EDITORIAL: Acceptance and understanding are key
People must be informed about what it means to be transgender
On Saturday, New Brunswick High School hosted the fourth-annual Trans Youth Forum with the aim of discussing the experiences and issues within the transgender community, as well as the importance of education with regard to it. A transgender person, or someone with gender dysphoria, experiences a conflict between their physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he, she or they identify. Included in the event held Saturday were workshops and panels to help inform the community on this subject. The transgender community itself is growing in visibility and gaining a strong voice, but there are many who still fail to see the necessity for acceptance and understanding.
Firstly, one of the most pressing reasons as to why the spread of awareness about the transgender community is necessary is suicide. The suicide attempt rate among transgender men is 46 percent, and for transgender women it is 42 percent, according to a study done by the Williams Institute. Across the full sample there was an attempted suicide rate of 41 percent. Interestingly, it was found that the prevalence of suicide attempts is increased among people who are known to clearly be transgender by everyone, at 50 percent. These numbers are compared to the regular population, which has a suicide rate of 4.6 percent. Clearly, a lack of awareness on this issue could very well cost lives — but an informed community can work together to save them.
It is possible that the suicide rate for those who are known to be transgender is higher because of the negative backlash they get for being themselves. When a person is not familiar with or used to the idea of transgenderism, they are often blinded by fear of the unknown. By making the truth about being transgender more widely known, we can increase the familiarity of the idea and work to show people that it is not the taboo they see it as. By doing this, we may be able to reduce suicide rates — which is why events like Saturday’s are so important.
When a transgender person lives in a community that is uninformed or unaccepting, it makes it harder for such a person to live the life they yearn for. Instead, the transgender person may resort to denying who they truly feel they are publicly or even to themselves — which leads to self-hatred. This self-hatred can be reinforced when one’s own family does not accept them, or tries to make them someone who they are not by forcing what is known as “conversion therapy,” which is widely acknowledged as being not only entirely ineffective, but detrimental to the subject. The real solution is an informed, accepting and understanding community. That is because transgender people themselves do not need to change — it is the mindset of the ignorant that needs mending.
It is important for both allies and transgender people to have their respective voices heard with regard to this issue. It is important for transgender people to speak up for themselves publicly and in regular conversation because they must become more visible in the media and in the community. This will empower other, maybe less outspoken, members of the transgender community, and show them that they can be strong and that there are others like them who are willing to speak up. It is important for allies to speak their voice for a similar reason — to show everyone else that standing up for the transgender community is clearly the right thing to do.
Despite our living in a free society, many among us are not living as free as they could be due to ignorance and hostility. More events like the one held Saturday are needed, but they are needed most in communities where people are more unaware of the issue. The growing platform of the transgender community must be capitalized on, and real change will come to fruition when as many people as possible are informed and convinced of the truth about the transgender community — that it is normal.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.