Cornell West says, “Justice is what love looks like in public”, this idea reoccurs in Laverne Cox’s video about the intersection of trans-phobia, misogyny and racism when she states that the love of transgender people, individuals whose gender identity/expression deviates from what is related to the sex they were assigned to at birth, is the answer to the crimes that they face. While we would like to think that idea of love solving the racism, sexism and hate crimes that face the transgender community as a viable solution, is it really realistic? I believe that in order to bring an end to the issues surrounding the trans community a change in the awareness and acceptance of trans individuals must be made by not only individuals but also by the society that we live in.
Laverne Cox says that when kids are bullied it is because of their gender expression, because of their external demonstration of their gender through clothing, name, pronoun, haircut etc. These kids are bullied because they do not fit into the gender binaries, of sex and gender being either male or female and that an individuals gender relies solely on their sex, that are the expectations of our society. She further goes on to say that when people are bullying others for who they are it is because they are uncomfortable with themselves. I feel as though what Laverne Cox touches on in her video is just the tip of the iceberg of the trans shaming that goes on in our society. Just this year a young trans woman by the name of Leelah Alcorn committed suicide because she felt as though she could not live in this world as a trans individual as she was shamed for who she was and was not accepted by her own parents. In her suicide note she said the following; “My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. … Fix society. Please.” From 2010-2013 alone, 41 trans individuals were murdered simply for being transgender. This is what needs to change. In order for the trans community to no longer be considered an outlier to our society, it needs to gain exposure and be incorporated into what is currently considered “the norm”. After bullying stories of transgender children came to light on the news. Laverne Cox’s mother apologized to her for not knowing the extent of bullying that occurred and not knowing how to deal with it. This proves that by increasing exposure of the trans community an individual’s perspective can change and on a larger scope our societies perspective as well.
The way that the trans community is portrayed in our society only reinforces the marginalization of transgender individuals. Often times when transgender individuals are portrayed in different forms of media they are viewed in a tokenistic light, meaning that being transgendered is the only deviation from binary thinking. For example, in the movie White Chicks, we see two black men who cross-dress as white women. A cross-dresser is an individual who wears clothes typically associated with the opposite sex; cross-dressing is a form of gender expression. This is proof of how trans individuals are viewed tokenistically, we see two cross-dressing black men but in order for this to be socially acceptable and comfortable in Hollywood they must dress as white women. This is an example of the intersectionality between racism and the trans community. Another example of racism shown in the way trans individuals are portrayed in the media is in the show Transparent. Transparent revolves around a family who finds out that the person who was their father is transgender. However sticking with the pattern, this is a Caucasian family, leaving the transgender father figure as the main deviation from the norm. A change must be made in the way trans people are viewed in the wider scope of media, no longer can they be viewed as a spectacle or a controversial being.
While the trans community has been marginalized in today’s society, Laverne Cox speaks out particularly about the black trans community and the issues of racism surrounding it. 72% of the anti LGBTQIA crimes are against trans women and of that 72%, 89% are black trans women. Laverne Cox speaks of the street harassment she deals with regularly in her hometown of New York as a black trans woman. She states that white trans women do not experience nearly the degree of street harassment and that most of the harassment she experiences is from other black individuals. This exemplifies how white privilege is so prominent in the trans community. White privilege can be defined as societal benefits that white people have over people of colour who have the same standing in society. The fact that white privilege still has huge effects on today’s society, not just in the trans community, shows what a systemic issue racism is. While Laverne Cox says that the solution to these issues surrounding the black trans community lies in providing love. The issues of the marginalization of black individuals have roots extremely deep. These problems go back to slavery and the lynching of black men, and even today with the killing of unarmed black boys simply because of their race. These factors make it nearly impossible to see love as a solution and in fact make it difficult to see a solution at all.
While Laverne Cox addresses so many valid and important issues in her video, I find it difficult to agree with her solution to provide love to all transgender individuals. These horrible events surrounding the trans community including street harassment, homicide and suicide are all tangible problems and therefore I feel as though they require a tangible solution not just a feeling or emotion.
Fantz, Ashley. “An Ohio Transgender Teen’s Suicide, a Mother’s Anguish – CNN.com.”CNN. Cable News Network, 4 Jan. 2015. Web. 11 Feb. 2015. <http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/31/us/ohio-transgender-teen-suicide/>.
“GLAAD Media Reference Guide – Transgender Issues.” GLAAD. N.p., 09 Sept. 2011. Web. 11 Mar. 2015. <http://www.glaad.org/reference/transgender>.
“Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Everyday Feminism. N.p., 07 Dec. 2014. Web. 07 Mar. 2015. <http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/laverne-cox-intersection-what-to-do/>.
“Laverne Cox: From Bullying and Transphobia to Acceptance and Love.” Im From Driftwood. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <http://imfromdriftwood.com/black-community-spotlight-laverne-cox/>.