Back when I made the mistake of going into undergraduate school (long story), we had an impromptu project in a course I can’t recall.
Basically, we were asked to draw our own timelines, complete with our births, various achievements already achieved, various achievements we hoped we’d achieve, and our deaths. I think it was meant to somber us for an English exercise or something.
With little reflection, I went ahead and drew mine, my first priority to ensure both my birth and my death. I mean, it’s always best to start with what you know, right? SAT master over here.
When I finished, I actually hadn’t found my timeline at all peculiar (which creeps me out a little, now that I reflect on it). And I suppose my professor, upon reviewing my work, had a valid response.
“Why in the world did you write that you’d die at 27?” she asked. She looked, quite frankly, horrified.
“You said to be realistic,” I replied.
For once, I wasn’t trying to be a smartass. I truly didn’t understand why I’d been told to be truthful and then was told that I was—well—pretty much wrong. Or at least otherworldly as hell.
But the fact of the matter was that my professor – bless her heart, she was actually a really sweet person – was cis.
She didn’t get the trials and tribulations of being trans, which in turn made her unaware of how much privilege she herself had as a cis person.
So I’m going to do now what I wish I’d been able to do then: put into better words some of the ways cis people are seriously privileged over trans people. You’ll notice they’re oh-so-extreme and yet oh-so-everyday. Kind of like a sugary breakfast cereal.
1. You Don’t Get Shit Thrown at You
What do unopened cans of beer, ice chunks, and a strawberry milkshake have in common?
They’ve all been chucked at yours truly.
The beer hurt, and the ice chunks missed (though the windows were a different story), but the milkshake actually made me feel the worst.
The moment itself was embarrassing and dehumanizing enough, but the two-hour public transit ride home to wash it off made it all the more degrading.
The fact of the matter is that some cis people feel so justified in their fear of us that they’ll treat us horribly right out in broad daylight.
And while sometimes it results in “just” derogatory language, we seem to be just as often useful for target practice. It sucks.
2. You Don’t Have People Obsessed with Your Bits
Everyone – from laypeople to doctors – wants a piece of our junk.
Laypeople think we’re a personalized Google, and many doctors feel it’s okay to cross ethical and legal boundaries when dealing with us – because our bodies are so Twilight Zone that the supposed scientific benefit overrides our humanity.
I’ve heard too many stories from testosterone-using trans men that their “trans certified” doctors wouldn’t write them their next hormone prescription unless they let them glove up a hand and see “how much growth was happening down there.”
In case you didn’t know, this type of blackmail scientific experiment is otherwise known as sexual harassment.
But plenty of trans people endure it (and don’t report it) because getting cut off from your hormones can be seen as the worst thing ever. And there are only so many “trans certified” doctors out there.
3. You Only Have to Go Through Puberty Once
Seriously. Once was enough.
4. You Can Ride the Bus Without Fear
Or just plain be out in public.
When your body is seen as not adhering to social norms, cis people tend to feel that your body is therefore public domain.
It can be ridiculed, threatened, and violated. You have been deemed inhuman and therefore will be treated as such.
And laws and regulations in the United States haven’t exactly been helpful. For example, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) used to require M/F stickers on their bus passes.
Drivers were to check genders and had the authority to call out riders that didn’t look like their assigned gender. Aside from public ridicule and shame, riders would also have to pay the fare all over again if drivers deemed them to have stolen the bus pass due to the supposed discrepancy.
It took three years of persistent campaigning to get SEPTA to remove the gender stickers. And that was just in 2013.
5. You Don’t Lose Out on Job Opportunities Because of a Clean Background Check
Employers have full access to your history as a human being, plenty of which is actually none of their business, such as former genders or legal names. (The only thing background checks are supposed to be used for is to check criminal activity, which is itself problematic due to the rampant ostracizing of reformed criminals.)
But with these pieces of benign, not-your-business information, plenty of trans workers have either been suddenly glossed over for a given job or were quickly fired once the background check returned.
This is huge, people.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, transgender unemployment is twice as high as cisgender unemployment, 44% of transgender workers are underemployed, and transgender workers are four times more likely than cisgender workers to have an annual income of less than $10,000.
Lastly, despite 73% of voters in a recent CAP poll being in favor of protecting transgender people from discrimination in the workplace, only about 17 of our 50 states currently have any such laws in place.
6. You Can Pee
Roger: Hey John, you hear about the one where Hobby Lobby wouldn’t let a trans woman worker use the ladies room until she provided proof of genital reconstructive surgery?
