The Psychological, Political, and Sociological Effects of Transphobia (A Research Paper)
by lizzfowler on May 18, 2015 - 9:43pm
In today’s western society, there are categories that all people must declare that they fit into; man or woman, gay or straight, black or white, for example. People who do not fit into a category, or who do not fit into whatever preferred categories there are at the time, can and will face discrimination and hardships. Around 30 years ago, gay and lesbian citizens were able to earn rights in Canada (and are currently earning rights in the United States to this day) and in doing so faced and still face discrimination, homophobia and slander on a daily basis. More recently, it has been transgender folks who are fighting to earn their spot in society. Unfortunately, as people do not approve of what they do not understand, trans folks are facing much more discrimination than other member of the LGBTQA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual and other) community in 2015. Through research from political science, sociology and psychology, this paper will sum up some of the kinds of hardship that transgender and other non-conforming individuals face in their lives simply because member of the majority do not care enough to learn what being transgender means.
In 2014, Canadian Conservative party senator, Donald Plett, proposed an amendment to Bill C-279 that states that discrimination against one’s gender identity is considered to be a hate crime. The passing of this bill on March 20th, 2013 “was a victory for transgender Canadians” (Cassell), and although it was opposed by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the majority voted for it and so gender identity was added to Canada’s Human Rights Act. Plett proposed an amendment to the bill so that it would be rendered moot in gendered spaces, such as washrooms or change rooms because he believes that it opens the doors to sexual predators. In doing this, Canada is placing the rights of an entire group on the line simply because it may open the doors to a certain type of crime. If, for example, a cisgender man were to dress as a woman in order to use the women’s facilities for the purposes of voyeuristic behaviour, unusual behaviours from anyone is a public restroom or change room situation are grounds to report the individual. If someone seems suspicious or is behaving in a way that is harassing other people in such a space, they should be removed from the situation. Removing a trans woman from the women’s washroom because she needs to urinate and is doing nothing wrong is not grounds for her being removed from the situation, simply because she may or may not have a penis. This behaviour is invasive and removes the basic human right to comfortably use facilities, and one should not be subject to this because of their biology.
In order to be able to work a job unjudged or continue their education by the same token, many transgender and gender non-conforming individuals “[indicate] that they hide their transgender identity at work by presenting the gender that corresponds with their biological sex” (Lenning) For those trans folks who present and function as their preferred gender or their biological gender in the workplace, “the overall consensus […] was that being transgender is a constant challenge in both their schooling and careers” (Lenning). Often transgender individuals are treated differently from other students and employees in their establishments. For example, one trans man, David, who agreed to answer some questions about the sociological impact on transgender individuals, said that he “[risks] losing [his] job when [he] transition[s] medically. They know that [he] is transgender, but they refuse to acknowledge it. They make [him] wear a ‘girl’ uniform and I nametag with [his] birth name on it, and [he] compl[ies] because they have every right to fire [him] for [his] gender identity, and [he] really needs to support himself.” (Lenning). Many trans individuals face dilemmas like this on a regular basis. They often have to face ultimatums, such as deciding to live in a way that makes them happy, or following rules that allow them to support themselves financially, but do not allow them to live freely.
The psychological impacts that trans people face are often connected to their family dynamic. If a trans person feels out of place and unaccepted in their own home, the impacts can be drastic. Leelah, Alcorn, an American trans girl who committed suicide last year, did so because her parents refused to acknowledge her identity and sent her to conversion therapy instead, to try to ‘fix’ her. Her parents denied her access to HRT (hormone replacement therapy) when she turned 16, and in her suicide note she expressed that she felt she would never become the woman she dreamed of being. Candace, who gave her feedback to the Magazine Psychology Today, said “after years of being put down and belittled by my sister, I made the decision to minimize her presence in my life. I couldn’t continue with the toll it took on my emotional well-being […] I feel this was the best decision […] sometimes it is one’s best interest to make that tough call, in spite of the pressure to stick by family regardless of the cost” (Psychology Today). It is important that as a society, Canada (and North America as a whole) should make mental health a priority, and give resources to LGB and trans people who do not feel psychologically safe or stable in their home situations.
Trans people are not an overwhelmingly huge number of people in Canadian society, but their presence exists, and we must acknowledge that as a society. By alienating them, making jokes about them, limiting their representation in the media, and denying them the rights that the rest of Canadians feel entitled to, we are perpetuating a cycle that does not allow trans and gender non-conforming people to live their lives in the way that they desire. To fix the problem, we must change how our laws affect the trans community in our nation, and how our culture affects the way that they are p[erceived in society and how they consequently perceive themselves.
Cassell, Heather. "Out in the World." Lesbian News Magazine 1 May 2013. Print.
Lenning, Emily, and Carrie L. Buist. "Social, Psychological and Economic Challenges Faced by Transgender Individuals and Their Significant Others:gaining Insight through Personal Narratives." Culture, Health & Sexuality 15.1 (2013): 45-57. Taylor & Francis. Web. .
Psychology Today. "Feedback." Psychology Today 1 May 2015: 6. Print.