'Mary,' a transgender woman, was raped and abused more than 2,000 times in all-male prison in 2016. She was imprisoned for four years after stealing a car. According to reports, Mary stated that the abuse began as soon as she entered Brisbane’s notorious Boggo Road Gaol. She suffered extreme abuse that she would “rather die than go to prison ever again.' Although she was transferred away from Boggo Road several times, she reported being abused the most there.
According to an article by Independent, a British online newspaper, aside from suffering physical and sexual abuse in the prison, Mary was also forced to endure another type of abuse - the denial of her gender. During her stay, the other prisoners would cut her long hair and wasn't even allowed to take her hormones. “It was like my identity was taken away from me,” she said. Even after she was released, the abuse Mary suffered had stayed with her. 'We [members of the transgender community] are human beings and most of us were born this way. We want to just live our lives but are ridiculed by society because we have the guts to be who we are,' she said.
Unfortunately, the abuse Mary had undergone was just a tip of the iceberg. Every day, hundreds to thousands of transgenders around the world are subjected to discrimination, violence, and even death. According to a 2018 study, more than a third of all transgender people in the UK alone have been victims of a hate crime in the past 12 months. LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall reported that 41% or two in five trans people have experienced a hate crime because of their gender identity. About 53% of this figure are young trans people aged between 18 and 24.
Additionally, a study conducted by YouGov reported that 79% of trans people did not report their crimes due to fear of further discrimination or perceived lack of support. Statistics have also shown that the volume of transphobic hate crime referrals from the police decreased by 11% from 98 in 2015-2016 to 87 in 2016-2017. Aside from that, Stonewall showed that 12% of trans people had been physically attacked by a colleague or customer at work; more than 28% had faced domestic abuse from their partner, and 48% were scared to use public toilets.
The alarming statistics showed the deeply worrying levels of transphobia and transphobic hate crimes and incidents which happens across the world. Most of the time, even those who are expressing their support to the transgender community are also harming them through their harmful beliefs and opinions. Internalized transphobia is not immediately realized because some people are still not open in genuinely accepting the community.
What is Internalized Transphobia?
Transgenders experience discrimination almost every day of their lives, even from the people they thought they can count on. The feelings, harmful beliefs or opinions that some people have inside about being trans that they might not even be aware of is a sign of having an internalized transphobia. Even trans people can experience this because they hate that part of themselves and are ashamed of it. Most of the time, this happens because of stigma, ignorance, and discrimination in society against people who display gender non-conforming behavior.
According to an article by Transgender Mental Health, an online site which discusses all things related to mental health, psychotherapy and support for transgendered, transsexual, genderqueer and gender variant individuals and their friends and family, trans people have been historically made fun of, laughed at, and misunderstood. They are also subjected to violence and even death. They have been seen as not enough. These harmful beliefs and behaviors have become a norm that even transgenders are afraid of being a member of this hatred community.
Growing up in a culture and society where transphobic views are normal, most people, even the trans people, makes them question if they are valid or not. They learn that a certain group of people who are not gendered conforming can be mocked before they even knew that they are in that group. Thus, they are stuck in a situation of hating something about themselves. This leaves members of the community feeling ashamed of who they are, causing them to feel uncomfortable, embarrassed and inferior.
Last month, the researchers from the National Center for Social Research reported that there's a clear link between those who are likely to hold negative views about transgender people and are against same-sex relationships. The study explained that many “assume that public attitudes to transgender people may be reflective of attitudes to same-sex relationships,” because it is commonplace “to consider the experiences, needs, rights, and contributions of sexual and gender minorities as interrelated.”
According to an article by PinkNews, a UK-based online newspaper marketed to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, the study found out that the wrongful beliefs that people have on homosexual relationships are linked with prejudice towards transgender people. They tend to believe transition happens to trans people due to a superficial and temporary need.
Fighting Internalized Transphobia
Most of the time, internalized transphobia is driven by transphobia itself. This is the hardest battle that trans people can face because while they are struggling to fight the demons within, they are also harming the members of the community. However, these demons can be defeated. It is important that transgenders learn how to fight while surviving in a transphobic society. It's hard most of the time but learning to be confident in their own identity is a huge step in accepting themselves. It will also become easier for them to withstand the hatred of society.
Additionally, it is better to understand the arbitrary nature of cisnormativity or the idea that cis-ness is normal and being trans is freakish to fight internalized transphobia. It will be helpful for people to surround themselves with trans people, know and understand their struggles, and learn to love them. This is also a great opportunity to understand why we need to fight for equality.
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