The transgender population faces unique and complex issues as it attempts to carve out an equitable space in American society. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey Executive Summary reported that almost 30 percent of participants were living in poverty, compared to the 14 percent national poverty rate; 15 percent were unemployed, in contrast to the 5 percent unemployment rate in the U.S. general population. Another, especially sobering reality for transgender people emerged from the study too: "Forty percent of respondents have attempted suicide in their lifetime — nearly nine times the attempted suicide rate in the U.S. population (4.6 percent).”
Despite growing acceptance of transgender men, women, and nonbinary people by colleagues, classmates, and family members, transgender people still struggle with injustice and the aftermath of that injustice. At TransCon, a conference hosted by Aqua Foundation for Women, members of the trans community can draw on shared resources to fight back — or just to get by.
The free conference consists of a job fair and a series of workshops that address pressing issues in the transgender community. Topics include “Promoting Trans Mental Health and Wellness,” “Save Your Rights in the Trump Era,” “Spectrum: Safe Sex and Healthy Relationships,” “An LGBTQ’s Immigration Experience,” and “Sex Work in the Transgender Community.” The conference even has expressive art workshops for gender-diverse kids aged 12 and younger.
Dr. Kelley Winters, a medical and social policy analyst and author of Gender Madness in American Psychiatry: Essays From the Struggle for Dignity, is the keynote speaker at TransCon 2017. Her book, which was published in 2009, explores the sociopolitical and historical implications of labeling transgender people as mentally ill via criteria designated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). Winters says that conferences such as this one create a much-needed sense of community among transgender people.
“It's always important for people who face barriers to form
Winters talks about the discrimination that plagues the transgender population. “We face it in employment, housing, public accommodation. We face it in a resurrection of an analog of Jim Crow laws that single out trans people,” she says.
The social media hashtag #protecttranskids has emerged in light of President Donald Trump’s revocation of the Transgender Bathroom Order. Winters finds the actions of the Trump administration cruel and undeserved. “From my perspective, it's deplorable... Trans kids are expected to hold their bladders all day because if they don't enter into the bathroom of their birth sex, they face expulsion or punishment,” she says. “It's important to note that... Title IX is still Title IX. It's the interpretation that’s the problem. What has changed is that the Trump administration has singled out trans people. To not enforce civil rights, and to target trans children, it’s unconscionable.”
While doing research for her keynote address, Winters reviewed the history of violence against trans people in Florida. “Since the 1990s, there have been 27 murders of trans people in Florida, and the vast majority are trans people of color,” she says. Winters notes that this year’s number of deaths among trans people is higher than ever. “There’s no question that the current political climate that follows a campaign built on intolerance... contributed to an environment where this kind of violence is okay.”
Despite the overt discrimination from the Trump administration, Winters is confident that the transgender community will remain strong. “In the trans community today, it’s especially true that the political is personal. I think the organization of the unity of mutual support is more important than ever,” she says. “We have a place at the table in American society. We are as deserving of equal protection under the laws of America. We don’t slow down, and we won’t back down.”
Friday, March 3, and Saturday, March 4, at Barry University, 11300 NE Second Ave., Miami. Admission is free. Visit transconmiami.tumblr.com.