- What does it mean to be transgender? Transgender people identify with a gender that does not correspond with the sex assigned to them at birth. On the other hand, cisgender people do identify with the sex assigned to them at birth.
- What is the difference between sex and gender? Sex is divided into three categories, male, female, and intersex, based on the individual’s reproductive organ(s) at birth. Gender refers to the characteristics, attributes, behaviors and appearances that are socially or culturally situated on a spectrum between “male/masculine” and “female/feminine.”
- What is the gender binary? The gender binary is the classification of gender into two distinct, opposing categories of male and female. Gender fluidity steps away from this rigidity and allows the individual to identify with a gender which either varies over time, even day to day, or does not fit into one of the two categories.
- The vicious cycle: Trans people are often denied jobs due to the prejudice and discrimination against them, and for their appearance, which does not match the gender on their official documentation. When they are unable to work, they face impoverished conditions and some succumb to illegal means of employment such as drug dealing or sex work. This leads to a greater susceptibility for this population to face trauma, violence, injustice, and arrests. Upon arrest, they are often maltreated and denied placement in jail with the gender they identify as, leading to more violence and maltreatment. This history of imprisonment leads to more difficulty with employment and discrimination.
- According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, trans people are “nearly four times more likely to have a household income of less than $10,000/year compared to the general population.” The survey also found that “41% of respondents reported attempting suicide compared to the 1.6% of the general population.”
Legal Gender Recognition:
- According to the Transgender Europe study in 2017, out of the “126 mapped countries/territories,” legal change of gender marker without challenges is possible in 51 countries/territories.
Global Public Opinion:
In 2016, BuzzFeed News and the global market research and consulting firm Ipsos partnered with UCLA Law School to conduct a survey of 23 nations regarding public opinion on transgender issues. According to the results:
- General support for transgender rights: On a scale of 0 to 100 (0 being strongly disagree and 100 being strongly agree), Spain (81) and Sweden (77) ranked first and second in the countries surveyed in terms of general support for transgender rights. Russia ranks last (44), with Hungary (53) next to last. Italy and the U.S. fell towards the middle, with scores of 63 and 66 respectively.
- Legal sex change: Spain was the only country in the survey in which the majority (52%) supported legal sex changes without restrictions. The remaining 22 nations believed sex changes must either have restrictions or simply be illegal. Interestingly, 24% of respondents in the U.S. said that legal gender reassignment should not be allowed under any circumstances, surpassing that of Hungary (19%), Russia (20%), and South Korea (23%). Italy responded with 29% support for legal sex change and 9% rejected legal sex change.
- Restrooms: Most countries were proponents of transgender people using the bathroom of the sex that they identify with, Spain (77%) and Argentina (72%) being the top two, and Japan (42%) and Russia (26%) being the bottom two. The U.S. fell towards the lower end of the scale at 47% and responses from Italy are not available.
- Legal Protection: The majority of people in most countries agreed with the statement that “transgender people should be protected from discrimination by the government.” Spain (87%) and India (85%) ranked in the top two and Russia (41%) was the only country in which the majority did not agree with the statement. Once again, the U.S. fell in the middle at 71% and information for Italy is not available.
- Stigma and Myths: A few countries (Russia, India, and Turkey) reported that a majority of respondents agreed with the statement “transgender people have a form of mental illness.” 32% of respondents in the U.S. agreed with this statement. India and Russia also had a majority of respondents agree that transgender people have a form of physical disability. 19% of respondents in the U.S. agreed with this statement. Turkey and India had 48% in agreement that transgender people have unique spiritual gifts. 23% of U.S. survey participants agreed with this statement. Responses from Italy are not available for the above three survey questions.
- While legal gender recognition does not resolve the prejudice, discrimination, and violence that transgender people endure, it is a vital component for their access to basic rights and a dignified life. It is also important to combat the stigma and ignorance of common beliefs about transgender people, and approach people of all gender identities with open-mindedness and acceptance.