It is no secret that today’s society still demonstrates and supports social hierarchies even though these hierarchies may oppress many different groups of people. It is still seen that certain traits or characteristics give people societal advantages, or grant them special privileges, making their lives that much easier. One advantageous characteristic in today’s society is to be white. White privilege, being the societal privileges that benefit white people in western countries beyond what is commonly experienced by the non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstance, is still a very prevalent concept. Another characteristic that encounters little to no societal resistance is heterosexuality, straying from this is viewed as going against societal norms. Discrimination towards individuals seems to increase the more they are viewed as “deviating” from society’s version of desirable qualities or traits such as the ones previously stated. Laverne Cox, a trans woman and also a renowned speaker for transgender rights and racial equality, discusses how the intersection of ones sexual orientation or how one identifies and their race, can play a large role in amplifying harassment.
For starters, both race and gender play huge roles in the makeup of individuals and their identities. People are often discriminated against for certain aspects of their race, or gender, or both. It is clear that racism still exists in a very obvious way within society, through racial profiling, obstruction of justice, and other forms of prejudice. The discrimination against people of colour is very much a systemic problem; in fact racism has even been fairly influential in shaping today’s society, proving that it is still an on going battle. Likewise, discrimination is directed towards ones gender identity as well. For example, when discussing the quality of life of transgender individuals, especially transgender females, you also encounter a distinct amount of inequity, such as difficulty meeting their basic needs. Getting a job, acquiring housing, receiving proper health care, or having their gender identity respected, are all areas of life where transgender individuals experience discrimination and harassment, this usually can be connected to peoples lack of understanding of what it means to be transgender, (someone whose gender differs from the one they were given when they were born), or peoples strong belief of gender binaries. Gender binaries are the classification of sex and gender into two distinct, opposite and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine. Many people do not see gender as a continuum, however many activists, scholars and others do argue that multiple sex statuses and sexed bodies are arrayed along a continuum, with fully female and fully male at the extreme ends.
Both transgender individuals, and people of colour experience discrimination, however when someone is both transgender and of colour, the level and amount of harassment they face, especially for women increases. Trans women specifically of colour have been found to be the most targeted victims of violence of the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual) community. In Laverne Cox’s speech, she mentioned some of the statistics being that trans women make up 72% of anti-LGBTQIA homicide victims, and 89% of these victims were people of colour, those are both huge indicators of the how the intersection of race, specifically colour, and gender, specifically female, increases harassment. Laverne Cox goes on to speak about her own experiences, she explains how a lot of white trans women have not in fact experienced the same level of street harassment as she, herself has, and that this is to do with the fact that she is both trans and a woman of colour. Laverne also highlights that a lot of the harassment that trans women of colour face, has been from other black people. She goes on to explain that this is linked to the collective trauma that dates all the way back to slavery and the historic emasculation of black males due to white supremacy. This statement only further supports the systemic issue that is racism, and the harassment and discrimination that trans women of colour face has way deeper roots embedded in the historic and systemic inequality of society.
In conclusion, Laverne Cox did a brilliant job of bringing to light the fact that the intersection of gender identification and race results in a dramatic increase of discrimination and harassment. The causes of this are two very complex and deeply rooted systemic issues, both including race and racism and sexism and a lack of understand of what it means to be trans gender. Society has been constructed in such a way that both of these traits are seen as pushing the norms and unfortunately, many view this in a negative light.
“Discrimination Against Transgender People.” American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., 5 Feb. 2012. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.
“Laverne Cox | Bio.” Laverne Cox RSS2. N.p., 4 May 2011. Web. 04 Mar. 2015.
“Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” Everyday Feminism. N.p., 07 Dec. 2014. Web. 03 Mar. 2015.