Opinion: Students on campus must stand up for their transgender peers

Transgender students' livelihood is at risk, and everyone on campus needs to stand up in support of them

The Department of Health and Human Services under the Trump administration is currently looking towards establishing a legal definition of gender as biological, according to The New York Times.

As anyone who’s taken a basic gender studies class can attest, this is ridiculous, as gender, by definition, is not a scientific or biological classification.

The news served as an aggressive ramping up of the Trump administration’s efforts to further disenfranchise LGBT citizens and has sparked reasonable outrage and concern within the trans community.

For many at ASU, the issue is personal, and it's crucial for students to stand up for and support their transgender peers.

B Bohannon, an ASU student who recently came out as transgender and a senior studying art, said her decision to come out publicly was partially inspired by these reports.

“I’ve been coming to terms with my identity the past few months, and I had come out to my family a few weeks before this was announced," she said. "But when I heard, I felt like if I continued to stay closeted, I’d be feeling like it worked — like my identity was being erased." 

This consideration alone can have dangerous consequences for members of the trans community, as it follows a trend of rising violence against transgender individuals.

"The consequences of a decision like that are huge," Bohannon said. "This is not a black and white issue, and there are a lot of intersex people who would be affected by a decision like that." 

Even without facing legal erasure, research through Am J Public Health has shown that transgender individuals across the globe face far greater levels of social stigma, discrimination, harassment and physical and sexual abuse than the general population.

If the federal government refuses to acknowledge the existence of its transgender citizens, they abdicate themselves of their obligation to protect them and compound the issues the transgender community currently faces.

Students and faculty at the university cannot stand for this. 

For Bohannon, it's important for allies to express support, but equally important for them to follow the lead of their transgender peers, and to not pressure transgender individuals.

"Allies shouldn’t try to speak over trans students and trans people — I’ve noticed that happens a lot," she said. "I also think it’s very important that allies don't just start grilling trans people because not everyone's comfortable talking about what they're dealing with."

Oftentimes, even a simple expression of support and validation is effective.

"When I came out, a lot of people told me, ‘you’re valid,’ and that made me feel really good about my decision to come out," Bohannon said. 

Regardless of whether or not cisgender students choose to support their transgender peers, transgender students will be fighting for their fundamental human rights.

However, this pressure cannot rest solely on their shoulders.

Transgender rights are civil rights, and if the ASU community truly aims to create an equitable society, everyone must actively ward off bigotry in all its forms.

As Transgender Awareness Week quickly approaches, allies of the transgender community must educate themselves, listen to their peers and support organizations fighting for the rights of transgender people. ASU also provides a list of transgender resources available on and off campus  

As ASU’s Rainbow Coalition stated in a recent Facebook post, it is critical to, “support the (trans) community materially, emotionally and physically in this time.”

Reach the columnist at cldoming@asu.edu and follow @chuck_dominguez on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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