By Dawn Ennis June 30, 2022
The text from a trusted friend in the transgender community, someone I’ve known since before either of us came out, was direct and succinct: She and her family are fleeing the United States.
She said the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade signaled the time to run had come, especially given all the cards already stacked against us: laws and policies outlawing gender-affirming care and banning trans student athletes from sports, lawmakers once again targeting our use of public bathrooms, and a new poll showing that most Americans think we are not really the gender we say we are.
That’s not even all of it. The conservative shift on the Supreme Court, and the growing expectation that congressional Democrats will lose their narrow grip on power in this fall’s midterm elections, were also factors. As my friend saw it, the best option was to move her family to Canada now, before it gets worse.
And it is getting worse. But can we describe all this animus as violence?
Hell yes, we can.
In 2019, the American Medical Association took a public stand against what it called “the epidemic of violence against the transgender community, especially the amplified physical dangers faced by transgender people of color,” and the discrimination faced by LGBTQ people in general. It’s only gotten worse since then.
When the toll of murdered trans people climbs to 19 ― most of them women, most of them Black ― and the year is only half over, it’s violence. That number in 2021 was 57; the year before that, it was 44.
When the FBI’s most recent figures for national hate crimes (2019) show an increase in bias attacks based on gender identity year over year, it’s violence. There were 227 such attacks in all that year ― and while they only accounted for 2.7% of all hate crimes in 2019, that’s still 175 Americans attacked just because they’re trans, and another 52 for identifying as nonbinary or gender-nonconforming. Compare that to 2013, the first year the FBI tracked gender-identity bias, when the number of victims numbered just 33 and gender identity bias crimes amounted to only 0.5% of all hate crimes. It’s getting worse.
When I am confronted by TERFs while doing my job as a reporter, and they challenge me about what bathroom I use and the fact that I consider myself a mom, that too is violence. I came face to face with nine women and the father of a swimmer who lost to NCAA DI Champion Lia Thomas, and although nobody laid a finger on me, I haven’t felt bullied like that since I was surrounded on a schoolyard and beaten for being who I am.
When death threats arrive in the mailbox outside my home, and when they fill up my voicemail and my social media DMs ― all because I dare to write about the issues affecting our community, and I contend that trans women are women ― that’s violence as well.
When I am wearing a “Protect Trans Kids” T-shirt at a festival in my hometown, and a white nationalist gets in my face, first demanding that I prove the Jan. 6 insurrection actually happened and then threatening to kill me, that is most certainly violence.
That is where America is heading as we prepare to celebrate our Independence Day and say farewell to another Pride month. The flags and rainbow logos will be taken down, boxed and shelved for another year, while our rights are whittled away and compromised and erased.
My friend and her family ― including her trans son ― will be putting down roots north of the border soon. My queer family and I will stay to fight, for now. But my duty as a mom is to protect them at all costs, so it may come to pass that we flee, too. Not out of fear, or even the threat of ever-growing violence against our kind, but because I want them to live in a place where they can find joy, build families of their own and live in peace.
I fear the United States will no longer be a place for trans Americans, given the current trajectory. That is surely the most violent thing of all.