For the trans population, the simple act of existing can be dangerous

Safety and identity are not usually intertwined. But what if these words were linked? This is the case for thousands of trans persons around the country. For them, safety is very much tied with identity.

Serena Daniari, a trans woman and producer for the news and culture site @mic, released a seven-minute video discussing the topic of how trans women are perceived while occupying certain spaces. In her piece, “Walking While Trans,” she interviewed several trans women on the different issues that can arise over the course of day-to-day activities. They describe many different scenarios where simply existing in a space became a problem.

“I'm not playing dress up. This is who I am 24/7,” Daniari said.

The video lays out a distinct problem within the trans population: The act of merely existing can lead to potentially violent confrontations.

I have many trans friends with occupations that range from Hollywood actresses to artists and escorts. Although they are doing OK for themselves, I have always worried about their safety. I have lost some trans sisters to violence, and it has been common for my trans friends to describe incidents where things took a violent turn after they disclosed their identity to heterosexual, cis-gendered men. Just this past week, Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, the founder of the Miss Trans America pageant, was found beaten and stabbed to death in her Massachusetts home in the first known case of deadly violence against the trans community in 2018. Steele-Knudslien's husband, Mark, was arrested and charged with the murder.

Because of this ignorance and prejudice, a simple act such as walking down the street can be akin to navigating a battleground. It shouldn't be this way. Trans people do not have to make any special concessions to make anyone feel comfortable. They exist in this world, as everyone else, and no one should feel so threatened by their existence that they feel the need to get violent. Trans people are not playing a trick on society. They aren't playing dress up. They are people, and their lives are not dispensable.

In a day and age where minorities are increasingly concerned about the safety of our families, we need to remember that this concern can run even deeper for people who are trans. With the murdering of trans women, and particularly trans women of color, being swept under the rug and seemingly treated with indifference by police, I see no problem in a trans person asserting their permanence in an organized, combative manner. I would love to read stories about trans persons taking back the night and putting their would-be attackers in check.

But, sadly, because of ongoing prejudices and “out of sight out of mind” treatment in the mainstream media, that resistance more than likely will not be televised. And for that reason we all have to do more to keep our trans sisters and brothers safe.