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What the future of America looks like for transgender people

With Trump and Pence – hardly friends of the LGBTQ community – coming into power, trans people are mobilising to protect and continue the progression that’s been made

In the wake of the election that brought forward a president-elect who incites misogyny, racism and discrimination against the LGBTQ community with his policies, of course some of the most marginalised groups are worried about their futures.

Last week, news broke that several trans youths had taken their own lives, with more having attempted to following Trump’s win. The Trevor project, a crisis hotline for LGBTQ youth, detailed that their traffic had more than doubled last Wednesday.

“Young people have been reaching out more and more since the election. They’re very anxious and frightened. They have a fear that the gains we’ve made over the past few years could be undone,” says deputy executive director Steve Mendelsohn.

The fears that have grown among transgender people are founded by some of Trump’s plans to change and encourage various public policies, which would dismantle any progression or protections that have been brought about in the last eight years by Barack Obama.

It was recently announced that the issue of transgender students accessing the bathroom they identified with would be heard in the US Supreme Court, but Trump’s assertion that he would choose a staunchly conservative judge for the court means the case is in peril.

In an interview with the Washington Post, 17-year-old Gavin Grimm, who is fighting the Virginia state’s decision to bar him from using the bathroom of his choice as a transgender male, said it was unfair that he will continue to be banned from the boys’ bathroom at school until the case is heard next year, most likely when this new judge has been appointed. He said he tries to avoid going to the bathroom altogether.

“It means I’m going to have to spend another school year where I should be focused on college plans and prom and graduation... not able to use the bathroom at my school,” said Grimm.

“We’re prepared to make our case to the court and to make sure the supreme court and people in general see Gavin as who he is and see trans kids across the country for who they are,” said Grimm’s attorney Joshua Block, from the American Civil Liberties Union. He stated that Grimm “is not trying to dismantle sex-segregated restrooms. He’s just trying to use them.”

It’s concerning, additionally, that other future cases affecting trans people could be scuppered by an ultra-conservative court system only strengthened by Trump’s candidate for the supreme court.

“I’ve been putting off getting my own documents despite having easier access... I don’t know if my time is running out and I don’t want to take the risk. Trans people never had full protection to begin with in this country” – Riley, trans rights advocate

Back in 2010, a policy that made it easier for transgender people to select their gender identity on ID like passports was brought in by the then-secretary of state and Democrat presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. The policy made it so that trans people only needed a note to say they were undergoing ‘clinical treatment’, rather than full gender reassignment surgery.

It’s been made clear that Mike Pence, the incoming vice-president, is a serious danger when it comes to the spectrum of LGBTQ rights. He’s supported a bill that would allow businesses to refuse providing service to LGBT people because of ‘religious beliefs’. 

Another member of Trump’s ‘transition team’, who will be overseeing major appointments and policy implementations when he comes into office, is Ken Blackwell. Blackwell is a senior fellow of the Family Research Council, an extreme anti-LGBT project labelled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, according to Trans Equality. In the past, it has described being transgender as a “delusion” and a “perversion”. The Council has also called for the exclusion of trans people from professions like teaching, and seeks to block any policies to do with choosing gender identity. Blackwell has spoken openly on social media to show his hatred for trans people.

There’s also Kay Cole James, who will look after federal workforce matters, who is a former vice president for the Family Research Council. Ed Meese, in charge of management and budget during the transition into the White House, is a fellow of the extreme anti-LGBT Heritage Foundation that peddles unfounded science on LGBT people. He’s been vocal about his support for the same discriminative laws Mike Pence has backed. So, when Trump says he’s “just fine” with same-sex marriage and promises to be a candidate that supports equality for the LGBT community, we’re not filled with much hope.

“I don’t know if transgender people are their highest priority, but certainly the State Department regulations could be changed,” Jillian Weiss, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defence and Education Fund told Mother Jones. “It will take some time to undo the tremendous progress of the Obama administration, but there’s no doubt that we will lose some rights.”

Many people aren’t willing to wait around and see the destruction Trump is very capable of causing in the fight for trans equality, least of all people like Twitter user Riley (@dtwps), who kickstarted the hashtag #TransLawHelp. The hashtag began as an aid to provide legal advice and guidance for a process that can be difficult to navigate when it comes to obtaining relevant federal ID, before Trump begins his presidency. It aims to connect trans people with willingly helpful lawyers in their states.

Speaking about the issue of federal ID for trans people, Riley told Dazed: “I’d say it’s always important. It’s more important right now because there may be a hard time-limit on the small freedoms trans people have with Trump in office. I’ve been putting off getting my own documents despite having easier access... I don’t know if my time is running out and I don’t want to take the risk. Trans people never had full protection to begin with in this country.

“I think that the best things trans people can do is look at their surroundings. Secure your computers, websites, online dealings using available tools. If you need to stay in the closet? Do it. If you have docs to change, medication to stock up on? Do it.”

Like millions of others, Riley was majorly concerned and saddened by the results. I was completely depressed and barely functional as I watched the election unfold,” they explain. “I didn’t get any sleep that Tuesday night. I saw a tweet saying that if you need documents, you better get them now. I remembered that I hadn’t done mine yet and had been seriously procrastinating. I was offered some legal help myself... (I) figured other trans people would want it.”

This thought process is what began the now viral #TransLawHelp. Springing from this is a successful crowdfunding project, which met its target of $5,000 to help disadvantaged and low-income trans people in the US obtain passports.

Writing on their page, organiser Carl Charles writes: “For many trans people, the cost, administrative burden, complex standards and difficult obtaining the requisite medical care/approval, can cause them to avoid updating their legal name and gender on government issued identification even where such updates are possible.”

“In light of a looming Trump presidency that will continue to threaten trans people’s lives, the pressure is on for many people to change their federal identification documents in case the existing standards for updating those are changes and to obtain state and local identification that matches who they are for safety, security and other reasons.”

Many trans voices in the creative industries have spoken out with words of resilience in post-Trump times. Hari Nef, who attended New York’s anti-Trump rally, wrote on Twitter: “LGBT people belong in America. POC belong in America. Immigrants belong in America. Muslim folks belong in America. Women are America.”

At a time of serious fear, groups are mobilising fast to combat hate and future political obstacles. Rhea, who runs the Anarcha-transfeminism community page on Facebook, tells Dazed: “Left unity is of the utmost importance right now. All socialists and communists must come together under the red banner, regardless of tendency. Ancoms, MLs, MLMs, Trots, Leftcoms – we must all unify under a single banner, in a People’s Party. 

“We all want the same thing, even if we have different methods of getting there. Before we worry about our sectarian differences, let’s worry about actually getting to a point where they have a material purpose! We need to organise for revolutionary struggle! Worry about the fine details after the fighting is over. A unified left front is now more necessary than ever before.”

There are plenty of organisations and projects out there specifically to aid transgender people, who, at a time when intolerance is on the rise and the future is uncertain, are working harder than ever.