Injustice at Every Turn
When I was a young person living in Washington, D.C., in 1995, a well-known local hairstylist was driving home one night and her car hit a tree. Paramedics rushed to the scene and cut off her clothes in an attempt to provide lifesaving medical care.
When they saw that Tyra Hunter was transgender, the medic swore at Ms. Hunter and stopped all medical treatment.
Stopped all medical treatment.
Tyra Hunter died later that night, and today, the discrimination and abuse that caused Tyra Hunter’s entirely preventable death are still firmly in place. I could not help but think of Tyra when I read the following comments that are part of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality’s just-released report, "Injustice at Every Turn."
“The fear of being the victim of a hate crime has also meant that I haven't lived completely freely; I know that if people on the street knew that I was born female, I'd be at risk of violence or harassment.”
“People are suffering in my school. There are so many trans kids that just can't come out because they are afraid.”
“I have been harassed and physically assaulted on the street. One time, I didn't go to the hospital until I went home, changed [out of feminine] clothes, and then went to the emergency room in male mode. I had a broken collarbone as a result of that attack.”
These are the words of transgender and gender-nonconforming Americans, and sadly, their experiences are not uncommon. The hunger to be visible, to share experiences of harm and resiliency is notable, as this became the largest ever study of its kind. A total of 6,500 transgender and gender-nonconforming people from all 50 states and several territories shared with us their experiences of discrimination.
The data we collected was shocking. I know firsthand, from my friends and my work at the Task Force, that discrimination remains a tragic fact of life for far too many in our community. I know that if we do not act in stereotypical “male” or “female” ways, many take this nonconformity as an open invitation to harass or act violently toward us.
people are discriminated against because they don’t act or look in a
way that fits with conventional ideas about gender. All men, women and
children – regardless of how they identify – are hurt by these rigid
gender codes. They suppress authentic expression throughout our society
and negatively impact relationships across gender, as family, friends,
coworkers and spouses “police” acceptable gender expression.
there was a ray of light in our study findings, it is in the resilience
of transgender people and their families. Contrary to popular
mythology, transgender people often maintain ties with their families of
origin and their spouses, partners and children. We found that family
acceptance had a protective affect against suicide, HIV, homelessness
and other negative consequences of discrimination for study
participants. This finding affirms what we know as advocates working on
the front lines: families are enormously burdened by the hostile
environments their transgender children, spouses and parents are living
in, but they press on.
They often strain to find a way out of no way.
Over 1,000 people came to Tyra Hunter’s funeral in DC. Her high school
shop teacher, her parents, her clients, and her big, extended family.
But no medic was ever disciplined or fired because of what happened
that night. This report is written to draw a line in the sand against
this pervasive inhumanity in our midst.
We all need to use this
opportunity to change the way we work and live to create a world that
affirms the humanity of and empowers transgender people to fully
participate in our society. We must all work strenuously and
continuously for justice.