Hey, cis people. It’s time we had a talk.
Some of you may have followed this year’s slew of legislative and executive action in states across the U.S. to limit the rights and existence of trans people. Even ifs you’ve only heard about it in passing, what you’ve learned has hopefully alarmed you—and chances are, you’ve only heard things that have made the news or been widely shared. Many of you (cis people especially) probably don’t exist on parts of the internet where you see the unbridled hate speech from pundits, politicians, reply guys, self-righteous white women, bots, and people who log on specifically to spread this stuff. Hell, you probably don’t even follow high-profile trans people whose replies and comment sections are frequently great displays of this.
I, and a lot of the trans people I know, do see that hate. Every day. Sometimes it’s directed at the big trans accounts we follow, and we scroll through hundreds of comments at a time to report and block. Sometimes it’s aimed at us personally, like the time someone on Twitter took issue with me, combed through my website to find where I talk about my identity, and shared it on a hate forum where other commenters joked about assaulting me. And sometimes it’s directed at YOU, the cisgender public, like the TikTok reposter who doxxes trans accounts and queer events—or the prominent, openly transphobic writers who argue that trans people have no place in “a sane world”—or the major influencers and political podcast talking heads (with hundreds of thousands of ardent followers) that say it should be illegal to medically transition at any age.
Those last three things? That’s all happened WITHIN A WEEK.
And yet, the vast majority of the cis people I know (on social media and elsewhere) are completely silent. They don’t so much as mention transgender people for any reason, much less to acknowledge the genocidal tactics on display against us. They don’t get involved with their local, grassroots trans orgs to help provide aid. They don’t even think about chipping in to any of the thousands of crowdfunding campaigns for folks seeking gender-affirming care or a safe place to call home. They don’t use their privilege to be the annoyingly persistent voices in their workplaces and social circles to advocate for actively pro-trans stances and actions. In fact, SO MANY of you stand idly by—while claiming to care about our wellbeing—that engaging with you often doesn’t feel that different than the accounts we block dozens at a time.
We are being intentionally, systematically pushed out of public life by an ever-growing crowd of people whose ideal goal is that we do not exist, and all but a handful of you don’t seem to think we’re worth even a single moment of your time.
Ask yourselves: do you even care if we live? If we die—which IS the goal here—would that matter enough to YOU to do anything to stop it? If it WOULD matter: why aren’t you helping us now, while some of us are still here?
Because here’s the thing, cis people: a lot of us can’t even get our coworkers, families, or partners to listen to us. They treat us just like you do. If our continued survival is valuable to you, we need you to start ACTING like it. Learn the dogwhistles and start shutting them down when you hear them. Go consistently engage with your workplace to find out why they don’t offer insurance with coverage for gender-affirming care. If you’re a teacher, start the long process of getting your colleagues and admin to support copious gender-neutral stalls and inclusive language practices. DISOBEY ANY ORDER TO MISGENDER SOMEONE ANYTIME YOU CAN DO SO WITHOUT PUTTING THEM IN DANGER. (Learn what situations might put us in danger.)
Hell, no matter where you work, make noise until any member of the public who enters your workplace has a restroom they can use safely and without being misgendered, no matter what policies might come to pass in your jurisdiction.
When some portion of this work runs into a roadblock (admin won’t approve/insufficient funding/potential legal trouble/etc.), KEEP PUSHING. Why is the roadblock there? Who do you need to reach to have it removed? How can you cultivate internal support for the proposal? And even if there’s no way around or through it right now, how can you address the need itself in an unofficial capacity? Can you fundraise within the community, in part or in full? Can you source safe, reliable alternative options while progress is stalled? When the systems around you continue to fail us—as they are designed to do—what can YOU do with help from those around you to close that gap?
This isn’t a complete road map. In reality, it’s the first few steps down a long and treacherous path. But if you really, genuinely care about trans people and think we should continue existing, YOU CANNOT SIT THIS OUT. The tactics used to silence and erase us will be used on Black women, intersex people, disabled folks, and cisqueers soon after (except for the policies that already affect them and are now extending to us). EVERY TRANS PERSON YOU KNOW IS IN MORE DANGER EVERY DAY, and Black and Indigenous trans women feel the force of that reality most of all.
So help. Throw your hat in the ring in some way that isn’t just calling your reps about one proposal. (Arizona had well over a dozen in play by February this year.) Or, if you still can’t be bothered, at least spare us the platitudes. Stop pretending you’re on our side. The only people you’re fooling are each other.
If you’ve been waiting for a wakeup call, this is it.
Thanks for reading! If you learned something from this post and would like to tip me, head on over to my Ko-fi page. For more analysis and commentary like this in your life, check back again soon, and consider subscribing to my mailing list (at the bottom of the page or in the sidebar) for quarterly update emails on my biggest projects. To support the long-term work I do as an artist and advocate, you can find me on Patreon and @honestlyeris on Instagram.
The above essay was originally published on my Facebook profile in early June 2022. I wanted to post it here, but because I was in the process of applying to apartments and under much closer scrutiny than usual, I had to wait a little while. Thanks for your patience! (also, you can see some VODs of my Discord lectures this month over on my Twitch.)