Friday, November 20, 2015

11-20-2015 Entry: An Open Letter for Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015

So, it occurs to me that I should probably step out of my own little world for a minute and say something about today. For those who’ve been living under a rock today is the Transgender day of Remembrance. It is perhaps the saddest day of the year for me and for those like me. Today is the day we look back over the last twelve months and grieve for those who have been attacked, raped, and murdered because of transphobic violence. There are varying numbers floating around for the number of transgender people murdered over the last year but as many of these crimes often go unreported it’s hard to say what the true number is. For many victims their true gender isn’t recognized and they are simply categorized by their gender assigned at birth/presumed sex. As such, it is difficult to truly say how many have perished this last year but the number is in the hundreds.

What I think should also be taken into consideration, and is often overlooked, are those trans* individuals who lose their life to depression and suicide. While these are often self-inflicted acts of desperation, they are also frequently the result of the transphobic climate we live in. Violence comes in many forms and there is rarely one more harmful than social delegitimization, ostracism, and intolerance.

Although I have been fortunate to only have minor altercations with people, I am one of the countless numbers that gets harassed, mocked, ridiculed, and derided by strangers on a regular basis. I have had complete strangers sexually harass me and then laughingly ask me if I’m a girl or a boy. I have had strangers laugh at me, mock me, and try their damndest to out me to everyone in earshot. I get stared at. I get treated like I’m less than human. I have people who used to treat me with decency when I presented as male suddenly turn a cold shoulder or completely ignore me. I have had family members disown me and insist upon calling me by my male name/pronouns despite me asking them not to again and again.

I get emails from people all around the world who have families that disown them, who have families that kick them out, who have experienced abuse, who have experienced violence, who have been homeless, who have had to resort to sex work to survive, and who have considered or attempted suicide. I have brushed virtual shoulders with countless people far less fortunate than I am, and my understanding of the suffering of trans* individuals around the world continues to grow. I have vowed to make my life’s work to make it easier for trans* individuals to find and obtain help. I have vowed to use my education and privilege to bring further understanding to the trans* condition. I have vowed to live openly and proudly, unafraid of the abuses I receive, because I understand that in order for us to gain acceptance, we have to be visible.

Today is about making transgender people and the violence they face, visible. Today is about telling the stories of those who’ve passed away simply because they were not accepted for who they are. Today is a day that we remember that the fight for equality is far from over. We’ve made such enormous steps in the right direction and we need to celebrate that, but today reminds us that there is still much to be done. So, tonight, before you go to bed, I hope you will take a moment to be silent. I hope you will use that moment of silence to reflect on what you as an individual can do to help raise trans* awareness.

Maybe it’s as simple as sharing something on social media about TDOR, maybe it’s as simple as openly supporting and praising a trans person you know (assuming they are okay with you doing that, you should probably check first), it may be that you are trans* or think you are trans* and just haven’t had the courage to come out. Maybe today is the day you decide live out and proud instead of living in the shadows (not a bad thing, just so we are clear). Maybe you have a child or family member who is trans* that you could be a better ally for. Maybe there is a local outreach that takes in LGBT people struggling that you could volunteer at. Even just one act of kindness, courage, or awareness-spreading can have an amazing impact. We are all in this together. Whether you are straight, gay, bisexual, queer, lesbian, pansexual, demisexual, a trans man, a trans woman, genderfluid, androgynous, bigender, agender, genderqueer, or just a damn human being, we can all do something to help.

I get on here day after day, week after week, month after month pulling back the curtain on one possible trans* experience. I volunteer when I have time to help those questioning their genders, and I’m doing almost all of my grad school research on trans* issues. I am networking with researchers from around the world who have been studying the trans* condition and who have helped propel amazing innovations in mental health and medicine for trans* people. I intend to carry on their work into the next phase of understanding the fluid and fleeting nature of gender. I agreed to go on the news so people would have a chance to see a local transwoman, perhaps for the first time. And yet, I know that I have not done enough.

I hope, if nothing else, that my example inspires you to jump into this fight. Some of us are living and breathing this trans* revolution while many are just idly sitting by. Some of us are dying for the cause, and that, my friends, is unacceptable. No one should be murdered for living true to themselves, and you can help stop it. You can spread love instead of misinformation, fear, and intolerance. You can raise awareness, and it doesn’t have to be hard. Figure out what you can do, however small, to raise awareness and promote love/acceptance, and then do it. You’ll be on the right side of history, this I can promise.

To those who have passed, I offer this final word: You were all so fabulous in life, and I know you are even more fabulous up in heaven, but I promise you that I’m going to do everything I can down here to make sure our brothers, sisters, and siblings can live true to themselves without fear of abuse or death. I promise to keep living openly and to keep pushing the boundaries of our understanding on what it means to be trans*. We are trans* and we are beautiful.


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