Black Transgender Women: Problem Of Intersectionality

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Black transgender women have multiple contributing factors that cause intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. This group of people’s most influential social identities are viewed as targeted in comparison to the privileged. Even though race is a social construct, intersectionality still occurs due to the multiple identities which are socially constructed in a framework of privilege and social oppression. Intersectionality is a framework which boosts society to give thought to the interactions between social identities in relation to oppression and privilege. I had chosen this social identity after watching The Urgency of Intersectionality (Crenshaw, 2016). During the TED Talk (Crenshaw, 2016) sheds light on the reality of race and gender bias and how it impacts the lives of Black women.

According to (Caffrey, 2019) documents dating from antiquity have described transgender individuals in indigenous, Western, and Eastern cultures. This could be due to the differences that are formed throughout the socialization and through the creation of norms. Early use of the word transgender can be found in medical texts focusing on sexual studies dating back to the 1960s. However, prior to the word transgender being familiarized awareness grew due to a male to female transition in 1952. The American actress Christine Jorgensen broke cultural norms and had made a positive impact on socialization. The study notes that there was a rise in support and equality promotion for transgender people in the early twenty-first century. In 2002 and 2003 both the Transgender Law Center and the National Center for Transgender Equality were founded. A major difference that (Caffrey, 2019) mentions is back in the 1850’s anti-cross-dressing laws were passed in numerous US cities which would make it illegal to dress in the opposite sex’s clothes. However, in the new millennium, the transgender community saw a rise in public representation. (Caffrey, 2019). Being able to dress how you want seems as if it should be an unconscious decision, but due to society it becomes conscious. Sadly due to internalized racism and sexism, the transgender community truly struggles with self-acceptance within society.

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Due to their intersectionality of targeted social identities, while doing research it is noteworthy that Black transgender women have many concerning statistics in the United States and around the world. The first statistic that I had read was new insights into HIV/AIDS among Black transgender women in the United States. According to a research study by (Study Data from University of Pittsburgh Provide New Insights into HIV/AIDS) “A total of 422 BTW provided complete data for our analysis, 45.0% of whom were living with HIV. Over half of the HIV-positive BTW (51.4%) reported being undiagnosed at the time of the survey, and 24.5% reported viral suppression”. These statistics are very alarming knowing that almost 50% of the participants have HIV/AIDS. This research provides the fact that these women are lacking health care or are not receiving proper care. Being tested for HIV/AIDS is offered at most yearly physicals with your primary care physician or health care provider. However, if someone feels as if they are at risk or have been exposed to the virus they could contact their provider and make an appointment. It is less likely that a Black transgender woman would be tested regularly without insurance and a primary care physician. Health care is highly important for the transgender community due to the health and medical issues that they encounter while transitioning and aftercare. Along with medical issues and monthly prescriptions, there is also a need for therapy. (Ruff, Smoyer, & Breny, 2019) found that, “Transgender people are more likely than others in society to be at risk for mental health problems; research suggests about one-third have attempted suicide”. This statement captures the suffering they encounter because of the way society is both shaped and socialized.

Socialization is when a person accepts and internalizes the norms society has instilled. (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012) mentioned how there is a process in which humans find out what behaviors are viewed as appropriate in the culture. For example, without having to consciously think we can label other members of society due to the norms we have been socialized into. (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012) explained that socialization begins before we are born due to the expectations our family members have for us. When norms are carried through there is a sense of acceptance the person feels which can be comforting. In regards to the group I am researching on I have only been socialized to 1 Black transgender woman. However, I had only met her during my first semester of college at Salem State University. Prior to that, I had never been socialized to the social identity group. Although I have socialized the two intersecting identities a woman who is Black and women who are transgender.

Privilege is the result of advantages given to a particular group due to their social identities. (Johnson, 2013) “Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do” (p.17) Having privilege allows the person to endure comfort in acceptance which increases the likelihood to succeed. The social identities they have to identify with are viewed as superior due to socialization. means you are more likely to have cultural and social capital. Cultural capital gives advantages in the forms of knowledge, skill, education and causes the person to a higher status in society. Social capital is resources based on relationships and networks of influence and support. A Black transgender woman is less likely to have any cultural or social capital due to the lack of privilege.

Oppression is maltreatment to a particular group due to their social identities. (Johnson, 2013) “For every social category that is privileged, one or more other categories are oppressed in relation to it… Just as privilege tends to open doors of opportunity, oppression tends to slam them shut” (p. 20). This form of abuse can only occur if there exists another group with institutional and structural power to oppress them. For example, Black transgender women are oppressed in many social identity categories and the groups are seen as targeted. Due to their skin color, they are oppressed by the privileged group of people who are white. Being transgender they are oppressed by biological men. Black transgender women endure all forms of oppression: pervasive, restrictive, hierarchical and complex. Privilege and oppression lead to social inequalities which are the result of social injustice that results in particular disproportionate outcomes.

Being a part of the transgender community can cause exclusion in the dating world. A group of researchers conducted a study in which participants answered the questions “Who would you consider dating” and “Which genders have you previously dated”. According to the study conducted by (Blair & Hoskin 2019) of the 958 participants, 87.5% did not select a trans person when responding to the question concerning all possible genders that they would consider dating. Only a mere 12.5% were willing to date someone who identifies as transgender. Exclusion from finding a partner is a contributing factor to the depression and high suicide rates of the transgender community. Having a partner and or spouse reflects the norm of the society we live and socialize in. 85.7% of this community is seen as non-conforming although this might not be their decision. For example, society might see an act of being single as taboo, but the person might be oppressed by the dating world. Being a part of the transgender community does not mean that they do not want to pursue the same norms as others.

The intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia causes Black transgender women to face all forms of oppression and no privilege. In 2017 the LGBTQ+ community had experienced oppression on a federal level. President Donald Trump announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military. The president putting a ban and restriction on the transgender community is a form of institutionalized oppression. This form of oppression codifies homophobia, and transphobia within laws, policies, practices, and changes the norms in society. Due to President Donald Trump and his administration putting the anti LGBTQ+ ban into law this group of individuals shows how oppression is maintained and reproduced. (Journell, 2017) provided information in regards to the issue that had occurred following the passage of the 2016 House bill 2. This bill required individuals to use the bathroom that corresponded to the sex on their birth certificate as opposed to the gender with which they identified. Although there was a change due to a civil right lawsuit against North Carolina this bill is upsetting like the military one. A statement that stuck with me in regards to Black transgender women is that the fight for transgender equality has been called the civil rights movement of the twenty-first century. (Caffrey, 2019) The Black community had been a part of and fought during the civil rights movement. This movement started between 1954 and concluded around 1968. During the time within that movement people who are Black had to fight for their rights for equality. The oppressed group had their rights taken away by the privileged group of people who are White. At this time in history, the transgender community is being oppressed and still have to fight for equality. One major right they are still fighting for is being able to proudly serve the United States armed forces. Sadly, due to the intersectionality, Black transgender women have to fight to protect both of their social identities in regards to rights and receiving privilege.

I am going to interview a sophomore at Salem State who identifies as a Black transgender woman. The pronouns she uses are she/her/hers and she is an education major, however, would like to work with children with special needs.       


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