Over the past year or so, most notably in the months since HBomberGuy’s hugely successful trans fundraising charity livestream back in January 2019, I’ve noticed a steadily growing trend in the way visible people vocalise support for trans people on social media and other online spaces. I am talking of course about the out of context phrase “Trans Rights!”.
At its core, I think it’s a great thing watching the rise to prominence of this simple and effective show of support for the rights of the transgender community. it’s a super short two word phrase, something simple and vague enough that a pretty wide group of people feel comfortable standing behind it as a total message. It’s a phrase that has been adopted and shared widely within celebrity circles as a signpost of support for a marginalised group, and anything that encourages those with the loudest megaphones to share an implicitly positive trans message is undoubtedly doing more good than harm. I am glad we’re seeing celebrities stand behind shouts of “Trans Rights!”.
However, with that said, I think it’s important that we recognise as a community that a big factor in the prominence of this particular two word phrase is its lack of specificity. As a listener, we can assume it means someone supports every one of our views about trans rights, while the speaker’s use of the term could silently hide countless caveats. It tells us the speaker isn’t a raging transphobe, but it doesn’t tell us anything about the specifics of their support.
A person who shares the message “Trans Rights!” with no further context might think that trans women and men deserve support, but only those who have had medical or surgical interventions. It could mean they support rights for binary trans people, but not non-binary or genderfluid individuals. It could mean they support well off passing trans people, but not those without the financial support or desire to pass for cis. It could mean they support trans adults, but think trans kids should be made to wait until they’ve undergone their first puberty to undergo any preventative hormone treatments. It could mean that they support trans people, but think that discussion of black trans woman murder rates is exaggerated. It could mean that they support trans people, but think that any person with a neurodivergent condition like autism isn’t capable of making an informed choice to transition.
To be clear, I think the simplicity and catchy nature of just saying “Trans Rights!” is overwhelmingly a positive step forward for the trans community, and the celebrity support it has helped facilitate has done a lot to further the message that trans support is everywhere, outnumbering hate towards the trans community. I’m not saying anyone needs to stop using the phrase, or apologize. I’m not suggesting anyone who uses it is hiding something. I am however saying that we can probably seek better, and that there might be alternative punchy phrases which could help give more specific support to the trans community.
While I don’t feel able to suggest a single sentance that’s as short and punchy as “Trans Rights!”, and also manages to be specific about every intersection within the trans community, I think we can get a good start by looking at the kinds of chants heard at non corporate trans pride marches, such as Trans Pride Brighton, an event that instead of featuring a parade filled with floats closes the streets down so trans people and their allies can take up space in large numbers shouting messages to the world.
Examples of popular trans pride march chants include “trans women are women”, “trans men are men”, “Non Binary is Valid”, “Protect Trans Women of Colour”, “Protect Trans Sex Workers”, “When Trans Rights are under attack, what do we do? fight back!”, “non Passing is Beautiful”, and “Disabled Trans People Exist”.
While none of these alone has quite the same vague all encompassing short snappy nature as “Trans Rights!”, they each say something more specific, more targeted, and more communicative of an actual specific belief. Each of these statements shows an understanding of a specific area where the trans community is currently fighting, displays a greater understanding of the actual issues we are fighting, and makes a stand on a stance where actionable progress can be made.
While I think there is a place still for shouts of “Trans Rights!”, I’m personally going to try to avoid it in favor of more specific shouts. I’m glad for every person who says “Trans Rights!”, but I’ll be even more excited when the day comes the public statements of support move beyond that too.