Gender Minorities Aotearoa is offering a free online course, Supporting Transgender People. This course is designed to increase your knowledge of issues affecting transgender people in Aotearoa, and to build your confidence in speaking about these issues and supporting transgender people. It is a 101 course and suitable for people with any level of knowledge on transgender issues.
The course takes 2 to 3 hours to complete, and is broken into 3 sessions. You can stop at any time and continue later by logging in again. There are links to further reading at the end of some sections – these are optional and are not included in the time allocation.
This course is suitable for families, friends, supporters, and professional development. A certificate of completion is issued at the end of the course.
What each chapter covers
By the end of chapter 1. you will be able to:
1. Differentiate between gender, sex characteristics, and sex assigned at birth. 2. Explain the meaning of words like transgender, cisgender, and non-binary. 3. Talk about the difference between intersex and transgender.
By the end of chapter 2. you will be able to:
1. Understand how stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination interact. 2. Distinguish between discrimination in public life and private life. 3. Recognise the impact of discrimination across multiple areas of life. 4. Recognise physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and social impacts of discrimination.
By the end of chapter 3. you will be able to:
1. Name protective factors which assist trans peoples well-being. 2. Identify ways to support trans people in your personal life. 3. Identify ways to support trans people in their public life. 4. Find more information.
Content warning: this course discusses stigma, discrimination, and violence experienced by transgender and intersex people. Some content may be distressing.
Gender Minorities Aotearoa is offering a free online course, designed to increase your knowledge of historic and contemporary issues regarding feminism and transgender people, and to improve your transgender inclusive intersectional feminist praxis. It is designed for people who are relatively fluent in feminism, and already have a 101 understanding of transgender issues.
It was developed through an intersectional feminist lens, by a transgender team that included transfeminine, transmasculine, non-binary, indigenous Māori, neurodiverse, disabled, and working class representation.
This course takes around 60 minutes to complete, and is broken into 5 sessions. You can stop at any time and continue later by logging in again. Some chapters have additional reading materials linked – these are not included in the time allocation.
By the end of chapter 1. you will be able to:
1. Differentiate between gender, sex characteristics, and sex assigned at birth.
2. Talk about impact of colonisation on understandings of sex and gender.
By the end of chapter 2. you will be able to:
1. Understand the impact of eurocentric heteropatriarchal sexology on transgender narratives.
2. Understand the history of enforced heteronormative sexuality in trans healthcare.
3. Recognise the sexualisation of transgender women through medicalisation and pathologisation.
4. Recognise the abusive nature of enforcing an arbitrary gender without an infants consent.
By the end of chapter 3. you will be able to:
1. Recognise the repression of transgender people in Nazi Germany.
2. Recognise similarities between historic fascism and contemporary repressive regimes.
3. Identify psudo-feminist and fundamentalist religious right alliances.
4. Understand the history of Radical Feminism and inclusivity in relation to transgender women.
5. Talk about why the term “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism” or “TERF” was developed.
6. Identify impacts of TERF campaigns on public policy.
7. Discuss various online and offline tactics of TERF campaigners, and the impacts of these.
8. Identify reasoning behind the framing of anti-trans propaganda as “transgender debate”.
By the end of chapter 4. you will be able to:
1. Recognise key components of transmisogyny.
2. Talk about the transmisogynist double bind.
3. Identify the stereotypes behind transmisogynist prejudice.
4. Discuss why theories of “male socialisation” are inaccurate.
By the end of chapter 5. you will be able to:
1. Identify examples of transgender intersectional feminist praxis.
2. Recognise the exclusion of transgender narratives from contemporary feminist discourses.
3. Identify a Black lesbian feminist separatist position on biological essentialism.
4. Discuss key strategies for an intersectional feminist praxis of transgender inclusivity.
5. Identify areas of transgender marginalisation to address in gendered oppression discourse.
6. Identify key concepts in creating trans-inclusive gendered spaces.
7. Discuss core concepts in building safer spaces or diversity and inclusion policies.
Victoria University of Wellington Women’s Collective is holding a free event for Women’s Week, and has invited GMA to give a 60 minute lecture “Trans Perspectives on Feminism”. Nau mai haere mai, everyone is welcome.
