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Although visibility has come far in the trans and gender non-conforming community, it is important that we keep our youth in mind.

Navigating my gender identity as a transgender woman has been an arduous yet fulfilling journey. I grew up during a time when trans visibility wasn’t gaining the traction that we see today. As a young child, growing up in a Southern Baptist family in North Carolina, I was always seen as the black sheep or “the one who stood out”. I loved to wear my grandmother’s high heels and I would wear towels on my head to mimic long, flowing hair. I was mocked and ridiculed in school when all the boys went through puberty, and I was the kid whose voice remained one octave higher than what was preferred. I was called every kind of homophobic slur you can think of, and often I didn’t feel comfortable expressing myself as I felt too alienated. In 2017, following the backlash behind Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Channel 4 interview, Laverne Cox took to twitter, and had this to say: “I was talking to my twin brother today about whether he believes I had male privilege growing up. I was a very feminine child though I was assigned male at birth. My gender was constantly policed. I was told I acted like a girl and was bullied and shamed for that. My femininity did not make me feel privileged.” Laverne went on to say: “So though I was assigned male at birth I would contend that I did not enjoy male privilege prior to my transition. Patriarchy and cissexism punished my femininity and gender nonconformity.” Many transgender men, women and non binary people alike, can relate to having felt punished growing up for not sticking to the status quo of the gender binary, because we were anything but cisgender, even if we did not have the language to understand it. We all know the challenges that come with childhood, as youth navigate school life, peer pressure and puberty, and growing up to find their place in the world. Adding on the layer of being TGNC (transgender/gender non-conforming), reveals a harsh reality. A survey conducted by GLSEN, reveals 65% of transgender students feel unsafe at school, in addition to facing verbal and physical harassment regarding their gender identity. According to The Williams Institute, an estimated 150,000 youth identify as transgender or gender non-conforming (TGNC), making the highest percentage of individuals in the United States who identify as TGNC. These statistics however, underrepresent the vast majority of youth who are unreported and those who have not come out yet.
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Being trans is not at all determined by our bodies. Our genders are not determined by our bodies or body parts.

Even as knowledge on trans identities and trans folks becomes more widespread and accessible, a perilous hyperfixation on trans people’s bodies remains. We are vilified and harassed everyday in our homes, our schools, or in our places of work for how we might look or present. Trans folks are consistently shamed, marginalized, and oppressed under cisheteropatriarchy and through its actors for failing to adhere to colonized, cisgender binaries and gender roles and expectations, especially with regards to our presentation and our bodies. Trans people are misunderstood and pathologized as having some “deviance” of the body. Even among folks who claim to be trans allies, trans people remain fetishized and objectified as body-objects and nothing more. Trans women and femmes especially are graded and received only through how conforming our bodies are to respectable, colonial, and cis standards of beauty. We are told even by those who claim to be our friends how they would “never have been able guess/tell”. We are told that our presentations “look so good for a trans girl” or that we are “surprisingly” skillful at navigating and crafting our presentation. As well, armful, overgeneralized assumptions continue regarding trans folks and our bodies, in particular our genitalia or other physical characteristics. And this contributes to the transmisogynistic demonization of trans women and femmes in particular regarding social access, like to public bathrooms. This also maintains a predatory “chaser” culture in which interested potential partners fetishize trans folks on the mere assumption of what body parts we may have. But in truth, we are more than our bodies. Our genders are more than bodies. In fact, being trans is not at all determined by our bodies. Our genders are not determined by our bodies or body parts. And our trans identity does not determine what body parts we may have. This pathologized, colonial misunderstanding of gender is simply not true. Regardless of where our genitals or other physical/bodily characteristics fall on the spectrum of human variation, we are peoples of many different genders.
Related: DON’T BE A TERF: TRANSMISOGYNY 101

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