” refers to individuals whose gender identities, expressions, and lived experiences differ from the sex they were assigned at birth—in other words, their identity isn’t defined by how they dress or whether or not they’ve gone through the transitioning process.
Similarly, keep in mind that not all transgender people have the same boundaries. Some may feel comfortable answering questions about their bodies, sexuality, or transition, while others want to keep that information private. The bottom line: don’t make assumptions about the experience of transgender people, and respect their boundaries.