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Trans bashing is the act of victimizing a person emotionally, physically, sexually, or verbally because they are transgender or transsexual. Unlike gay bashing, it is committed because of the target's actual or perceived gender identity, not sexual orientation. However, a trans person may be gay bashed if the person perceives them as gay rather than transgender. The term has also been applied to hate speech directed at transgender people and at depictions of transgender people in the media that reinforce negative stereotypes about them.
Discrimination, including physical or sexual violence against trans people due to transphobia or homophobia, is a common occurrence for trans people. Every three days a murder of a trans person is reported, and many murders are believed to go unreported. Hate crimes against trans people are common even recently, and "in some instances, inaction by police or other government officials leads to the untimely deaths of transgender victims."
One of the most famous incidents was the December 1993 rape and murder of Brandon Teena, a young trans man, by two male friends after they found out that he had been assigned female at birth. The events became internationally known when told in the feature film Boys Don't Cry, which earned Hilary Swank an Academy Award for best actress.
Differentiating trans bashing from gay bashing
At least since the Stonewall riots in 1969, people from the greater trans communities have often been politically aligned with the lesbian, gay, and bisexual communities. However, researchers and some activists from the greater trans communities argue trans bashing should be categorized separately from violence committed on the basis of sexual orientation ("gay-bashing"). Anti-trans bias crimes have been conceptually and characteristically distinguished from homophobic crimes in the scholarly research. One argument is that conflating violence against trans peoples with violence against gay people erases the identities of people in the greater trans communities and the truth of what happens to them. However, campaigns against gay bashing and trans bashing are often seen as a common cause.
In one case, perpetrators accused of hate crimes against trans people have tried to use a trans panic defense, an extension of gay panic defense. The jury deadlocked, but there is evidence they rejected the trans-panic defense. One law journal provided an analysis of the trans-panic defense, arguing in part that the emotional premise of a trans panic defense (shock at discovering unexpected genitals) is different from the emotional premise of a gay panic defense (shock at being propositioned by a member of the same sex, perhaps because of one's repressed homosexuality).
Laws covering gender identity
The United Nations adopted their Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 as the first global declaration of human rights. There are a number of articles in the declaration that have been suggested to specifically pertain to transgender people and violence (including, but not limited to, physical, psychological, legal, systemic, emotional, and political violence), although LGBT rights are not explicitly outlined in the document.
- Article 2 entitles individuals to all of the rights and freedoms set forth in the declaration "without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status".
- Article 5 states that "[n]o one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
- Article 7 states that "[a]ll are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination".
- Article 9 bans "arbitrary arrest, detention or exile" (which, according to Article 2, is protected from distinction based on identity or belief).
- Article 20 states that "[e]veryone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
In the United States, currently sixteen states plus the District of Columbia have hate crime laws protecting people victimized on the basis of their gender identity (they are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, D.C.).
The Matthew Shepard Act expanded the federal hate crime laws to include gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. In order to qualify as a federal hate crime in the United States, the crime must include successful or attempted bodily injury due to the use of firearm, explosives, weapons, fire, or incendiary devices. Hate crimes are covered by state, rather than federal laws unless the victim or defendant travel across state lines or national borders; using an interstate commuting route; the weapon has been brought across state lines; or if the conduct interferes with or otherwise affects commerce across state lines. This means that, unless hate crimes under the federal definition occur in a way that does not just affect one state, states have the freedom to implement their own hate crime laws. The protections of these laws range widely. Pennsylvania, for example, has not included gender identity in their hate crime protections since it was rescinded from the law in 2008.
Bathroom bills are bills proposed with relation to bathroom access and gender identity. In a survey done by Jody L. Herman at the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School, 70% of the transgender respondents had faced some sort of the following types of discrimination when attempting to use a restroom of their gender identity: “denial of access to facilities, verbal harassment, and physical assault.” There have been a number of bills proposed in the United States intended to limit access to restrooms for those who do not identify with the sex on their birth certificate.
The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network has found that singling trans students out by offering them alternative facility options may actually increase their chances of disengaging from school or dropping out entirely.
Some of these bills were justified with the rationale that they are written to protect cisgender people using their identified public facilities from violent acts committed by cisgender people of another gender entering their facilities claiming to identify as transgender. There has been no evidence thus far of any incidences of this. A 2013 proposed amendment to Arizona bill S.B.1432 would have allowed police to demand identification from anyone suspected of using the 'wrong' public bathrooms or showers, meaning the facilities assigned to the sex not matching the sex on their birth certificate. If found guilty, a person would have been subject to up to 6 months in jail and a $2500 fine under a disorderly conduct charge.
A bill in Kentucky was proposed in 2015 that would allow students to sue their school if they encountered transgender students using their gender identifying bathroom. The proposed bill S.B. 76 would allow transgender students to request special accommodations, including single-stall or faculty restrooms, but would not allow them to use public facilities.
