Column: Trans people deserve to be respected

The transgender community faces many obstacles, so we should do as much as we can to help.

Madi Baughman is a freshman journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinions columnist who writes about political and civil rights issues for The Maneater.

Last year, I went to visit a friend of mine who does not live on or near campus. He and I have been friends for almost two years now, and I have known him as a boy the entire time. He is a transgender person, and I have tried to explain this to my grandma when I talked about going to see him, but it never goes well. It always goes something like this:

“Her,” she says, trying to correct me, like she thinks someone’s genitals are what determine their gender.

“No, I’m going to visit him,” I tell her, although I know she’s never really going to let go of this. I just want people to respect my friend and the way he wants to be seen, but many people don’t give him the respect he deserves.

Of course, this is an unfortunate situation that is all too familiar with a lot of people across the world, and many aren’t just trying to support their friends — they’re trying to fight for their own identity. Transgender and gender-nonconforming people face many obstacles in daily life, whether it be something as big as gender reassignment surgery or something as seemingly small as using the bathroom.

Gender is a very confusing social construct that cannot be based solely on genitals. It is a complicated mix of chromosomes, anatomy, hormones, psychology and culture, among possible other factors. In many Western cultures, the idea that there are only two genders has always been strictly enforced, when in reality, gender works more like a spectrum. While transgender and nonbinary people have always existed, their rights have only begun to expand in the past few decades. Even then, there is still much progress to be made.

Even if you personally don’t “agree” with people who are transgender, you have to acknowledge that statistics of violence against trans people are alarming. Take trans women for an example. The murder rate by cisgender people against trans women is 1 in 12, and for trans women of color, this risk rises to 1 in 8. — as a result, life expectancy for a trans woman of color is 35, according to statistics provided to HuffPost by Planet Transgender.

Trans people can also suffer from severe mental health issues, a lot of which can be linked to body dysphoria. According to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, they have higher rates of depression and anxiety and therefore a higher risk of committing suicide, and this is especially shown when they do not have a proper support system to fall back on. Studies have shown that, unsurprisingly, when trans people are allowed to transition and receive the support they need, their mental health greatly improves.

It’s not a question of morals to be supportive of trans people; it’s a question of basic human decency. Trans people have always existed and always will exist, and it’s time to support them and fight for their rights the way they deserve.

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