As part of my coming out and acknowledging my masculinity – it is really important for me to acknowledge that as a man I am often complicit and remain silent about violence in my community – particularly violence against transwomen. The next three blogs will discuss a range of different ideas around how sex and gender diverse people are affected by violence and how transmen can be better allies to the women in their lives.
I have spent a great deal of time talking to my transmale friends about sexism. About the nature of hatred towards transwomen and how they too are often targets because of the way their bodies transgress norms and preconcieved notions of gender and sex. A great deal of my time in transmale activist circles, friendship groups and discussion clubs is spent convincing transmen, particularly young transmen about the need for solidarity with transwomen.
Violence against trans women does not only exist as individual hatred or bias-motivated crime although prejudice forms part of violence against transwomen. It comes in many forms and for many reasons. Trans women are systematically placed in circumstances where we are more likely than others to experience multiple forms of violence such as homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse and cycles of poverty. However, violence against transwomen does also occur as a deliberate, intentional assertion of power over women who “transgress” the societal constructs of gender and sex. It is also a largely invisible set of crimes. Not only because transfemale victims of sexual assault and physical assault are less likely to report their crimes but the law does not allow for the prosecution of hate crimes as hate crimes. That is crimes perpetrated against people due to prejudice, percieved threats, or fear. It is still a legal defence in the United States for a man to kill a transwoman they were sexually assaulting once they found out she was transgender, or if she “decieved” him by not disclosing her status as transgender once a sex act was consented to. Crimes in Australia are often not prosecuted or the significance of the person’s gender to the crime at hand is understated. This often results in murders of transwomen going unsolved or uninvestigated often for years. A transwoman was killed in my former neighbourhood, she was someone i knew, a local street worker. A group of transfemale activists, members of the community and their supporters petitioned the police department to have her case re-opened. We have not yet heard the outcome of the case. Another example of a public trans female death – Veronica (Paris) Baxter, an indigenous transwoman from New South Wales, was found dead in her jail cell after not being allowed access to psychiatric medication for over a week. The police refused to investigate her death treating it as a suicide, when her family called for a reinvestigation the outcome of which is still pending.
Transmen, as part of a patriarchal society, are inherently priviledged, although we too suffer because of our transgressions of gender and sex. We are afforded a great deal of social status, especially if we “pass” well or are percieved as being “normal” (non trans, or without our status being disclosed) men. What this priviledge means is that often we overlook violence against transwomen, or in some relationships, are responsible for perpetrating it. It is absolutely vital that as allies with transwomen we send a very clear message that these crimes are hate crimes, and as men we stand with our transwomen sisters and refuse to be complicit in crimes that really do affect everyone in our community.