There is Light in the Dark: #TransLawHelp Connects Lawyers With Trans Individuals

There is light in the dark. The results of the 2016 election has continued to put strain on Americans, and while time heals all wounds— I’m afraid 48 hours isn’t enough. This election was personal, marginalized communities watched the manifestation of their oppression turn every place hope resided a bitter red. It’s going to take time to heal, to organize and act but take solace knowing the ball is already rolling.

Twitter user @dtwps created the hashtag #TransLawHelp to connect lawyers with trans individuals who need guidance through the process of legally changing their gender—and it’s all pro bono.  This is investment in change, and it’s vital to the success of any marginalized group. Its vitality stems from one fact: marginalized groups are more likely to be low-income—especially trans individuals.

15 percent of trans individuals report making less than $10,000 a year, making them four times as likely to live in poverty than the general population. The disparity is even more dramatic for trans POC. 28 percent of Latinx transgender individuals report incomes less than $10,000 a year, and for Black trans individuals that number increases to 34. 1 in 5 trans individuals report having been homeless; once again that number balloons for trans POC. Latinx trans individuals  are 27 percent more like to experience homelessness than the general population, for Black individuals that rises to 41.

The economic inequality the LGBTQ community faces—especially the trans community— is criminal at best. Lawyers are expensive, and many who need one do not have the resources to attain one. The trans community does not know what policies may come their way in the coming months, setting their gender in stone provides some possibly much needed defense. This hashtag is important. This hashtag is saving identity.

Besides its tangible positive impact, #TransLawHelp brought hope. Trans lives, like many others, feel as if they’re in a state of limbo. LGBTQ suicide prevention hotlines reported record highs, parenting groups are reporting suicides; like many others, the trans community feels as if it is under attack. This of course is not a new feeling, and is certainly not untrue.

Trans individuals experience violence unlike any other demographic in America. Trans individuals are 3.7 times more likely to experience police violence than their cis-gendered peers, that number balloons to six for transgender POC. Transgender women are nearly two times as likely to experience sexual violence than the general population.

There have been over 40 documented murders of trans individuals reported since the beginning of 2015. Of those 40, 67 percent were transgender women of color.However, this data is not completely accurate. Due to limitations there is currently no way to know just how many trans individuals have been murdered for being nothing more than themselves. Researchers suggest this number is much higher in reality. Numbers don’t lie, this is an attack.

This country has elected a bigot with a Vice President who supports directing federal funding to conversion therapy. Trump however has given relatively mixed signals regarding his stance on the trans community.  Trump recently expressed he feels that trans individuals have the right to use any bathroom they choose. This of course is a huge shock and very confusing coming from a man who ran his campaign on discrimination—and chose someone who believes one can electrocute someone’s sexual identity away— as his running mate.

There are hard times ahead and now more than ever we need to play smart. #TransLawHelp is playing smart. The plight of the trans community is all but invisible to the general public, if liberation is the goal then that liberation must include them and their goals as well. We must invest in progress with not just money, but time, healing and listening. I sincerely hope to see more tangible support like this in the coming months—we’re going to need it.

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