by Amanda Wan
April 11, 2017 | Voices
You’re in the school cafeteria, with the smell of food so delicious you can basically taste it. This is somewhere you’re supposed to feel safe with your friends, yet you feel the exact opposite. Your heart pounding faster than ever, the simple sound of people talking makes you anxious. The sensation of eyes staring you down, just because you identify differently. The LGBTQ+ community; especially the transgender population, faces these struggles on a daily basis. Issues such as poverty, racism and sexism, among others, are frequently talked about in schools, on the news or in the streets. Though these problems are very important, transgender issues are too often left behind. After conducting several interviews and extensive research, results suggest a lack of equality for transgender individuals in our society.
Charlie, a non-binary trans masculine, explains that being transgender means having to grow up really fast and continuously explaining yourself. According to them, “the institutions that exist were not created with [them] in mind. The country and laws [they are] forced to live under were not created with [them] in mind. And that hurts – [they are] just as much entitled to rights as anyone else”. Lily, a transfeminine, explains that being transgender according to her means she “will never be as safe, as accepted or socially and financially secure as [she] could be as a cis woman”.
Nowadays, we like to believe we live in a country where everyone is accepted; we like to believe we live in a country where everyone is equal and feels human. This is evidently not the case. Identity is something important to every human, it shapes who you are and allows you to feel one hundred percent confident in who you are. If your identity is not even perceived as valid in your society, how are you supposed to feel accepted and feel like you exist? Charlie exclaims that they “cannot have [their] preferred gender on [their] ID cards, [they] cannot use the bathroom in the majority of public places such as malls, libraries, restaurants etc”. This goes to show that society has still not adapted to the rights of every single human being. Lily, also states that the transgender are not “perceived as human. We’re most often seen as punch lines, sexual objects or anomalies. Whenever we’re talked about, emphasis is put on our bodies, and not our personalities”.
Even the gay village in Montreal is not fully accepting of the transgender community. In past years, they did not include trans struggles or realities in the majority of their events, Charlie had mentioned they did not feel welcome there. They feel more comfortable entering a space if they know another trans person has been to previously.
Preferred pronouns are a huge thing, that may appear to be something small to the cis population, but it is a huge and very important acknowledgement of trans people’s identities. Pronouns identify who you are, not using others’ preferred pronouns is a blatant sign of disrespect. Charlie said, their “preferred pronouns are hardly ever used. There comes a point when [they] stop correcting people because [they] feel like it’s not worth the energy”. People often do not use others preferred pronouns, and Lily stated that when this occurs, “if it’s unintentional and they apologize, [she would] be upset, but alright. If it’s done intentionally, it can throw the whole day off”.
Looking at the media, whether it be television shows, movies, news, or people in positions of power and authority, there is a huge lack of LGBTQ+ representation, especially transgender. There also is frankly barely any talk about them, leaving the children of today very uneducated about who trans people are, making them be seen as the “other”, when this is certainly not the case.
Charlie said that, “the biggest fault in society is the stigma that trans people are monsters, or that we are scary or dangerous. It hurts to say it but those are the stigmas that real trans people have to face in the real world. There is a solution to end this stigma and it is education. If we teach children and we normalize trans bodies, not only will trans kids feel more comfortable coming out at a younger age, but cis people will become better allies and be better informed”.
Lily believes that the issues the trans community faces are more social than legal, but there are still several legal issues deserving to be discussed. She believes that although the word of law does not explicitly discriminate against them it leaves them behind, failing to adapt to laws that include her and many more in her situation within them.
Although there are many struggles, being apart of the LGBTQ+ community is something beautiful. Charlie stated, being apart of the community to them is empowering. They believe that the community is “one big intersectional, brilliant, talented and smart family”. Lily also says the community’s experiences of discrimination “bring us together, and this means that members of the community show up to support one another and love one another”.
Being transgender does not make you any less human than a cisgendered individual. Hopefully, one day, our society will be able to understand this. Coming out can be the biggest struggle, but once it’s done you can feel a weight lifted off your back. If you are struggling to come out, Charlie suggests to “search out other queer people and people you feel safe around and start a support team for yourself”. Lily states that, “coming out takes a long time, you don’t need to do everything at once”.