Updated: Jun 28
America's understanding of trans people is complicated. While we don't intend to get too detailed about the politics or beliefs that may fuel the misconceptions in this post, it's important to frame the convo with some context: 80% of people in the US don't know a trans person. Outside of TV shows or recalling front-page headlines about Caitlin Jenner, it's a fair bet the people in your circle doesn't include a trans person.
According to Pew Research, most people are in favor of protection against discrimination against trans people. However, dig into the details and the narrative changes; many feel that trans equality is moving too quickly.
Does this influence the amount of recent attacks against trans people? Do people have to have a personal connection to a trans person in order to have empathy towards them? Are there connections with the distant proximity of trans bodies and the hesitancy to further the rights of Trans people? We'll be discussing these questions in more detail over time, but today let's get familiar with some common myths. These should help you understand more about trans lives and how to dispel myths when you are encountered with them in a conversation.
Kids are transitioning too soon.
Have you ever heard about Precocious Puberty? It’s when a young person develops rapidly, and healthcare professionals can't identify exactly why it’s happening. To treat this condition, puberty blockers are used to slow down the process. Studies around bone mineral density and psychosocial outcomes have shown that it’s a safe treatment.
These treatments are very similar to those for trans kids. Just like with precocious puberty, if an adolescent stops the medication, puberty resumes. When administered legally by a professional, it’s a safe process.
When kids are denied access to care, problems start. Without puberty blockers, such physical changes can cause severe distress in many transgender children. Proper care includes mental wellness with a therapist, and it’s shown that denying this can be life-threatening, contributing to depression, social isolation, self-hate, risk of self-harm, and suicidal behavior.
These interventions are too dangerous for young people.
Nope. They are safe. In fact, the scientifically-proven processes used are trustworthy and approved by all of these major medical organizations:
Little kids are getting sex change operations.
First, swap “sex change” with “gender-affirming.” Thanks!
Second, it's a false claim. Access to gender reassignment for anyone under the legal age is extremely rare. In many states, you need to be at least over age 16 to receive this care, other states are age 18.
Regardless of age, someone getting a gender-affirming surgery isn’t as commonplace as media and political extremists would like us to believe. The number rises yearly, but for all ages, just under 11% of Trans people obtain a gender-affirming surgery, accounting for roughly 10,000 total procedures every year. From 2019 to 2021, there were about 800 top surgeries and just over 50 genital surgeries. Medical interventions that go past past hormones and puberty blockers are rare.
Unfortunately, as this article discusses, insurance plans don't always cover this type of care. Procedures that are out-of-pocket — and worse, outside of legal boundaries — are not tracked.
All said, even if you double the numbers above, it remains a very small group of people having gender affirmation procedures.
There are more Trans people nowadays.
While we can’t really say whether that is true or not, there are several things that factor into people feeling this way. The advent of the internet and social media and persistent pushes for LGBTQ rights grant more people access to explore their identity. Today versus sixty years ago, It’s (sorta) safer to be out, and there are more resources available in (mostly) safe spaces to talk about this.
Access to care has improved, too. Travel back through headlines in past decades and stories about celebrities and gender were tabloid headline fodder, while today our language has evolved to be way more inclusive and respectful. It's typically more insulting to the publication to out someone or to use Trans-phobic language about their life.
There will be more lewd acts if Trans people are allowed in my restroom.
False. 21 states and 300+ cities have LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections, including access to facilities such as bathrooms that match their gender identity. There has been no increase in public safety in these restrooms.
It’s already illegal to go into a restroom or locker room and harm someone, so these bills targeting Trans people are duplicative. The bottom line is that Trans people want the same thing you do in the bathroom: a little privacy to get the necessary business done!
Trans women and girls have an unfair advantage in sports.
Thinking that trans athletes are inherently different from CIS-gendered athletes is wrong.
Have you ever seen a row of 6th graders? Have you noticed that everyone is a different size? Some are teeny, others are tall. Some chunky, some skinny. Look around your table when you go out to eat. Does everyone have the same body type?
It's not to say that trans and cisgendered athletes don't have differences, though. 22% of Trans women who are perceived as trans in school were harassed so badly that they had to leave school and 10% were kicked out of school.
In Utah, one of the states that have passed anti-Trans legislation, a 2015 survey administered by Trans Health Survey shows that about 33% of trans people were either unemployed or living in poverty. 34% reported that they were fired due to anti-Trans discrimination. 82% experienced verbal harassment, were prohibited from clothing that was considered not to match their gender, disciplined, or sexually harassed. So why the hell are we concerned about sports when basic needs are not being met?
It's important to share that half of US states have implemented policies that allow trans athletes to compete while ensuring a level playing field. The NCAA and International Olympic Committee have also adopted fully inclusive policies.
Can trans people stop talking about their identities already?
Politicians and right-wing conservatives seem to be the ones that keep the convo going about trans bathrooms, trans kids, and on and on. Trans people themselves aren’t dominating coverage, and unfortunately, have little control of the conversation.
As we mentioned above, most Americans don’t know a trans person, and of those people, many are motivated by fear: Centuries of dogma portrayed LGBTQ people as abnormal or sexual deviants and told untrue misunderstandings of what being trans is and isn't. Context is important, and many people don’t have the context.
Being trans isn’t a monolith. Every trans person has dreams and goals, points of view, and an approach to their gender. Not all seek the same interventions because everyone’s desired outcome is different.
Equal rights are, however, something that trans people can agree on. Lack of healthcare is real in the LGBTQ community, with trans and black trans people being the most impacted. Murders of trans people nearly doubled in the past few years, and black trans women are the most at risk.
What questions did we miss? What would you add? Let us know in the comments.