by Justin Tanis
A high school paper article, published online on Friday, misquoted me as saying that “Many people suffer from being transgender but no one knows exactly how many transgender people there are in the United States.” This is similar to other quotes I have made in other publications (which is, I assume, where the student reporter got the basis of the quote to begin with) in response to a frequently asked question about how many trans people there are. There is, however, one significant difference: I would never use the word “suffer” about transgender people in this way. Being transgender does not cause suffering. I don’t suffer from being transgender, even though occasionally in my life I have been subject to other people’s prejudice about it.
It’s one of the challenges we face while trying to explain to policy makers and the public about the impacts of transphobia. Sometimes we have to paint a clear picture of the challenges and, yes, suffering that transgender people face as a result of discrimination in the workplace, violence on the streets and prejudice even within our own families, but we do so in order to impact policies and attitudes that can change those circumstances. It can be a depressing picture. But we also must show that the reality of the lives of transgender people includes stories of acceptance, safety, affirmation and joy in the places we live and work. Many of us have experienced changed hearts, minds, policies and laws as people–people like our families, neighbors, co-workers and even members of Congress–come to know us.
For me, identifying as transgender has been a profoundly liberating experience, which is part of what has motivated me to work hard to end the prejudice that inflicts suffering on our community. But suffering from being transgender … never.