Originally published in the San Antonio Current
A recent study conducted by researchers at The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law shows that approximately 1.4 million adults consider themselves to be transgender. According to the study, the number is twice that of the transgender population estimated to have existed in the United States a decade ago.
The study, bluntly titled “How Many Adults Identify as Transgender in the United States,” is said to be the first of its kind to reveal state-level population estimates of transgender individuals.
Unsurprisingly, several of the more densely populated states, including Texas and California, had higher percentages of transgender individuals. The study also takes into account age, supposing that adults ages 18-24 were more likely to identify as trans than adults older than 25.
The research comes as states across the country propose, with some even passing, legislation that strips basic civil rights away from trans people. Bills like North Carolina’s transgender bathroom ban force transgender men and women to use public bathrooms that align with their assigned sex rather than their true gender. At the same rate, much of the proposed anti-LGBT legislation bans non-discrimination ordinances from the state-level, thus placing not only trans people but all LGBTQ individuals at risk of job, healthcare and housing discrimination.
So if there are 1.4 million trans adults living in the United States, along with an unaccounted for number of trans children, why are there so many laws targeting the trans community?
The answer can most likely be found in the strategic rhetoric of anti-LGBT activists, lobbyists and legislators that essentially aims to heighten the culture of violent attitudes that already exists towards the trans community. This rhetoric paints trans people as stereotypical sexual predators, repeating the fallacy that trans women are just men in wigs looking to assault unsuspecting women and children. It’s the kind of language that dehumanizes, demonizes and even endangers the 1.4 million trans adults that we now know live in this country – deployed for the sake of defending the general public from a threat that doesn’t exist.
To this day, there have yet to be any confirmed cases of trans men or trans women attacking people in bathrooms, but there are numerous accounts of trans and gender nonconforming folks experiencing harassment, assault and sexual violence because they used the bathroom of their choice. Yet there have been a handful of instances in which conservative representatives have been caught committing sexual acts in public places, such as former Republican senator Larry Craig who was caught sexually soliciting an undercover police officer at an airport bathroom.
Texas is spearheading the lawsuit against the federal government because of the non-discrimination directive recently delivered by the Obama administration. In 2013, San Antonio mayor Ivy Taylor voted against a proposed non-discrimination ordinance on the basis of religious freedom.
This year alone, at least four trans people have been killed in the state of Texas, including Veronica Banks Cano, a Black trans woman from San Antonio.
2015 was the deadliest recorded year for trans people, with more than 20 trans women murdered in the US alone. This does not account for the people who were misgendered by the media nor does it take into consideration the number of trans suicides, which are triggered by the rejection, discrimination and the culture of violence trans people are constantly subjected to for existing openly.
When the law begins to reflect bigotry, violence comes as no surprise. If state governments continue to criminalize being transgender, rates of murder and hate crimes against trans people will only continue to rise.
1.4 million transgender adults and an unaccounted number of transgender youth living in the US are at risk here, but every single one of us deserves to have the same rights and protections as anyone else.