The Transgender Rights Movement

A brief definition: Transgender refers to a person whose self-identification does not align with tradition notions of male or female gender. It is an umbrella term that operates on a spectrum; which can include, for example, a man dressing up in women’s clothing at one end, to a biological woman feeling they are a man trapped inside a woman’s body, and subsequently undergoing medical procedures to change the body to conform with this feeling, at the other end. In the middle of the spectrum lies those people who identify as gender fluid and who want the freedom to traverse along the spectrum depending on how they feel in any given moment.

The transgender rights movement rose to promote the rights of the transgender community and to fight discrimination in all aspects of life that transgender people face such as housing, education, workplace, healthcare and bathrooms.

Magnus Hirschfeld was one of the earliest proponents of transgenderism and transsexuals, such as Sylvia Tae Rivera and Marsha Johnson, played a prominent role in the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Many support groups arose in the 1970s and 1980s for male cross dressers, and female-to-male transsexuality became more apparent in the 1980s.

Leslie Feinberg has been particularly active in furthering the transgender cause and in 1992 produced a pamphlet ‘Transgender Liberation: A movement whose time has come’. She urged the trans community to construct their own definitions and to use the power of language as a means to unite the oppressed. Feinberg argues oppression emerges from elitist institutions that promote patriarchy and economic privilege at the expense of women. The gender binary (male-female) is imposed on a society that would otherwise adopt the liberal expression of gender. She sees gender expression as lying on a natural continuum.

Feinberg also calls for all working class and marginalized groups to unite and focus their efforts of revolting against the elite through revolution.

The Transgender Rights Movement continously highlights the plights of its community who have faced oppression and they hold an annual Transgender Day of Remembrance to remember those who lost their lives due to their gender identity.

Individuals and groups from the transgender rights movement focus their energy of campaigning in areas they see as discriminatory. For example, ‘bathroom legislation’ whereby they have fought and gained the rights for transgender individuals to use a bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity not their biological sex. Fierce campaigns are also fought in education such as in schools and universities to eliminate bullying and oppression and promote the need for inclusive education.

The issue of gender is being taken seriously by governments who are passing legislation to protect the rights of the transgender community and also in business where speacilaists are being drafted in to develop equality and anti-discriminatory policies.