We’ll be starting at 12 noon on Friday May 7, 2021, at Victoria University’s Te Aro campus, 139 Vivian Street Wellington, room VS318 – ask at reception if you can’t find us. The venue is mobility accessible.
Not a “trans allyship 101”, we’ll be starting by setting the record straight on sex and gender, then delving into the histories of social justice issues surrounding transgender women, men of medicine and the social construction of transgender narratives, the far right and trans-exclusionary radical feminism, the transmisogynist double bind, and pragmatic aspirations for intersectional feminism.
Content Warning: this presentation discusses transgender histories, including forced surgeries, childhood sexual assault, concentration camps, the death penalty, and sexual violence.
Our lecture is available here as a free online course, with additional reading links.
Trans people make up at least 1% of the population. The population of NZ is around 4.917 million, so at 1% the number of trans people in NZ is around 50,000. That means at least one trans person for every 100 patients, students, workers, or people in a community.
The Youth12 study (NZ) showed that 1.2% of school students identified as transgender. The Youth19 study (of 7,721 adolescents) showed 1% identified as trans. 73% of these said they identified as transgender before age 14. A recent GLAAD (USA) study also showed 1% of people identified as transgender. The GLAAD study also showed that 16% of non-trans (cis) people knew a trans person in real life.
Issues for trans people
Trans people experience extremely high levels of stigma and discrimination across all areas of public life including in education, employment, housing, accessing healthcare, goods and services, justice, sports and recreation, policy and legislative input, and other areas. This results in high levels of material hardship.
13% asked inappropriate questions during a health visit in the last year. 1 in 5 are homeless at some point. This figure is 1 in 4 for non-Europeans. 46% of homeless trans people were discriminated against by landlords. Only 14% participate in sports, vs 26% of the general population. 20% were disrespected or mistreated by a doctor in the last year. Sex education does not include trans people’s existence. 55% of students are unable to access health care when they need it, vs 19% of cisgender students. 17% have experienced “conversion therapy” in a health setting. 1 in 3 avoid seeing a doctor when they need one, to avoid being disrespected. 23% of trans students are bullied at least weekly, vs 5% of cis students. The median income is half the median income for the general population. 71% of homeless trans people moved at least once every 6 months on average in the last 5 years. 67% experience discrimination. 44% experienced this in the last year, vs 17% for the general population.
Trans people experience very high levels of stigma, exclusion, social isolation, and violence in their personal lives.
59% of homeless trans people don’t contact their family to help find housing. Two thirds of trans students “come out” while at school, but of those who do, only a third feel safe to come out to parents. 64% of trans students say at least one parent cares about them “a lot”, vs 94% cis students. 72% of homeless trans people first experienced homelessness as a teenager. 36% of trans people have been forced to have sex against their will – this is 3x the rate of women in the general population (11%). This is more common for non-binary people and adults. For disabled trans people, this figure is 7x the rate of the general population* 82% of homeless trans people say transphobia from housemates was a factor. Only 32% of trans students feel safe in their neighbourhood vs 58% cis students
* Sexual violence figures are estimated to be severely under-reported for all groups
Mental health and well being
The pervasive stigma, discrimination, and violence which trans populations experience not only impacts on their physical and material well being, but also on their psychological, emotional, and spiritual well being. Trans people experience high levels of distress, anxiety, depression, self harm, substance use, and suicidal ideation.
57% of trans students people report significant depressive symptoms, vs 22% of cis students. 71% live with high levels of psychological distress, vs 8% of the general population. Trans people use cannabis at 3x the rate of the general population. 26% of trans students attempted suicide in the past year, vs 6% of cis students. 57% of trans students have self harmed in the past year, vs 22% of cis students. For trans people, substance abuse is linked to mental health and neurodiversity more often than disability or chronic pain. 79% of homeless trans people have a mental health condition, and 66% are neurodiverse.
