ART BY TIFFANY CHAN
By ANNMARIE LI
There are many ways to express oneself, and gender identity is just one of the many methods of expression.
Gender identity covers a wide spectrum of genders that range from transgender and non-conventional labels to more traditionally-accepted identities. At all times, everyone has a gender identity, and it can be changed based on a person’s personal preference or comfort.
With the increasing popularity of gender nonconformity among the youth over the last few decades, society has made efforts to include gender minorities. For example, some social media companies like Facebook now include different gender options so the online community can be more inclusive. However, even with the perceived notion of society making progress to include these minorities, they are still hindered by societal discrimination and its implications.
First of all, gender minorities face degrading stereotypes that disrupt their progress in society. With the emergence of gender neutral restrooms, transgender people are increasingly viewed as rapists, as people consider that anyone could enter their preferred restroom just by identifying as transgender. Because of potentially damaging stereotypes, employers may have an unfavorable impression of transgender applicants. In fact, the National Center for Transgender Equality reported that the transgender unemployment rate in 2015 is three times higher than that of the rest of the population. Even though our society overstates equal rights for all, transgendered people are still treated as a stereotype and not people, which can harm them emotionally and psychologically.
Furthermore, society’s negative perception of gender minorities may significantly damage one’s psychological outlook. In addition, according to a study from 2017, 1.5 million people in the American population are diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a condition where a person experiences distress due to a conflict between one’s assigned sex and gender identity.
Those with gender dysphoria have some internal struggles, which affect the way they behave and how they view themselves, thus leading to lowered self esteem. As their internal struggle worsens, gender minorities may develop extreme insecurity and fear that disrupts them from fulfilling their hope to express themselves fearlessly.
In the end, societal pressures and internal conflicts may appear like unconquerable obstacles in gender minorities’ journey to self-acceptance. To illustrate, in a 2017 suicide report, transgender people have a reported suicide attempt rate of 41%, compared to 4.6% for the rest of the population. However, suicide is not the only cause that is able to affect the transgender community, as hate-crime related deaths are demonstrated in high numbers as well. In 2018, there has already been 19 reported deaths of transgender people who were killed by violent means. Potentially, these actions cause inaction amongst gender nonconforming, making them unwilling to express themselves. However, it is important that as a society, these numbers will only decrease as time goes on.
Although people may say that the implementation of gender neutral restrooms signifies a shift toward gender inclusion, transgender and non-conforming people still face discrimination. Evidently, public establishments do not always provide gender neutral bathrooms, so transgender people can still be subjected to harassment and other accounts of discrimination. However, states such as Arizona and Maine have established policies that permit transgender people to use the restroom of their choice, relieving the burden to presume an identity that they do not identify with.
Though society has adopted the view that gender nonconformists are different from the “normal” binary population, but this is not the case. Society has begun to acknowledge those with a non-binary identity, but our society has merely praised tolerance, not acceptance. Gender is a broad spectrum, and everyone is a part of it. So, let’s welcome all of the genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary and gender nonconforming individuals into a greater world.