Panelists during Sunday’s transgender awareness discussion agreed that awareness is a double-edged sword for the transgender community.
Four panelists explained and answered questions about their lives during the second annual Transgender Awareness Panel hosted by the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
The panel came toward the end of Transgender Awareness Week, an annual event that ends on Nov. 20 with Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day meant to commemorate all the transgender people who were killed in the previous year.
Panelists V Johnson (who uses he/him or they/them pronouns), Tracy James Jones (she/her), James Jackson (he/him) and Stacey Monroe (she/her) spoke frankly while, just as in 2018, Amber Briggle (she/her) moderated.
Where panelists during the 2018 discussion dealt largely with the evolving language around transgender communities, there were significant overlaps during the content of the previous two panels.
For instance, both panels covered the frequent murders of transgender people for reasons related to their gender identity.
While increased visibility for people who are transgender seems the clearest path forward toward greater equity and acceptance, it also opens up a historically oppressed and marginalized group to further targeted threats and attacks, panelists said Sunday afternoon.
Even in a church fellowship hall, with dozens of supportive faces listening attentively, panelists said they were painfully aware of the kind of target a transgender awareness panel creates.
“Even just being here, I’ve been watching the windows to see who comes and goes so that I don’t have to be scared,” Johnson said.
“You’re not alone, either,” Jones replied.
A few panelists brought up what they considered a troubling media environment for transgender people. Jackson said he’s tired of a narrative in education that seems to only view the struggle of transgender people through their tension with others in their lives.
“I want to hear about the struggle that the trans person went through when they were coming out or when they were transitioning, and later on I want to see them successful, I want to see them happy,” Jackson said toward the top of Sunday’s panel. “I want to see them, you know, be in prison, be murderers. I don’t care, just any other story.”
Monroe said the views of transgender people presented by the “mainstream media” are limited, leaving many stories untold.
“I did not see myself reflected,” Monroe said. “I did not see [myself]: the Latina from Dallas who grew up in poverty, who had to struggle through a lot to get to where she is.”
Toward the end of the nearly two hour event, panelists repeatedly urged audience members to embrace the regular use of preferred pronouns, even if they stumble along the way.