Trans people are under attack in this country. While it might be easy to attribute trans-antagonism and anti-trans legislation to Tr*mp, this shit has been going on for decades which is not to say he and his yee haw masses aren’t making it worse with their lowkey but not so lowkey obsession with trans women. It’s just a thing no one wants to talk about because then people would have to admit they stand by idly while institutional and countrywide social oppression and inequality go down on a daily basis.
Cis women, specifically, are often spoken for and used as scapegoats in arguments against the validity of trans women. When people say trans women are a threat to women in bathrooms, people are aware that this is not fact and that there is not a single statistic to back this up. However, these trans-antagonists know that the stereotype is a prevalent one and that few people are invested in fighting and dismantling it. In this case, cis women need to speak up and tell the truth that really it’s cis-men who are the biggest threat to women in bathrooms, here, there, and everywhere.
Cis women have influence in this situation and can do a lot to help trans women. In fact, I’ve listed nine easy ways that you can help. If you’re a cis woman (or know one) who is looking for extra incentive to help trans women, consider Mental Health Awareness Month your reason. Because mental health is a big concern in the trans community but how couldn’t it be in a world like this?
Gifting unused clothes and shoes
Have any clothes that you don’t like or that don’t fit anymore? Gift it to a trans woman who may not have many clothes in their wardrobe that represent their gender in a way that feels comfortable and authentic to them. While you may not be exactly the same size, trans women are innovative and creative and likely can figure something out with your clothes not your shoes though, those do have to be the right size.
Helping trans women learn about and practice hair and makeup skills
Trans women learning how to properly do hair and makeup is like starting a race 15 minutes after everyone else. Life isn’t a race, of course. The point is that cis women need perspective. They need to understand how far ahead they are for having access to these things, where trans women often don’t have the space to safely play with hair and makeup before they come out. Simple things like what order to use makeup products in or how to do quick styles in your hair are not such basic knowledge to some trans women. I, for one, knew and still know very little.
Have a hair and makeup party and practice putting on products together. Do your trans friend’s makeup or style their hair. Pass on your favorite tips and tricks. Hair and makeup may not be your favorite thing nor is anyone assuming cis woman equals hair and makeup expert but to trans women, the skill with which they’re able to do hair and makeup can be a matter of life and death.
Gassing trans women up on social media
Trans women presenting as their authentic selves in public is an act of courage and resistance in a world where people try to tell trans women that they’re nothing more than men in a dress. So when you see trans women posting pictures, show them love. It’ll mean a lot, especially to those dealing with dysphoria who have trouble seeing themselves as pretty or feminine and/or see features they consider “male” to be larger than they are.
Standing up to transphobes; putting in the work as an ally
Lots of people say they support trans women but few are willing to put in any work. Allyship is about more than performative activism on social media. It’s about calling out someone’s bigotry when they speak it. It’s about marching with us when there are opportunities. It’s about being present at rallies and protests where trans women trans women of color in particular are more likely to be targeted, provoked, and attacked by law enforcement. Speak up (and listen), be present, and put in the work. This is what movements for justice, trans or not, require.
Helping pay for hormones and any other medications
Hormones and medication expenses can easily begin to stack up and feel overwhelming for trans women. This is particularly the case when unemployment is such an issue in the trans community. “Transgender people experience unemployment at 3x the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to 4x the national unemployment rate,” GLAAD writes. So, if you have disposable income, help out a friend who might really need it.
Familiarizing yourself with the statistics
Get on your computer and do some searching. I can’t do all the work for you. But here are a few particularly painful statistics from GLAAD’s 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey: across the board, 29 percent of respondents were living in poverty (2x the rest of the country). However, more specifically, 43 percent of Latinx respondents, 41 percent of American Indian respondents, 40 percent of the multiracial respondents, and 38 percent of black respondents were living in poverty (3 times the general population). 17 percent of the respondents said they received such severe treatment in school that they withdrew. 30 percent of respondents have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. And, finally, 40 percent of the respondents have attempted suicide (almost 9 times the rate in the U.S. population).
Keeping an eye out for job opportunities and networking your friend out
As previously mentioned, trans people are 3 times more likely to be unemployed than the cis population with trans women of color being 4 times more likely. Success in most industries, in one way or another, depends on who you know and, more specifically, who knows you. When you see, overhear, or have opportunities, forward them to trans women. Introduce your trans friends to professionally relevant people and recommend them when they apply for jobs within your company or in related companies.
Attending a trans support group together
This may, unfortunately, not be possible for everyone depending on where you live. There are many cities and states that have little to no resources for trans people. The best you can do is search up any local queer organizations, if they exist, and see what resources they provide. If you’re able to find a group, many allow attendees to bring a support person (this is you). These groups allow trans folks to form community with one another and often, most importantly, to see that they’re not alone.
Signal boosting the hell out of the trans women that we lose
Trans women live in an increasingly dangerous world. It’s an unspoken reality that trans women aside from the elitist, Ca**lyn Je**er types and the like have to tread carefully in a world that is obsessed with them, for better and worse. “Victims of anti-transgender violence are overwhelmingly transgender women of color, who live at the dangerous intersections of transphobia, racism, sexism, and criminalization which often lead to high rates of poverty, unemployment, and homelessness,” GLAAD explained in a call to the media about the coverage of anti-trans violence.
The Human Rights Campaign kept a running list of the trans people who were stolen from us in 2017 and are keeping a running list this year (the current count is 11). ‘Shot and killed’ is repeated a lot on the lists. Queer organizations and media aside, few in the mainstream talk about the trans women that are killed, let alone say their actual names and correct pronouns. That’s why it’s more important than ever for people to use social media to show the world that trans women are a priority to us and that we won’t allow their oppression to be pushed under the rug.
Follow GLAAD’s advice to the media when you’re speaking about these trans women and you’ll be just fine.