Resilience and protective factors
Trans people are highly motivated, hard working, and care a lot about community and family. They are very likely to be involved in supporting others, volunteering, and community work. “Chosen family” are the main source of support for many trans people. Family, whānau, and friends are also important.
62% agree they are proud to be trans, while only 14% disagree. Connection to culture is a strong protective factor against suicide. 85% of disabled trans people socialise with other trans people online. Overall 74% of trans people do this.. Feeling connected to trans community is linked to better health outcomes. Māori are more likely than most trans people to feel connected to their culture, to receive support from whānau after having experienced sexual violence, and to want to have a child or more children. 58% provide a lot of support for other trans people, and 56% feel connected to other trans people. 90% of trans people with housing instability contact friends to help them find housing. 62% of trans students are involved in volunteering, vs 54% of cis students. Disabled trans people are more likely to be involved in political activism. Strength of informal networks is a critical protective factor. Safety is paramount to trans people, including when it comes to housing. Those who are supported by their family/whānau have better mental health.
How to ally
Supporting a trans person you know
How to give the right support depends on your relationship to the trans person. You can find in depth resources at genderminorities.com
Everyone: don’t “out them” as trans without their permission, don’t ask invasive questions. Do respect their pronouns and name, do listen to them.
Friends: be there for them, listen to them about what they need and how you can support them.
Health teams: provide accurate information, follow the National Guidelines for Gender Affirming Healthcare, use Informed Consent, and let the patient decide what they need.
Landlords: rent to them.
Partners: respect and care for them.
Families: let them know you love and support them no matter what. Fight for them when they need you.
School and work: provide a safe learning/work environment, deal with bullying appropriately.
Supporting the trans rights movement
Supporting trans rights means taking whatever space you have influence in and making it safe for trans people. You can find in depth resources at genderminorities.com [see links below, the main menu, and our blog page].
Amplify trans voices: read/listen to trans people and share their perspectives, link to their content.
At school or work: ask if your school or employer meets the minimum legal requirements for a safe school/work environment.
Political advocacy: being a good ally means walking beside; not over or in front of. Take your lead from trans-led orgs, which are experts on trans issues.
In your community: talk to others about trans rights, share why you think it’s important. Consider trans people in everyday life.
Feminists and women’s rights groups: include trans women in making decisions, and discuss the facts – eg. talk about the trans pay gap, and bodily autonomy for trans people.
Scrap biological essentialism..
Examine your biases.
Talk to friends and family about trans rights.
Stand up against transphobia when you see it.
Remember intent =/= impact.
Find out more
Learn about recognising transphobia, being a supportive family, healthy relationships, and more, at genderminorities.com
Sources for statistics
Gender Minorities Aotearoa (3,000 contacts a year across NZ)
Counting Ourselves (2019).
Where Do You Sleep at Night? Transgender Experiences of Housing Instability and Homelessness (2020).
Sometimes our relationships have dynamics which are unhealthy, harmful, or even abusive. This article talks about signs that something may not be working, identifying unhealthy dynamics in a relationship, and dealing with common scenarios for trans people.
It touches on working through some issues, or leaving a relationship which may be difficult or dangerous to leave. There are also links to some of our other resources to help you talk through problems and change behaviors, and resources to help you safely leave a dangerous situation.
Pulling your hair, grabbing, pushing, restraining, kicking, pinching, choking, or hurting you in any way.
Shouting at you, calling you names, breaking things, making you feel afraid for your safety.
Preventing you from leaving – for example blocking the doorway, taking your keys.
Psychological, emotional, and spiritual safety
Treating you differently because they are upset, but refusing to tell you why.
Overwriting your emotions or perceptions: convincing you that you feel the way they want you to feel, or that you want what they want, or that you agree with their version of events.
Saying cryptic things to keep you guessing what they mean and feeling uncertain.
Insisting that you trust them completely regardless of whether they have earned that trust or repeatedly broken your trust.
Refusing to let you talk about your emotions when you need to.
Insisting that you must always talk about your emotions when they want you to.
Taking their moods out on you – it is OK to have big emotions but we can choose how we express them.
Blaming you for all the problems in the relationship.
Telling you not to speak to anyone about your relationship, or becoming angry when you do.
Telling you that you’re hard to love, bad at life, or not a valuable person.
Invalidating your lived experience, including denying gender based discrimination against you, systems which disadvantage you, and social dynamics which harm you.
Undermining or disrespecting your culture, refusing to acknowledge important cultural practices, laughing at your religion, culture, or language, saying their culture is more normal or better than yours. Making you feel ashamed or bad about your culture, or removing your access to your culture and your people.
Attempting to be sexual with you when you are angry at them, trying to avoid talking about your feelings by distracting you with sex, or minimising your anger by saying they feel sexual towards you when you’re angry.
Attempting to be sexual with you when you’re sad, upset, or triggered (experiencing associations or flashbacks to traumatic events).
Forcing or pressuring you to be sexual in any way, hurting, humiliating, or otherwise harming you during sex (without your consent).
My partner wants to keep our relationship a secret
Many cisgender people who have attractions to transgender people are in denial about their attractions. They may be upset with their partner or with themself for their attraction. They may not want people to know about their attraction or their relationship.
It is important to remember that there is nothing shameful about love, that we are normal people, and that we deserve the same care and attention as any other partner.
If your partner respects you as a person, they should be willing to stand up against transmisogyny, transphobia, and other prejudices, and to support you 100%.
Accepting you and loving you will mean that they also have to work on themself – if they have any shame about dating you they will need to work through it and understand that there is nothing wrong with loving you, and nothing to be ashamed about. That way they can stand up against others who put them or you down.
If I have genital surgery my partner will leave – they’re just not into vaginas/penises
While some people have strong feelings about the genitals of their partners, this type of thinking reduces our attractions to being exclusively about genitals.
If your partner loves you for more than just your genitals, they should support you to decide what is best for yourself, even if it will take some getting used to for them. No one will be more affected by the decision to have or not have surgeries than you will.
Your partner should listen to you when you need to talk about the possibilities and not try to influence your decision either way. They should respect that it is your body and your choice, and should not pressure you or threaten to leave you if you’re thinking about changing your genitals.
My partner doesn’t like me talking about problems in our relationship to other people
If someone is being controlling in a relationship, it’s common for them to tell their partner not to talk with anyone else about problems in the relationship.
Often they are afraid that others will disapprove of their behaviors, or advise you to leave the relationship. They might say your friends will be judgemental, or interfering, or they might say it’s their own personal business and it would be disrespectful for you to talk with anyone else about it.
Talking is so important; it can help you work out what you need, and what you want to do next.
If your partner cares about you, they should be happy for you to talk about relationship problems, and work out how to fix or change the things that make you unhappy. Talking doesn’t mean that you have to leave the relationship.
There are some people who have a legal obligation to share certain kinds of information if they think a person is in danger – these people may include a counselor or teacher, so ask if this is the case and find out what kinds of things they would be required to share. It is always OK to say ‘I’m not ready to talk about that with you yet’.
My partner gets really upset and then we have to talk for hours until they’re happy with the outcome. I end up going along with them just to end the fight
Talking can be important and healthy, but if you are cornered in a room and you can’t leave that’s not OK. If you’re being kept up all night when you need to sleep that’s not OK. If your partner forces you to talk when you can’t that’s not OK.
In some situations it can help to say that you care but you can’t talk right now. Give a concrete time when you will sit down and talk with them and an amount of time you can agree on for the conversation.
“Jay, I love you and I totally care about this, but right now I need to sleep. We can give this proper attention tomorrow. I will come over after work at 5pm and we’ll sit down and talk about it until 7pm.’’
Sometimes it may help to show that you intend to still be in their life at the end of the conversation too, even if the issue can’t be sorted immediately.
‘’After we talk maybe we can have dinner together if we feel like it? Then I’m going to have to leave about 8pm so I can get things ready for work the next day, and sleep at my place. We can make another time for more talks too if we don’t work it all out tomorrow’’
If your partner is preventing you from leaving, you may be able to say you need to use the bathroom, and then call a friend or the police from your mobile phone. You may have to pretend to agree to your partner’s demands so you can leave and get to somewhere safe before you seek support.
I’m afraid my partner will hurt me when they find out I’m leaving
It is very common that abusive behaviors will intensify and escalate as you prepare to leave a relationship and your partner has less control over you. Leaving is the most dangerous time for someone in an abusive relationship.
Physical and sexual violence, kidnapping children, destruction of important documents, property damage, and counter claims of abuse are common at this point. These fears are very real.
We recommend that you build your support systems, make safety plans, and potentially seek legal protections, as discussed below.
Counter claims: I’m a trans woman, and I’m afraid that my cis woman or transmasculine partner might cut off my support by saying I abused her/them
When you start to speak out against abuse by your partner, it is common for your partner to make a counter accusation that the abuse happened the other way around.
Counter accusations are often an attempt to influence mutual friends, to limit the support being offered to you, and to allow the accused partner to maintain control over your life in some way, even after the relationship has ended.
Sometimes, if your partner has experienced abuse in the past, this can also be a way of maintaining their identity as a victim or survivor of abuse, as some people believe that a person who has been a victim or survivor of abuse is not capable of abusing others.
Because of transmisogyny, trans women are often in a double bind – being treated with misogyny as women, but also being considered to embody the worst of male violence. If they are counter accused of abuse they can be in an extremely difficult situation with very little support, particularly if the person counter-accusing them is a cisgender woman or a transmasculine person (who was assigned “female” at birth).
Patriarchal societies support men who counter accuse any woman (“she’s crazy /a control freak”). Some women’s support groups and agencies discriminate against trans women, or hold transmisogynist views which may privilege support for those assigned “female” at birth (“she’s *really* a man/male brain/socialised male”, “penis = patriarchy/rape”, or other transmisogynist arguments that frame trans women as being men).
Many friendship, school, and social groups, as well as rainbow, queer, and feminist communities, are all too ready to believe that trans women are secretly violent predators, despite evidence to the contrary.
Keep a record – gather any evidence of your partner abusing you, and have a support crew who can help you through this. See the section below on preparing to leave.
I don’t think I can find someone better who will love me
Society is full of negative messages about trans people, and at times it can be very difficult not to believe these about ourselves in some way.
The truth is, each of us is unique, and beautiful, and lovable. We all deserve healthy relationships with people who respect us. Sometimes it takes a long time, and many relationships which don’t work out, before we figure out how to have healthy relationships – even with ourselves.
Consider the advice you would give to a friend – you don’t deserve abuse, you deserve respect, kindness, and love. You are awesome, and along life’s journeys you will meet people who recognise that too.
My partner is heterosexual, gay, or a lesbian, they won’t be attracted to me if I start to transition
For people who identify as exclusively attracted to one gender, sometimes it can be especially difficult to accept that their partner is a different gender than they first thought.
This can be especially challenging if your partner’s gender and sexual orientation are one identity (for example ‘lesbian’ implies their gender as a woman as well as their attraction toward women).
It can be important that they realise that your gender hasn’t suddenly changed – even if you have recently come out about your true gender, chances are you have felt that way for a long time. Transitioning doesn’t mean they suddenly love someone of a different gender – you may have been trans the whole time, even if you didn’t always know it or you weren’t always talking about it.
If they are worried, it may help for them to talk with other partners of trans people, or to read things written by the partners of trans people as well as by trans people themselves.
It is not OK for your partner to: a) accuse you of tricking them into sleeping with someone of the ‘wrong’ gender for them. b) take, hide, or dispose of your hormones, makeup, binder, or other transition aides. c) undermine your decision to transition.
Sometimes, especially in the case of medical transition, we do change in ways that are incompatible with existing relationships. Changing hormones can change the way we smell, how sensitive our skin is, how interested we are in being sexual, we may feel different, the ways that we like to be intimate may change, we may start to want different things in our lives.
It is not abusive to admit that one is no longer sexually attracted to their partner, but it is important that you can both talk about your feelings respectfully and in caring and constructive ways.
Society stigmatises me and stereotypes me as ‘probably not a suitable parent’. If I leave my partner, I’m afraid I’ll lose my children.
Many transgender parents hold deep fears that their children will be taken from them by the courts. This is especially so for trans folks who are poor, those on social welfare, Māori, Pasefika, and other people of colour, migrants, refugees, people who use drugs, people living with HIV, disabled people, people who are living in substandard housing, sex workers, people who are neurodiverse or who have mental health or developmental conditions, and people who have a criminal record or a history with the justice system.
Generally speaking, the courts prefer to leave children with their parent rather than placing them in state care, so long as the children are in a violence-free, safe, and secure home, they are warm, fed, clothed, and attending school if they are school age. These will also be factors in shared-care situations, as most family courts will prefer that both parents are involved. It can be more complicated for parents who aren’t legal guardians – you can get more info on this in the links below.
Without a doubt there are huge amounts of stigma and discrimination against marginalised people, but when it comes to caring for children it is in the interest of the state to leave them at home if it is safe to do so.
If the other parent may try to stop you spending time with your children, you can seek legal advice. Community Law have a fantastic guide to child custody, The Community Law Manual, and can offer you free advice.
If you’re experiencing unhealthy or abusive relationship dynamics, and your partner is not prepared to change or if you need to get out, some things you might want to think about include support systems, safety plans, and potentially legal protections.
It is always important to remember that we have choices in how we behave, and that we have a responsibility to recognise and change our own abusive behaviors. No matter what past experiences a person has been through, they can still choose to not abuse you, and you do not have to stay in a relationship which is not working for you.
My relationship is unhealthy but I want to stay with my partner
You may feel pressured by your partner, friends, family, or others to stay in the relationship and ‘get on with it’, or to ‘hurry up and leave already’. Ultimately the decision to stay or leave must be your own.
An unhealthy relationship can sometimes improve with time and effort from everyone. It is important to recognise that you can only change your own behavior, and only your partner can change theirs, so it is essential that you both recognise what is unhealthy in your relationship and make a commitment to changing your own behaviors.
Discussing the above relationship pointers, or some of our other relationship resources with your partner might be a good place to start.
Some people find that using active listening can help to clarify situations and facilitate understanding each other’s perspective.
You could also seek support from friends, family, and whānau, relationship counseling, or elsewhere. This can be especially difficult for those whose relationships are less conventional or more stigmatised (such as open relationships), as there are often no examples or blueprints on how to have healthy relationships or deal with unhealthy things which may be happening. There are resources linked below.
With time and work, many relationships can improve and become healthy and happy. Other times, people reach a point where they know that they are not happy in the relationship, or are happier when their partner isn’t around. If you decide to leave, there is advice below for safely leaving a scary or abusive situation.
My relationship is unhealthy and I’m over it: preparing to leave
If you are leaving a healthy relationship, it’s likely you can have a good conversation and talk about how you are feeling and why you want to end the relationship. Breakups are still hard, but people who are in a healthy relationship can usually also have a healthy mutual breakup.
However, if the relationship is unhealthy or abusive, it may be very difficult to end it amicably. Your partner may not accept that you want to end the relationship: they may try to make you feel guilty, afraid to leave, or worried that they will not cope. They may even threaten to hurt you, your loved ones, or themself. Even if they do not accept that the relationship is ending, you do not have to stay in the relationship.
It can help to keep the conversation direct, factual, non blaming, and future focused – telling them you are unhappy, you no longer want to be in this relationship, and that you are leaving. They may want to argue specific reasons or examples of them behaving badly, convince you that you were the one who behaved badly, or promise they will change. These are tactics to control you and stop you leaving. You do not need to be drawn into this. You can leave whenever you are ready.
There are many organisations that can help with sexual violence, leaving abusive situations, and staying safe. You can find some of these on the TOAH-NNEST national database, and there are others listed below.