Celebrating the Trans Community: A Reading List

Transgender Awareness Week occurs during the beginning of November, traditionally culminating in the Transgender Day of Remembrance. This period serves to amplify the achievements of the trans community, as well as illuminate its struggles. The Transgender Day of Remembrance honors the victims of hate crimes, suicide, murder and countless other violences trans folks face daily.

2015 has not been kind to the trans community. Trans celebrities receive awards and accolades, yet 79 trans-identified folks have been murdered this year. Many of them are women of color. Many were killed by people they knew, people they trusted.

Historically, the complexities of the trans community have been overlooked, its activism whitewashed or erased or ignored completely. Hollywood continues to cast cisgender actors in trans roles, reaffirming these revisionist attitudes. Subconscious, thoughtless or intentional, this is insidious. Erasing the experiences of a community—the good and the bad—erases the community altogether.

Every story is, of course, different, though the American media prizes a certain, clean-cut narrative of triumph over adversity. Trans is an umbrella term; it encompasses a variety of gender identities, a million stories.

I hope something here inspires you to reaffirm your commitment to making this planet safe and welcoming and kind and generous, or shows you that you are not alone. Or both.

We remember. We remain.

1. “My Whole Life I’ve Been Asked If I’m a Girl or a Boy.” (Sarah Gloven, The Stranger, June 2015)

I mentioned that as a kid, people used to ask if I was a boy or a girl, and that these days the wording has changed. Usually today the question is more often “Are you trans?” Even though my attitude has changed about this, now if someone asks me that I say yes—as a female-bodied person far on the masculine end of the gender spectrum, the term completely fits me; after all, trans refers to a whole complicated spectrum rather than a binary. But this is often a tricky conversation—the moment I say “trans” to someone, they assume I’m planning for hormones and surgery. Actually, I’m happy just the way I am.

2. “Miss Major: The Bay Area’s Trans Formative Matriarch.” (Julia Carrie Wong, SF Weekly, July 2015)

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy created a flourishing grassroots support system for trans youth, as well as organizations to help trans women recently released from prison and victims of AIDS. Now in her 70s, she reflects on the Stonewall uprising, staying true to her identity amidst violence, and her hopes for the future of the trans community.

3. “For Transgender Service Members, Honesty Can End Career.” (Washington Post, April 2014)

“You can transition, or you can serve.” Through a bureaucratic snafu, Petty Officer Wilson was able to serve in Afghanistan under his preferred pronouns, presenting as male. But when a transfer came up, his past came to light and he was honorably discharged. (The ban on transgender soldiers serving openly in the armed forces may expire in May 2016.)

4. “It’s Time to End the Long History of Feminism Failing Transgender Women.” (Tina Vasquez, Bitch, February 2014)

When the delusions of trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) are granted credibility, the transgender community is degraded.

5. “Trans Women & The New Hypertext.” (Merritt Kopas, Lambda Literary, July 2014)

To speak for myself, I don’t experience making games as an expression of mastery over a system of code, as a trained programmer might. Instead, it feels like a dialogue or sometimes like a shouting match. I have an idea of what I want to manifest, but getting there requires constant negotiation with an alien structure. This process mirrors the way many trans people talk about our bodies and experiences: wrestling with material conditions to produce something we can work with.

6. “Trans Enough: Coming Out for the First Time at 31.” (Marco Seiferle-Valencia, The Toast, November 2015)

In preparation for his top surgery, Marco Seiferle-Valencia reflects on “how much we can lie to ourselves in the name of protection from our deepest desires.”

7. “Here’s What Actually Happens When Trans People Use Public Restrooms.” (Meredith Talusan, BuzzFeed, November 2015)

There’s no evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, that trans women harass innocent cisgender bathroom-users. Instead, trans folks are far more likely to experience harassment– from verbal abuse to outright violence–at the hands of cisgender people.

8. “India’s Third Gender.” (Shanoor Seervai, Guernica, March 2015)

At Guernica, Shanoor Seervai interviews Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, an activist who identifies as hijra, meaning “third gender.”

When somebody asks me, “Who are you?” I tell them, “I am the oldest ethnic transgender community in the world, which has its own culture and own religious beliefs.” And we are in four countries in South Asia: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Terai region of Nepal.

Other awesome projects: