I get so tired of hearing the excuses that are made on behalf of Cisnormative society when it comes to the slow emotional and psychological destruction of Transgender and gender diverse people.
Some of us have become hardened and desensitized to the dehumanization slung our way every single day. Many of us have, through our journey of inhabiting our own skin, have lost family, friends, even jobs. On a broader scale, we’ve had to sit back and bare witness to our own public humiliation from behind pulpits of faith, exploited and dragged through the mud by the media and had our right to use a bathroom debated by politicians with religious or hate driven bias.
Every. Single. Day.
We turn to social media and the headlines glaring back at us “10th Transperson Murdered.” We don’t know how high that number will be by the end of the year. They reset their counter every 12 months like they get a do-over. We don’t know if we’ll be, you or I, one of those numbers.
The media doesn’t really invest much reporting in Trans+ suicide anymore. It’s far too common. There are some statistics reported, mostly regarding youth, but they’re absolutely terrifying…
Those who rail against Trans+ individuals take great pride in their privilege- and their position to tell you, a Transperson, how abnormal you are. What is abnormal, however, is that nearly 80% of Trans or gender variant youth are harming themselves with almost 50% attempting suicide. We as Trans people are not startlingly unusual… these statistics are.
But, one can certainly see how we got here. It isn’t just youth being overwhelmed by government administrations trying to invalidate their existence or evangelists and talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Mark Levin who collectively have millions of listeners daily calling us pedophiles and accusing us of being “The downfall of moral society.” We’re predatory “Men in dresses” threatening the safety of their wives and pedophiles peeping at their daughters in public bathrooms.
The onslaught of aggressive attacks and lies manifested to justify their fear and hatred of Trans+ people are relentless. It is also packaged to campaign and convince others that what they say we are is who we are. They indoctrinate their listeners into the belief. We live in fear of people believing that and because we hear it every day, they hear it every day also and eventually, tragically, they will start to conform to that same hateful stance… and be recruited into the growing army poised to remove us from society.
And now they post data showing that our youth is killing themselves, suffering from a menagerie of mental illnesses that are impairing us from functioning in society, in jobs, in schools or colleges, in social situations… outside the safety our home.
I was removed from public school in the 7th grade at the suggestion of my middle school principal who told my Mother “We can no longer guarantee his safety.” I had been sprayed in the face with mace, beaten in the bathroom stall, pushed from a second floor window, slapped in the face. School was not a learning experience for me. Every day I went to be tortured. Then, from the ages of 14–19 I lived as an agoraphobic, refusing to leave my house for fear of my safety. Whether it was irrational or real, my mind had existed in that place of constant threat for so long that I could no longer differentiate where I was safe and where I was not, thus, I shut myself into the only place I could find comfort in. My bedroom.
There were no studies back then in the late 90’s. There was no Trans education or resources available. You simply suffered as a consequence of your experience. You either survived, or you didn’t. They weren’t counting our numbers, be it murder or suicide, back then.
Cisgender Society has sat complicit in our abuse and subsequent deaths for many, many years now. It has taken great sacrifice to get where we are, and the cost has been hundreds of thousands of lives in the last 30 years, many by their own hand. As we died, people with massive platforms persisted, be it from senate floors, televised or talk-radio platforms or megachurches spewed their venom and spread their hate until it became our terminal cancer.
Many of us were young then, and while attention to the damage being incurred upon youth today is vital, it is equally important for CISgender society to recognize what they did to us… when we were young. Before we could tell our stories. There are generations of us suffering the emotional and psychological consequences of systematic, sanctioned abuse and neglect today. Claiming ignorance is not an acceptable excuse. Bottom line: It was inhumane, and the effects of it haunt many of us to this day. Pretending to care about Trans children while still doing nothing to prevent them from meeting the same fate Trans adults have is not only insulting, but negligent… because no one is making it stop.
In the United Kingdom, hate speech is illegal. There are no Rush Limbaughs or Mark Levins given nationally recognized platforms. In fact, unbiased reporting or inciting hate toward a minority is a punishable offense. Surprised? So was I. Right wing conservative, Katie Hopkins was fired from her job as host of her own talk radio show because she incited a broad spectrum of hate toward everyone from trans women to muslims. She picked up a new job writing a column for a syndicated newspaper, and was subsequently fired again. Most recently, while filming a documentary demonizing black people in South Africa, she was banned from the country, by the government, for spreading racial hatred.
In politics, leaders of the conservative party Britain First (Their equivalent of Trump Supporters) were jailed for hate crimes. One of those crimes was promoting intolerance towards immigrants and Muslims via social media- which Donald Trump retweeted. Britain protects it’s citizens from the damage done by extremists to diversity. America condones it.
We are the proof. Both living, and dead.
And we feel helpless to stop it. Cisgender society covets the opportunity to point out how small our demographic is. Recently, someone said to me, “You’re 0.2 of the population, what are you gunna do about it?” It implies that if anything is to be done, they must be the ones to do it. Sort of like an able bodied person carrying a wheelchair bound person across a river. They know they have more influence, louder voices, and in some small pockets they use it where they can, but the vast majority stay quiet. Our trials do not involve them. If they’re not hurt by our injustices, they stay silent. After all, our President isn’t standing along people at a conservative convention who think they should be executed. Jokes at our expense are for their entertainment. They revel in their “Normalcy” without ever stopping to think about how it’s not normal to stand by idly and watch people be emotionally tortured and reduced to nothing.
As many know, within our vulnerable numbers, Trans women of color are the most in danger. When you couple racisim with transphobia, that equates a literal death sentence for them. In nearly every murder of a transgender woman, all of which have been hate-motivated killings, the victim has been a woman of color. The people who stand by and say nothing are just as guilty as the ones who pulled the trigger, put their arms around her throat, set her on fire or had sex with her and then beat her to death.
I remember, vividly, being taught about slavery in grade school. The concept of it shook me to my core. We were shown images of Black men put on platforms, with their hands tied behind their back as they were auctioned off. In the background of these photos were women with bags of groceries, or a man on a horse riding by, or a man entering a bank building in the background. How did no one see this? How, in the mind and soul of any sane, morally grounded human being could that have been a happening you just walk by, seemingly unfazed? It is beyond my comprehension. Don’t tell me it “was just the times people lived in” or “we just didn’t know any better.”
You don’t need to ask a magic eight ball as a sentient being to know when it is appropriate to express compassion, sympathy or be motivated to intervene to save a life. As I looked at all those people in the backgrounds of these photos, I studied the backs of their heads, those indifferent people passing by, unaware they were even being photographed, and now, etched in old Polaroids tinged orange with age and I thought, “Guilty… guilty… guilty…”
Today, I feel the same way about my silent allies who demonstrate the same indifference. The ones who tell us that we’re problematic if we fight back or causing too much conflict for their comfort if we fight against a majority where we’re already losing. Instead of standing with us, they stay seated, silent, and urge us to do the same.
That expectation is erasing us.
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