A bill introduced to the Texas House of Representatives in March 2015 proposes to award any student in a school who can prove that another student who does not identify with their "biological sex" was using a public facility at the same time damage reparations in the form of $2000 for any "mental anguish" that may have been caused them. The school itself would also be liable for any knowledge of a transgender student using their gender identified restroom and for failing to take action against said use. Another bill, introduced to the Texas House in February 2015, suggests that anyone over the age of 13 years found to be in a public restroom of a gender not their own should be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, spend up to a year in jail, and face a $4000 fine. Under this proposed bill, building managers who repeatedly and knowingly allow transgender individuals to use the facility of their gender identity would also face a fine of up to $10,000.
In Colorado, in February 2015, a bill died in committee that proposed banning transgender people from using changing rooms of their gender identity. This bill would have prevented discrimination lawsuits against facility managers who chose to deny entry into facilities to transgender people.
A proposed bill in Florida would make it illegal for transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity in restaurants, workplaces, or schools. The consequences would be up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The representative pushing H.B. 583, Rep. Frank Artiles, says that, under laws protecting transgender use of restrooms, "A man such as myself can walk into the bathroom at LA Fitness while women are taking showers, changing, and simply walk in there," and claims that this bill will protect against cases such as that.
Malta passed the 'Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Sex Characteristics Act in 2015. This bill states that all citizens of Malta have the right to
- The recognition of their gender identity;
- The free development of their person according to their gender identity;
- Be treated according to their gender identity and, particularly, to be identified in that way in the documents providing their identity therein; and
- Bodily integrity and physical autonomy.
This act protects the gender identity of a person at all times. It also states that "person shall not be required to provide proof of a surgical procedure for total or partial genital reassignment, hormonal therapies or any other psychiatric, psychological or medical treatment to make use of the right to gender identity." The act allows parents to postpone listing gender on a child's birth certificate and prohibits “non-medically necessary treatments on the sex characteristics of a person.”
In the media
Media can contribute to trans bashing through misinformation and scare tactics. Transgender individuals are oftentimes misrepresented negatively in media, or not represented in media at all.Transgender individuals may be portrayed in the media as curiosities or oddities, as mentally unstable persons, and/ or as predators. A public example of this is the attention paid to the transition of Chelsea Manning, a transgender U.S. Army soldier currently in prison for releasing classified documents to WikiLeaks. A story on Manning's transition on Fox News was introduced with the Aerosmith song "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)", while host Gretchen Carlson referred to Chelsea by her birth name, Bradley, mocking the New York Times for "helping him" by using her preferred gender pronoun. While in prison, the Army has refused her request to grow her hair long like other female prisoners and continued to refer to her as 'Bradley' "to avoid confusion" until a court mandate to refer to her by her preferred gender pronoun. On February 5, 2015, Manning became the first member of the United States Army to have hormone treatment approved by the army.
According to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey Report on Health and Health Care (NTDSR), which surveyed 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming people, people who do not identify with their birth sex face obstacles to getting healthcare and have a greater likelihood of facing health issues related to their gender identity.
Transgender people experience greater mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, suicide attempts,1,2 and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as physical health disparities (e.g., cardiovascular disease). Trans people also have a higher rate of suicide attempts than the population as a whole. In 2013, the 2.2% of U.S. adults had attempted suicide while 41% of trans people had attempted suicide in 2011. The rate of attempted suicide in transgender individuals increased to 51% for those bullied or harassed in school, 55% for those who recently lost a job due to bias, and 61% and 64% for those who were victims of physical and sexual assault, respectively. Low self-esteem in transgender people has been linked to being at high-risk for HIV transmission. In 2008, the rate of HIV in transgender women in North America was 27.7%.
Access to healthcare
In the 2010 and 2011 NTDSRs, 19% of the people surveyed reported having been refused medical care due to their gender identity and 50% reported lack of provider knowledge of transgender health needs. Under the Affordable Care Act, it is illegal for any health program receiving federal funding to discriminate based on gender identity. Discrimination includes refusal to admit, treat or provide any services that are available for other patients; subjection of patients to intrusive examination; harass or refuse to respond to harassment by other staff or patients; refusal to provide support services; obligation to participate in conversion therapy; and any sort of interference in the pursuit of health care rights.
Race has been shown to compound manifestations of existing discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Black trans women have the highest suicide rate of any other group in the United States, at almost half attempting in their lives, while cisgender black women attempt suicide at a rate of 1.7% on average. Trans students of color face higher rates of harassment and violence in schools. American Indian transgender students face the highest rates of sexual assault in school at 24%, followed by multiracial (18%), Asian (17%), and black (15%) students. White transgender students face a 9% rate of sexual assault in K-12. Black trans women have a higher rate of HIV infection than other groups, with a 30.8%-56.3% rate, versus 27.7% of MTF transgender people on average.
Police and incarceration
In the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 22% of respondents who had interacted with the police reported harassment due to bias. 20% reported denial of equal services. 48% reported being uncomfortable asking for police assistance. Respondents who had served time in jail reported a higher rate of harassment by officers than by others in jail. For all respondents, 7% reported being held in a jail cell solely due to gender identity expression, while this number was 41% for black and 21% for Latino trans respondents. Transgender people have reported being refused medical care, particularly hormone therapy, in prison, with black trans people and American Indian trans people with the highest reporting rates.
- Gay bashing
- Hate crime
- Violence against LGBT people
- List of unlawfully killed transgender people
- Homelessness among LGBT youth in the United States
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