How Transgender Rights Have Changed with Each Generation
Transgender people have existed since humans have, and will continue to exist through each new generation. How well they are treated and what rights they have depends on society’s views toward them. Each generation seems to have ever-changing views and ideas about gender, identity, and human rights, and with each, transgender rights within society have changed as well.
Traditionally, transgender people have not been treated well in Western societies. The first person to undergo transgender surgery, Christine Jorgensen, came out in the 1950s and like Kristen Beck, one of many to follow her, she was a former Navy seal.
Transgender rights have changed over time. At one time, trans people were described as transvestites, and considered to be a segment of the gay population. At the time, society did not distinguish between lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgender people. The first three are about sexual orientation. The latter is about a person’s gender identity. However, gay rights would change more dramatically and become more defined after the 1969 Stonewall riots.
Despite the changes brought on by the historic riots at New York’s Stonewall Inn, little changed for transgender people. Gays and Lesbians quickly condemned transgender people, and excluded them from many of the large LGBT advocacy organizations. Second-wave’s feminism spawned a wave of political lesbians, some of whom continue to work against transgender rights to this day. Even Germaine Greer and Camille Paglia recently spoke out against transgender women. Many second-wave feminists believe in an anti-transgender ideology as referred to as transgender exclusionary radical feminists or TERFs. One TERF, Janice Raymond, worked with congress to prevent insurance from covering the surgery necessary for transition and succeeded.
As rights for lesbians, gays, and bisexuals to a lesser extent became more extensive, transgender rights lagged behind. Attitudes started to change in the mid 1990s, about the same time the Internet became commonplace. Transgender athletes still could not participate in the Olympics because of one event. Olympic athletes had to be certified as their birth sex until the early 2000s.
When many athletes were found not to fit neatly into male or female categories because of intersex conditions, the rules for testing to make sure an individual is biologically male or female were dropped. Too many athletes were prevented from competing under these rules. Now, transgender men and women can compete, as long as they have been on hormones for a year or more and their hormone levels are the same as cisgender people of the same sex. Despite the claims of Fox News and similar sites, this puts transgender women at a disadvantage, and transgender men at a slight advantage.
High school sports are more complicated, but transgender athletes can compete in many sports, although some states outright prohibit trans athletes from competing. Even in states that allow this, a coach or a faculty member may block the trans student from participating, even if the student meets all other qualifications. When this happens, it is wise to seek out a sports discrimination attorney or Title IX discrimination. Many cases do not even require going to court as rights for trans people have been making more and more strides.
Today, transgender people still face a lot of discrimination, stereotypes and adversity. Knowing how rights have changed with technology, society’s attitudes, and science, there is much to look forward to in protecting transgender rights in future.
Eileen O'Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking. Check out her Twitter @eileenoshanassy.