By Maya Henry
Trans people have been among the most beaten, brutalized, and abandoned members of society for decades. Trans women must face transphobia and misogyny, existing in a world where they often feel they must adhere to feminine standards for their gender to be validated. Their femininity is also simultaneously ridiculed, punished, and seen as a synonym for weak.
In recent years, the combination of transphobia and sexism has only heightened, thanks in part to several states introducing and debating anti-trans bills. In early February of 2021, Senate File 224 won a subcommittee vote in the Iowa state senate and advanced to further hearings. The bill would force all students at elementary and secondary schools, whether private or public, to solely use the restroom aligned with their birth sex. One of the bill’s most prominent supporters, Jim Carlin, shamelessly defended the bill, saying “sexual predators could exploit [inclusive restroom] laws by posing as transgender in order to gain access to women and girls.” Not only are Carlin’s words blatantly transphobic, but they also play into the trope that trans women, in particular, identify as women just to exploit young girls in gender-separated areas, like bathrooms. It’s important to note that no data has ever shown that such incidents of exploitation happen.
Bills attempting to ban trans women athletes from competing in the women’s division of competitions have also increased in past years. In March of 2020, Idaho became the first state to ban transgender women from competing in girls’ and womens’ sports. As part of the law, any woman, as young as elementary school, could be asked to complete a genetic test to “prove” they were cisgender. Even women who have undergone surgery, hormone treatment, and have anatomy more similar to cis women than cis men were still forced to sit on the sidelines.
Unfortunately, transphobia doesn’t start, nor does it end with legislation. This past summer, beloved author J.K. Rowling took to Twitter to express her outrage that an article had used the term “people who menstruate” in place of “women.” Such terminology was used to be inclusive of the many people who have periods that are certainly not women, including some trans men, nonbinary people, intersex people, and cisgender women for the many years before and after starting and ending menstruation. In a multi-page essay, Rowling attacks trans people, especially trans women who do not undergo any hormone treatment or surgery. By claiming that trans women undermine feminism and the struggles of cisgender women, Rowling effectively ostracized trans people from two conversations: women’s rights and the discussion regarding menstruation.
For too long, trans women have been brutalized, ostracised, and demonized in politics and society. It is everyone’s responsibility to hold hands with trans women and fight anti-trans policy and rhetoric, like Mariah Moore, an organizer for Trans Black Circles, and Vanessa Warri, a social justice activist, are doing. Though it is no longer Women’s History Month, we must continue to demand that feminism includes all women and that the lives and legacies of all trans women echo centuries after they’re gone.