Trans People Just Want to Live

The vast majority of transgender people face transphobia in their daily lives. Whether these are violent displays of hatred or accidental misgendering, they all contribute to an unsafe environment that threatens trans people's very lives.

My name is Kara. I’m a non-binary trans person with “they” pronouns. And transphobia will be the death of me.

I mean that literally. In case you were unaware of the statistics, 40% of trans people have attempted suicide[1], and 50% of trans people have been subject to violence or abuse[2]. These statistics are a clear indicator of a group subject to some horrific hate, but you can’t visualise a statistic. That’s why I want to share my personal experiences; to provide some illumination on what transphobia looks like.

Some things seem small: constantly being misgendered on applications or hospital forms and having to repeatedly misgender myself to get anything done or to keep myself safe. Some close family members not only refuse to accept my identity, but will defiantly misgender me, even after I have corrected them countless times before and especially in situations where it’s considered rude or unsafe for me to say anything back.

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Cis people can’t understand what it means to be misgendered. It’s a declaration that your identity is a mistake or an absurdity. It’s a deep, hot knife that slices into your gut and stings long after the initial attack, reminding you that society has no space for you and so it believes you shouldn’t exist. When you’re constantly told you shouldn’t exist, you start to believe it.

Former friends use “I identify as an attack helicopter” jokes, which makes out that non-binary people are not only invalid but absurdities. Former friends, in their kyriarchical feminism, refuse to see any separation of wombs from womanhood. Former friends see Trump declare a blanket ban on trans people in the military and stand up for him, not realizing how it sets a precedent for employers and health insurers to see trans people like me as a burden, a notion that doesn’t require corroboration from the highest authority to seem valid.

Family members often tell you that your mental health issues are because of your “gender perversion” and that they have “lost you as a person” ever since you started getting into “this gay stuff”. You overhear distant relatives say that they would beat any family member they found out was trans. You start to fear going out to a party with your friends, only to have a random person see you being explicitly genderqueer and coming up to you in a drunken haze to attack you once you are alone.

When someone who you trust says or does something that completely invalidates who you are as a person, it erodes your ability to trust anyone else regardless of their track record. You start to wait for your cis friends and family to disappointment you.

I’m still alive right now. I’m still going to keep moving right now. But sometimes it takes everything to fight back the voice in the back of my head, quietly whispering “… but for how long?”.


[1] From a study at the Williams Institute, “Suicide Attempts among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults”, 2014.

[2]Data gathered from article discussing various statistics about violence against trans people; by Christina Stephens, “Murder statistics of transgender people”, 2012.