We at FORUM set an important goal for this issue: to provide a space for non-binary, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, agender, genderfluid, intersex, femme, two-spirit, and other individuals who are marginalized due to their genders to share their stories and perspectives. Our desire was to embrace marginalized gender identities and to facilitate the breaking down and deconstruction of binary gender roles and patriarchal notions of gender and sex.
When critiquing various perspectives on trans* identity, we found the social constructionist perspective, which views gender as a social construct, a good place to start. While this theory is important in its affirmation that traditional gender roles are baseless and damaging, it is sometimes used to dismiss and/or invalidate the lived experiences of trans individuals. We must acknowledge that factors such as social conditioning have made gender feel like home for many, and a person’s gender identity can indeed differ from the roles they were socialized in.
Moreover, gender expression and identity are influential to the mental and physical health of some. Transphobia and the invalidation of trans identity are severely detrimental to the physical and mental health of trans individuals.
This issue is so important when considering the political and social rhetoric surrounding the trans community. Trans people in the United States are at a critically dangerous moment of unprecedented visibility, and their bodies are considered publicly available for evaluation and critique. Moreover, trans women of color are subjected to vastly higher rates of hate violence homicides, police violence, and sexual violence.
This issue also comes as a reminder of the violent reality that not all of us will “survive these next four years,” an empty, comforting statement that so many of us have undoubtedly heard from our peers. Not every queer person survived the Reagan years, and many more will not live to see the end of the Trump era. Such sentiments come from a place of immense privilege.
Eight transgender women of color have been murdered in 2017 alone.
We must do better. Cisgender people must do better.
*We use the word trans in some contexts (as opposed to transgender) to be inclusive of the wide variety of identities within the transgender umbrella.
Kelsey Morris is the Student Section Editor of FORUM. She is a second-year Sociology student minoring in medical humanities and social justice. She is involved in OU Debate and various social justice organizations on campus.