Community Should Be Aware of Transgender Issues
[PALO ALTO, CA] - Passers-by in White Plaza last week likely could not ignore the dramatic images covering the pavement. Inside chalk police outlines of bodies were the names of hundreds of victims of violence against transgender people and the dates that they died. The designs, drawn for National Transgender Day of Remembrance last Wednesday, coupled with the recent death of a Bay Area transgender teen, are reminders that issues of gender and violence should concern us all.
According to a Web site sponsored by UC-Berkeley, a transgender person has a "psychological self that differs from the social expectations for the physical sex they were born with." This encompasses a wide range of people -- one example is a female with a masculine gender identity or who identifies as a man. Someone who is transgender is not necessarily transsexual or even gay, and transgender is often used as a "blanket" term for anyone who identifies with the gender that is not his / her own. The definition is clearly complicated, but one of the most basic ways Stanford community members can learn more about transgender issues is to discuss the various meanings of the term. Resident assistants, professors and transgender students themselves can help educate students by speaking to dorms and offering programming to help increase understanding about what it means to be transgender in the Bay Area.
Unfortunately, the amount of reported violence against transgender people is on the rise. The National Transgender Advocacy Coalition reports that 2002 has been the deadliest year for transgender people,
with 25 deaths so far, compared to 19 in 2001. Furthermore, California has had the most transgender deaths; San Francisco (which has 15,000 transgender people, according to some estimates) is third in deaths related to anti-transgender violence.
Nearly two months ago, Newark, Calif. native Gwen Araujo, 17, was beaten to death at a party when it was revealed that she was biologically male.
Three young men have been arrested and charged with murder and special hate-crime charges. Most shockingly, no one from the party intervened to stop the violence.
Araujo's death was not an isolated incident and the fact remains that those who are transgender are in some cases fearing for their lives. We at Stanford cannot let those who are transgender at Stanford live in fear of violence.
The Stanford community has done an admirable job supporting transgender issues. Earlier this month, more than 50 students packed a vigil that was held in Araujo's honor. Students read poems and organizers hoped to raise awareness of transgender issues. The community also embraced the recent visit by activist Susan Stryker, who spoke about the film "Boys Don't Cry," which deals with transgender issues. Finally, there are transgender professors and students at Stanford. You may not know them, but they need your support.
As one member of the LGBT-CRC said in relation to National Transgender Remembrance Day, "It is important for the greater community to understand that gender issues do not apply only to queer people (we all have genders, and we all were socialized to some degree into them)."
Everyone in the Stanford community should understand that violence against transgender people exists and constant support is necessary to prevent continued violence. The community's understanding and interest in stopping transgender violence cannot end when the vigil is over or the chalk washes away from White Plaza.