In view of equality
Transgender Visibility Day is coming up. Here’s what trans people want you to know.
In 2009, after 10 years of observing Transgender Day of Remembrance each November—a day set aside to remember trans people who have been murdered—an additional holiday was added to the calendar, this time to celebrate trans people, not just memorialize them. March 31 is International Transgender Day of Visibility.
A big part of celebrating “visibility” is that it’s a step toward reducing discrimination and violence. On that note, here are a few things local trans people and their family members would like you to know.
Being trans is not a choice
“It’s a biological fact,” said Valerie Lovett, the mother of a 22-year-old transgender woman. “I watched my daughter go through severe drug addiction. She was so out of her brain. Her brain was female, but her body was male. The torture that I watched her go through mentally was something that no one would choose.”
“For us, it was kind of a rough road,” Lovett said. “I thought, ’If I could get a group together for other parents who want to talk, for caregivers of gender-variant youth.’”
She now hosts two support groups at Our Center, 1745 S. Wells Ave. The TransParent group is for parents and allies of gender-variant youth, and the TransFusion group is for people aged 16-24 who are gender-variant. (Lovett doesn’t check birthdates at the door. “A year or two on either side is fine,” she said.”)
Both groups meet monthly. For details, visit Our Center’s Facebook page.
Changing corporate cultures is not easyThe website of Caesars Entertainment, the corporation that owns Harrah’s Casino, contains this wording: “We proudly support the LGBTQ community. At Caesars Entertainment, we create an environment where both employees and guests can have fun being themselves.” According to one employee, though, the attitude of acceptance hasn’t pervaded everyday work culture.
“I’m not out [at work] because I don’t feel safe,” said Matt, a trans man who works at Harrah’s and looks unambiguously male. (Matt is not his real name. He asked us to withhold it, for the reason he just explained.)
“My co-workers have said transphobic things to me,” he said. When a trans woman checked into the hotel, Matt advised his colleagues to call her “she.”
“They went with ’he,’” Matt said. “I feel like a lot of people in the casino industry are kind of uneducated when it comes to anything queer or trans related. There’s people who have quit because they’re transgender.”
With such a supportive-sounding corporate policy, why not just bring his complaints to management? Matt said that at his previous job, when transphobic hostility started to simmer, “It was very uncomfortable.” He looked into the incident reporting process, and it seemed likely that he’d end up being the public face of a long battle. He’d rather just do his job.
“I would say their number-one issue by far is just pronouns in general and people respecting pronouns,” said Ashley Ross, whose husband is a trans man.
“People say, ’Oh, pronouns are really hard for me,’” Ross said. She added that people tend to remember their friends’ dogs’ pronouns no problem.
“It’s so painful for people to be misgendered,” Ross said. “I think that people don’t understand how much it hurts when someone gets misgendered, just one time. It can really be a setback in somebody’s self-esteem.”
A trans person’s identity isn’t subject to your expectations
Marcel Lucius Elija Herz, a 22-year-old transgender man who transitioned six years ago, said that a lot of people—both inside and outside the LGBTQ community—seem to expect trans identities to be set in stone.
“There’s this stigma,” he said. “You have to stay constant. You have to know who you are, how you dress. There’s a lot of people who think you have to get away from your old name.” A lot of people seem to think trans people should give up their former identities entirely once they decide to transition, he explained.
To Herz, though, stigmatizing these things is antithetical to the whole process of transitioning.
“That’s the beauty of it—there’s so much growth going on,” he said. While he’s a lot more comfortable in his own skin now that he’s a man, there are some things it took him a while to decide on. He’s been through two name changes, for example. And there are some things that will never be set in stone. “I’ve always been more masculine, but I have my days where sometimes I’m feeling more feminine,” he said. “It’s like there’s a hidden set of rules that everyone has to follow when you transition. I think that’s bogus. Everyone’s journey is their own.”
Access to health care can be fraught
“Lack of acceptance and affirmation from family, friends, work and school lead to depression, suicidal ideation,” said Brooke Maylath, a transgender woman who is a co-leader of the Transgender Allies Group.
These are conditions that require mental health care, and, in many cases, the lack of acceptance can be addressed—at least in part—by gender reassignment surgeries. But there are some barriers between trans people and quality healthcare.
“The problem is multifold,” said Maylath. “There’s not enough physicians who are trained on how to treat our unique issues. Doctors will say, ’Sorry, you’re far too complex for me.’”
Because of this, many trans people end up not being treated for common conditions that are unrelated to gender identity.
“Managing cross-gender therapy—which is what they freak out about—is far more complicated than managing diabetes, which doctors do every day,” Maylath said.
Insurance companies have historically denied trans customers such procedures, Maylath said. A non-discrimination provision in the 2010 Affordable Care Act specified that a medically necessary procedure could not be denied to someone based on gender.
“Most companies have adhered to that in Nevada,” Maylath said. But not all of them. “Transgender Allies Group is working on affecting legislation and policy so that more trans people have access to quality heath care and insurance companies cover medically necessary transition procedures.”
One trans-friendly health care resource is Northern Nevada HOPES, 580 W. Fifth St. Learn more at nnhopes.org.
Even for those committed to using the most inclusive language possible, the ever-expanding abbreviation “LGBTQIA+” can be a mouthful. A few new terms have been proposed in the name of balancing wide acceptance with syllabic overwhelm. The one that appears to be gaining the most traction is SGM, “sexual and gender minority.” We haven’t seen it in any style guides or heard it in major media yet, but “SGM” has been used by outlets such as Reuters, the Harvard Gazette and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas News Center.