John: No, Roger, I didn’t. What’s the punchline?
Roger: There isn’t one, John. I just thought you’d like to know how effed up the world is for trans folk.
John: Wow, Roger, thanks for that. Sure glad I never get stopped, ridiculed, harassed, stabbed, punched, raped, or fired for using the public restroom of the gender I associate with. It’s nice to be treated like a human.
Roger: True that, John, true that. I wonder what trans people do to get by then?
John: Not sure, but I bet it results in a lot of UTIs.
7. You’re Not in Debt Due to Life-Saving and/or Health-Improving Medical Procedures That Insurances Consider Unnecessary
Plenty of trans people undergo some form or combination of surgery or hormone therapy in order to improve their quality of life and mental health and/or keep themselves from suicide. But, you know, most health insurances still label these procedures as “cosmetic.”
8. You’re Less Likely to Be Homeless
There is almost no data regarding homelessness specifically in regards to transgender people (they often get lumped into LGBTQIA+, which unfortunately covers up the direness of the situation), but the few studies around have concluded that 1 in 5 transgender people has “unstable housing.”
Compare that to the overall American homeless population, in which its 19 people for every 10,000.
I’m going to sit here a minute and let that number sink in for you.
9. You Have Homeless Shelters
So what do we do now that we know how many trans homeless people are out there? Deny them shelter, of course!
I have no stats on this bit since they once again pretty much don’t exist, but I do have insider information.
Shelters aren’t safe for trans people.
Trans people are frequently discriminated against by both workers and fellow homeless individuals. They can be denied housing, inappropriately placed, ridiculed, harassed, injured, or killed all due to their gender identity.
And it’s hard to say which is more dangerous for a trans person: standard shelters or LGBTQIA+ ones.
The amount of stabbings that happen to trans people in homeless shelters by other, cis homeless individuals (including in LGBTQIA+ shelters!) is ridiculous.
10. You’re Not Likened to Animals
Roger: Hey John, I’ve got another one for you. Did you hear about that psychiatrist who recently denied the existence of trans children because she herself used to believe she was a cocker spaniel?
John: Wow, Roger, it sounds like she can’t tell the difference between gender identification and fantasy play. Doesn’t give me a vote of confidence for her profession.
Roger: I know, right? They must’ve been giving those licenses away.
John: Reminds me of that episode of South Park where Kyle’s dad underwent dolphinoplasty after Mr. Garrison became Mrs. Garrison.
Roger: It’s stuff like this that’s really making me embarrassed to be cis, John.
11. You’re More Likely to Be Not Dead For Longer
Fun fact: Transgender people have a life expectancy of only 30-32 years.
Yeah, okay, that statistic is meant more for Argentina. But you know why? Because there aren’t any reputable statistics anywhere else – when there are statistics at all.
But okay, fine. Let’s talk about the Unite States. In the US, about 4.6% of all people have attempted suicide. For LGBQ individuals, that number jumps to 10-20%.
So let’s math: 41% + 8% = 49% of trans people who are at risk of dying from murder or suicide alone. Otherwise known as—you know—half of us.
Which is why I only know of one trans person whose death has ever made the news without having anything to do with murder or suicide. One. And despite how awesome and important ze was, zir media coverage was minimal.
I have a birthday tradition. Every year, without fail, I make myself a cake. And every year, without fail, I don’t write “happy birthday” on it. In fact, I refuse any cake with such a false message.
You see, anybody can be born. But I’ve learned that in such harsh instances as the trans life, it’s a fucking miracle to still be around. To still be alive is a symbol of defiance and perseverance, of fortitude and sheer luck.
So I don’t have birthday cakes.
I have “I’m still here” cakes.
Because I’m thankful for every night I’m able to go to bed alive and well with a roof over my head. Because I’m moved by every year I get to see turn with me still standing. Because I feel truly blessed for having survived sexual assault, rape, incest, verbal abuse, family estrangement, neglect, severe poverty, physical attacks, ridicule, bullying, death threats, stupid ass doctors, bigoted firings, sex work offers, crippling depression, anorexia, suicidal tendencies, and the occasional angry Chihuahua.
As of this writing, I may have outlived my old undergraduate project, but I’ve still got an Argentinian statistic bracket to break.
Let’s see how many more cakes I can fit in me.
James St. James is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. He isn’t particularly fond of his name, but he has to admit it makes him easier to remember. When he’s not busy scaring cis gender people with his trans gender agenda, he likes to play SEGA and eat candy. Follow him on Twitter @JamesStJamesVI.