But why do we need trans awareness anything? If you were to rely purely on my own reporting, Dave Chappelle, Texas Republicans, and their far-right Christian conservative compatriots in nine other states certainly seem to be well “aware” of trans people. If that’s what awareness brings, I’d rather be ignored than be in their crosshairs.
And it turns out, I am not alone in becoming newly aware of this awareness week.
“I didn't know there was a Trans Awareness Week until this month,” Terra Field told The Daily Beast. Field, a software engineer at Netflix, is on voluntary medical leave and pursuing unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board along with another trans woman who was fired following last month’s Chappelle shitshow.
Even though Field said she’ll join fellow members of the streaming service’s trans employee resource group for Saturday’s commemoration of the annual International Trans Day of Remembrance, she has no plans for trans awareness week. “So, apparently I had missed the memo. You know, I do think I maybe have to update the address for all of my official trans cabal emails.”
As do I, apparently.
Field is the out trans woman who Netflix suspended after she publicly critiqued the company’s decision to stream Chappelle’s transphobic special. Netflix claimed her tweeting the names of all the trans people murdered in 2021 had nothing to do with her suspension. Her bold action garnered more than 51,000 likes.
Field said she’s been tempted to retweet that thread, not for awareness week, but given last week’s controversial comments by executives at the BBC. They echoed Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos’ infamous message to employees: “There will be things on Netflix that you dislike. That you even find to be harmful.”
The BBC’s outgoing head of news Fran Unsworth made eerily similar remarks, reportedly warning LGBTQ employees to be prepared to hear content “you don’t personally like and see things you don’t like—that's what the BBC is, and you have to get used to that.”
Uh, no, they don’t. As The Daily Beast reported, at least five BBC employees quit in protest. Not an ideal solution, I’ll admit.
But let’s be aware of one thing above all, the overarching problem for the trans community right now is not that our feelings are hurt. We are exhausted from having to fight inequity and inequality at every turn, in every part of life that cisgender people take for granted: the workplace, across social media, in mass entertainment media and even in everyday commerce, where simply insisting upon our pronouns being respected makes us a target for ridicule.
“We’re not offended. We’re trans people that exist on the internet. We are well beyond offended. Nothing is going to offend us,” Field explained. “When I saw the BBC use that, I don’t know how to better articulate that ‘offended’ is not what we’re talking about here.”
What we’re talking about is, enough is enough. It’s time for trans people across America to take action that will demonstrate that we’re past awareness, to show that we’re not going to put up with our civil rights being endangered and outlawed. We’re not waiting to be rounded up when Trump-loving Republicans are once again in charge of our government. Author and activist Brynn Tannehill foresees “an epoch of rage and despair is coming. The dam will break eventually,” she tweeted.
Out trans civil rights attorney Chase Strangio expressed his own exasperation on Twitter.
“I am a little over awareness,” the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer tweeted Saturday. “When is our week of solidarity and mobilization?”
Not everyone’s ready to march, of course. Chelsea Manning, the out trans former U.S. Army intel analyst who leaked classified documents to WikiLeaks, responded to Strangio: “We need time to heal and reconnect some time.”
Pioneering trans journalist Gwendolyn Ann Smith, who created the forerunner of TDOR 22 years ago, said these times demand action, with at least 46 trans and gender nonconforming individuals murdered so far in 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
“I feel like ‘awareness week’ is milquetoast. It’s soft-edged, and made palatable for the masses,” she told The Daily Beast. “It just feels like it doesn’t do much more than a ribbon magnet.” Smith said she is “100 percent with Chase on this.”
So what does Smith suggest as an alternative? She advocates for self-defense classes for trans women, and more: “I wish that, rather that ‘awareness,’ there were real things. Address the issues that lead someone to be honored for TDOR,” she said. “Provide concrete resources, strike back against the hatred and prejudices. Provide assistance to our trans siblings in need.”
"People understand our story better, not just us, focusing inward on how bad things are,” Field added. “We’re making other people aware of what we've lost because our community is not valued by people outside of our community."
That’s the mission of trans activist Alex Petrovnia, president of the Step Up 4 Trans Kids Trans Formations Project to enlist opponents to anti-trans legislation across the U.S. He told The Daily Beast awareness cannot be the end goal.
“My group is really about raising the understanding of what's going on and trying to get people to contact their representatives, not because that is the only thing that needs doing, because I think that’s the place to start,” he said. “Awareness is the first step. You can’t stop there.”
With Monica Roberts gone a year and a month, I fear we have no general to stand up and lead this movement in the direction of action. According to Strangio, the ACLU’s trans legal eagle, awareness is “the last thing we need:”
“The right-wing legislatures that introduced over 100 anti-trans bills in 2021 are aware of us—and they want to eradicate us. The right-wing media is aware of us and are using a campaign of weaponized misinformation to compromise our survival. So many people are aware and organized to hurt us while so many of our supposed allies are aware and doing nothing— remaining complicit in this moment of complete violence.”
“Please turn your awareness into action, into love, into being a co-conspirator,” concluded Strangio in an Instagram post. “We are about to witness new levels of assault on trans survival. Fight with us.”
A new year will bring even more anti-trans legislation, which the Biden administration and ACLU are already challenging. But it won’t be enough without cisgender people taking a stand, with us and for us.
So, now you’re aware. The question is: What are you going to do about it?