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Why Humanists Should Fight for Transgender Rights

Why Humanists Should Fight for Transgender Rights December 2, 2014

Brynn Tannehill, a writer, advocate, veteran, and Director of Advocacy at SPART*A, a national LGBT Service-members organization, has a guest post in Chris Stedman’s column at Religion News Service about the need for humanists to stand up for transgender rights. I could not agree more.

Two of the core principles of Humanism are the value of the individual and rational, evidenced-based thinking. Our culture is failing miserably at both when it comes to the transgender community—which is why Humanist voices are greatly needed.

Hostility towards transgender people usually comes from a literalistic reading of two biblical verses, which then gives people justification for denying gender identity. When anti-transgender justifications come from pockets of atheists, they also ignore the evidence that contradicts their perspective. This denial of identity effectively “un-persons” transgender people.

The individuals and groups that attempt to push their religious or secular anti-transgender ideas on everyone else in turn reject over 120 peer reviewed journal articles showing the biological origins of gender identity. As a result, they continue to push transgender people towards discredited reparative therapies—which are no more successful at changing gender identity than sexual orientation, because the two have similar and related biological origins.

Nowhere, though, is the effect of dehumanization seen more clearly than in statistics surrounding violence against transgender women, particularly transgender women of color. According to 2012 statistics from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, most anti-LGBT hate crimes murders (54 percent) were against transgender women, and 87 percent of those women were people of color (TWOC).

In relative terms this means that transgender women as a whole are four times more likely to be killed in a hate crime than a gay man, and TWOC are 32 times more likely. Most frighteningly, transgender women weren’t more likely to be attacked than gay men— but they were far more likely to be hospitalized or killed when they were.

In short: when we are attacked, whatever part of the attacker’s mind that tells them to stop before they kill a person is countered by the barrage of messages that transgender women are sexual predators, pedophiles, perverts, deviants, and abominations.

This is why the transgender community needs the voices and values of Humanists; we are not seen as human, and it is literally killing us.

Over the last few years I’ve learned a great deal about transgender people. Despite having been a vocal advocate for gay rights for a very long time, I had mostly just ignored the T in LGBT. That changed when I met Dr. Julie Nemecek here in Michigan. She has taught me much that I did not understand, as have Zinnia Jones and Natalie Reed here at FTB. And I totally agree that humanists should take the lead in defending equal rights and answering the torrent of hate and bigotry faced every day by transgender people.


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