We’re two years into Trump’s America, and so far we’ve seen hateful acts that seemed unfathomable just two years ago. Besides his blatant racism and xenophobia, one of the most prominent prongs of the Trump hate-train is a deep and violent misogyny, reflected in the president’s speech, rhetoric, and political motivations. Nowhere is this more evident than in his nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the next Supreme Justice. It’s 2018, but the way politicians are speaking about women right now, you might believe it’s 1918.
Suddenly, it seems like we’ve been plunged into a horrifying world, not unlike one from a dystopian novel. This change might seem sudden — that is, if you’re a cis white woman.
The fact of the matter is, for women of color and for trans women, this world of violence is not unfamiliar. There is a long history of legislature that proves the hatred and violence for trans women and people of color runs deep and loud.
You need only look towards laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited the immigration of the Chinese to America and more modern institutions like ICE, which is notorious for its violence against immigrants, to realize that women of color have historically held little value to those in power. One may even look at anti-crossdressing laws, anti-sodomy laws, the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s and the most recent Bathroom Acts to see that just being visibly trans in public is punishable by law.
While the current state of affairs is certainly scary, it’s important to be aware of the long history of violence towards non-white, non-cis women that has come before. Perhaps all that has changed is the public opinion about such violent rhetoric and legislature. The impact of new legislatures and attitudes has shifted from the margins and towards white women. Perhaps, cis white women now face the dangers of living in America and now society at large seems to care.
“Cis white people have the most privilege and the most protection from acts of hate.”
Navigating this world as a woman is by no means easy, but even the struggles faced by women are stratified across race, wealth, and biology.
The life of a transgender person is full of hundreds of hurdles, big and small. From the cost of legally changing your name (and all the documents associated with that), to the casual hate speech embedded into a joke on your favorite sitcom, to being unsure if you’ll even be able to use the bathroom in public without being harassed or assaulted – it’s clear that this world hates us on a systemic level.
People of color have also lived in fear for decades. Black people especially have faced levels of violence with little to no relent since the advent of the country. The death of Freddie Gray by the hands of the Baltimore Police in 2015 gave way to a full military standoff between protestors and the police for weeks with no intervention by Federal legislature. It’s also no secret that the rise of Trump to office has only galvanized bigots and neo-nazis and emboldened them to commit acts of violence and hate.
The rest of us have been living in this state of fear with the knowledge that powerful people, male and female alike, actively ignore us in their duty to protect and serve the citizens of this country. Kavanaugh is a bonafide misogynist whose confirmation would likely lead into the erosion of women’s rights, but he’s only the newest in the lineup of politicians that perpetuate a system of oppression towards LGBTQ+ people and people of color. It’s sadly, nothing new at all.
“The most accessible and free act of solidarity is signal boosting.”
What is there to do about it? Cis white people have the most privilege and the most protection from acts of hate. Miracles can happen when white people put feet to the pavement and protest in solidarity with your trans sisters and your sisters of color. Be unafraid to fight bigotry and fascism from the microaggression you’re witnessing in line at Starbucks and to when it comes time to march in the streets and fight for freedom.
If you’re unwilling or unable to do such acts, giving money to those who are most vulnerable is more powerful than you may think. Whether you’re donating money to a trans rights org or literally wiring a brown girl a few dollars on Venmo so they can eat tonight, money can work wonders.
Finally, the most accessible and free act of solidarity is signal boosting. Share the stories from writers of colors, boost the GoFundMe campaigns from trans people seeking medical attention. Learn for yourself how to treat marginalized people, unlearn harmful language, and then inform your friends and family when you witness them crossing a line.
Remember that even when you feel threatened as a white person, you still hold so much more power than many other groups of people. You can be a part of the force that forces the system to care about marginalized people and make everyone feel safer.