Although americans are becoming more familiar with transgender people, many may feel that the transgender movement has nothing to do with them. On the contrary, the gender movement applies to every person, on a fundamental level.
The moment of our birth, each of us was immediately put into one of two categories, male or female. We may recall moments in our childhood, when we understood which category we needed to fit into. Perhaps we were “corrected” for not behaving in the category we were assigned. For example, a young male football player who cried when he got tackled was taught very quickly that football players do not cry. From that point forward, the young male learned to stifle his cry response and replace it with something more suited for masculinity. A female may remember her parents making her put on a shirt in the summer when the boys did not have to.
From a young age, we will shut down parts of ourselves so that we can fit in the box society assigned to us. Our natural behaviors that don't fit in the box are shoved to the side, taken over by defense mechanisms, and become rules so basic, that we may not be conscious of them.
We then reinforce our rules onto others. When society is confronted with a person who cannot put themselves in the gender category they have been assigned, various types of hazing occur. Levasseur represents transgender individuals nationwide who have faced unjust, and often heinous, treatment. Levasseur sited a nationwide epidemic of violence against transgender women. Transgender people face dangerous situations daily simply by “being who they are.” When Levassuer traveled the country asking trans people what they needed most from Lamda Legal, they asked for the violence against them to stop.
The core of Lamda Legal's work is to move society in the direction of “trusting the trans person.” In other words, if someone does not feel that their designated birth sex and their gender match, we, as a society, need to accept and trust the person. Levasseur stated, “no individual would face the discrimination and danger that trans people face unless they understood their identity to be true on a deep level.”
A society that affirms people in their gender identity, also understands that transition-related health care is medically necessary. Many anti-trans health care proponents propogate the myth that trans-related health care is the same as cosmetic surgery. On the contrary, individuals cannot change their brain's understanding of gender. Thus changing the body is the only way to bring an individual into gender alignment.
When discussing the distress of trans people who do not have access to health care, Levasseur referred to a nationwide survey of more then six thousand trans identified people. Forty one percent of survey respondents had attempted suicide, in contrast to two percent of the general population. Levasseur aims to challenge exclusionary measures for trans-related health care. Levasseur also underscored the need for trans people to understand the necessity of their medical care. Internalized discrimination keeps many trans individuals silent, because deep down, they think their surgery is optional, or they have resigned themselves to paying out of pocket.
For those of us who are cis gender (designated birth sex and gender identity align), we do not have to think about something so basic as going to the bathroom. We may go to the bathroom for a break or to feel safe. The bathroom is one of the scariest places for a transgender person. Many trans people have been known to avoid going to the bathroom in public, which creates health problems. Levasseur also gave examples of trans people who are forced by employers to go to the bathroom down the street or on another floor of their building.
Most people are not completely feminine or completely masculine. Women like sports and men like dancing. Some women have deep voices and some men don't have body hair. As we shift our mindsets to embrace gender fluidity in ourselves and others, the violence and bullying plaguing our society will decrease. Individuals will be healthier, happier, and more able to create peaceful families and communities.