Opinion General

There is more to helping trans youth than just bathrooms

It’s official.  No longer is the Alberta trans community “just claiming” that trans youth disproportionately experience violence, discrimination, depression, and attempt suicide, but now we have an official study showing that the trans community was in fact, unsurprisingly,  telling the truth all along. It is further not shocking that the same people who found it hard to believe the trans community before are now unsure on how to improve the lives of trans youth.  If it is not because they are unsure then it is because they are not particularly concerned, because though the health minister Sarah Hoffman’s secretary says they are working to “educate medical students and doctors to better serve trans students” he refused to give any details, as if committing to improving the lives of trans youth is a risky proposal.  You would think the Alberta NDP of all Alberta parties would be the most gung-ho about fighting the discrimination trans youth face, but it’s apparently a complex issue.

As complex as “fight transphobia within key systems that youth go through and enter into” could possibly be, that is.  Don’t get me wrong, the NDP government has been a strong ally of the trans community, implementing changes that do in fact support trans youth, but that doesn’t give them a pass when it comes time to continue to push the social boundaries that constrict every aspect of these youths’ lives. It isn’t even as if the most immediate and short term thing the province could do is all that difficult. The first steps are simple: better uphold non-discrimination policies within our society and actively seek to prevent the transphobia that is at the root of a majority of these issues. Even symbolic gestures would help, because they send a message that the government is concerned and doing something about it.

It’s surprising sometimes that there are well-meaning progressive people out there who have confused the fight for gay rights and reduction of homophobia as something that solved the issues of the entire queer community.  They seem confused when you inform them that we need to go through a similar battle all over again for the different groups that exist as LGBTQ+ that are not or are not only lesbian or gay.  For example, biphobia and bi-erasure, the idea that all bisexual people are just confused and will “discover” they are in fact straight or gay (though that is a true experience for some, it’s not true of everyone), are very real issues that are more or less ignored, or even worsened, by the greater gay and lesbian community.  It is similarly true with transphobia, and very much integrated into our media.  Consider the “ugly” girl on so many TV shows who is “too masculine” and that the other characters instinctually and viscerally reject.  Not only is this portrayal connected to a host of other issues, but it provides in video one of the worst fears of trans women, that they won’t be able to pass and will face rejection and discrimination constantly. Realistically, they shouldn’t be forced to fear not passing, and rather should have a chance to experience the simple joy of embracing their own identity.

What specifically should be done? I, or people vastly more educated than myself, could provide a ridiculously long list of the minutia inside our society that need to change, but going through and crossing them off one by one isn’t the answer. Most, if not all, of these things stem from a few key issues. Firstly, there simply aren’t enough resources provided that are focused on helping the trans community, be it in education, health, or security. This is what causes trans youth to be placed on year-long wait lists to get access to transition specialists, to be afraid to come out at school because there isn’t a gender neutral washroom, or to be terrified that if they do come out there won’t be anyone there to protect them from aggressors. Secondly, we need to fight transphobia, and to do that we need to deconstruct the gender-binary that we have so thoroughly enshrined in practically every system we have.  This won’t be quick, and it most definitely won’t be easy but it is a necessary step towards finally realizing true freedom and equality for all.

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