Next week is Trans Awareness Week, which is a kind of funny name -- one that presumably is meant to emphasize visibility as opposed to say, pride, and to draw attention to the myriad of barriers of health and happiness, large and small, that face trans folks -- and to appeal to our allies and potential allies to work with us to defeat them.
But the name.
Not to obsess over semantics, but a lot of trans folks aren't visible
-- because they can't safely be, because they don't want to be. Some
trans folks are "visible" because they don't pass, which isn't always a
choice, though it can be. My point is I wish sometimes "trans awareness"
and all the other times set aside to teach dominant culture about the
harm of oppression were actually just
if-you're-not-one-of-us-why-don't-you-Google-it. Or, better yet,
I guess those names are less catchy, though.
Don't get me wrong: visibility is important. I think gender diversity and counter-narratives of all types are key to a healthier culture. What does masculinity mean or femininity? How do gender norms harm us, and where can we locate our authentic selves among them? And how does sexism -- and its attendant misogyny and enforcement of hypermasculinity -- hurt us all?
To get a jump on explorations of gender through a trans lens, San Franciscans can check out the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival, which runs through Sunday. The program tonight includes Rhys Ernst's The Thing, a short that's won a lot of acclaim and has an intriguing premise: a trans man and his girlfriend (and their cat), driving toward a mysterious roadside attraction ("The Thing") as their relationship falls apart. Also on the calender for the weekend: fascinating-sounding shorts by Malic Amalya, Malic Amalya & Max Garnet (Friday, 8 p.m.), Lauren Feiring, Chase Joynt, (Saturday, 8 p.m.), and Wren Warner (Sunday, 7 p.m.).
In related visibility news, if there's one thing everyone in the trans community can surely agree is a key barrier to happiness (and health, obviously), it's healthcare. Here, I'll do my visibility part: Allies, do you know that most of us face inadequate care, whether through insurance plans that won't cover our hormones or surgeries, lack of insurance coverage due (in whole or part) to our trans status, or straight-up discrimination that can make going to the doctor a terrifying prospect?
Hooray, then, for Healthy SF. The citywide program for uninsured residents made national headlines this week for a unanimous vote by the Health Commission to expand its existing coverage of trans healthcare from hormones and mental health to any medically necessary procedure also offered to non-trans patients. Therefore, a trans man in need of a hysterectomy can now get one, thus removing the ridiculous (and dangerous) bias against trans folks evident in almost all insurance plans.
experience unemployment and poverty at rates twice the state average, 42
percent have delayed seeking health care because they could not afford
it, and 26 percent report health conditions had worsened because they
postponed care," notes the Transgender Law Center, in a press release, about the expansion. This is a much-needed measure, and hopefully a sign that S.F. will lead the way on a national scale.
So, next week: I have a humble suggestion for us all. Instead of only bringing awareness to issues specific to trans folks (though educating yourself is important too), I'd love non-trans friends and loved ones to see that everyone can work to deal with the root of the prejudice against us: that gender is fixed and unworthy of contemplation. We are the proof-positive that that's not true, and I maintain that we all have a gender, no matter our bodies. So how to make our genders more considered, our awareness of each other more respectful, are humanity more visible?That's my everyday project, and if next week you make it a little more yours too, then your awareness transcends and connects, and your gender, like mine, only makes you more human.