CW: violence against transgender individuals, trans suicide rates
This country is becoming more terrifying by the day.
Especially for a community I care about deeply and tertiarily am a part of: the trans community.
I will begin by adding a disclaimer: I try my hardest to keep up with the changing appropriate terminology, but please let me know if anything I say is wrong. I also cannot speak for members of this community, other than one of a vaguely genderqueer but mostly female identified person like myself.
Seven years ago, I was completely uninformed about this topic. I knew it was a thing, but didn’t understand it at all. And I will admit that I probably cracked some jokes on behalf of transpeople at some point, for which I am eternally ashamed.
But as I became more entrenched in “researching” the LGBT community as I begin to identify my own pansexuality/queerness, I educated myself about transgender issues.
I began to develop the inklings of understanding about what it must be like to know from your earliest memories who you are, but be told you are irrevocably someone different.
My heart broke when I heard stories of people disowned by everyone they held dear, their struggles to gain any sort of employment, and often their decision or necessity to engage in sex work. And the violence and murders. So many murders.
By all reports, 2015 was a record year for the murdering of transpeople, the vast majority being transwomen of color. And these are just the reported ones. These are just the people who have advocates who are willing to speak up and spread the word about their death.
A terrifying number of states still have no legislation against hate crimes committed against a person due to gender identity. Only 17 states have laws that specifically list gender identity and expression as a protected group.
And then there’s the suicide rates.
It has been reported that at least 40% of transpeople have attempted suicide, and the statistics rise and fall based on family support, employment, and even race.
But I don’t mean to turn this blog post into a scholarly article. My point is: things are bad.
And I’m not going to even start with these ludicrous “Bathroom Bills.” Looking at the aforementioned statistics, it’s pretty clear that cisgender individuals shouldn’t be the half of the equation that should be worrying about their safety.
I came out to my family as pansexual in 2011. I had met a guy named Alex on OkCupid, and we began dating. And he was transgender. (I have discussed this with him and he has given me permission to talk about our relationship on here.) At the time, he was generally trying to live as “stealth,” meaning not openly trans, but he allowed me to tell my parents, as it was a part of my coming out process.
Quite honestly, I think my whole coming out would have been a bit more straightforward if I had gotten a girlfriend, because the whole “transgender thing” confused my parents even more. My mom, being a registered nurse, understood it a bit from a medical standpoint, that it was a legitimate thing, but my dad was just baffled. They were gracious about it all, though.
He is five feet tall and 100 pounds, so usually people assumed he was my teenage brother or I was some weird pedophile.
He had started taking testosterone a few months before we started dating, and so I was able to witness his “puberty,” as it were. His excitement when he started sprouting chin hairs and his vocal cracks.
I witnessed his struggle to find a doctor who was sensitive to/had any knowledge about healthcare for transgender individuals, and then seeing if they were “in network” for his health insurance.
I witnessed his winces whenever his friends and family called him by his “dead name” (his birth name) or used the wrong pronouns.
I witnessed his difficulty finding mens’ clothes that would fit his tiny frame, and frustrations that only little boys’ clothes would fit. Or sometimes, Express had XS dress shirts that worked, more or less.
And I witnessed his terror of having to use the bathroom in public places. This was years before all of this discussion about legislation. If there were no stalls, he couldn’t use the restroom. He preferred it be an empty bathroom. If these things couldn’t happen, he would just hold it. And that was awful on a whole lot of health levels.
For a while after a transman starts taking testosterone, he can still have his period, so I became the holder-of-pads-and-tampons, and he just prayed he wouldn’t have to use them in public restrooms.
And I cringed about whenever people talked about transgender individuals, “the surgery” was always the first thing that came up. As if we always went around asking everyone to describe their own genitals in detail. As if it mattered. As if that would somehow validate their gender identity. That they weren’t “real” without it.
It makes me want to throw things and yell and scream.
The reality for so many transpeople is that they are underemployed and their jobs are precarious as there are only a handful of states that protect them from being fired because they’re trans. Where the hell are they going to get money for all these expensive surgeries?
And especially for transmen, there are few procedures that are even adequate at this point, and most are so cost prohibitive that they could never be an option.
My relationship with Alex only lasted for about six months, but throughout it, I gained such perspective and understanding. I was able to get a glimpse into the realities of being transgender. And I learned that the trans experience is wildly varied from person to person; what’s fine and acceptable for one individual may be wholly insulting and/or triggering for another.
Through Alex, I met a handful of other transpeople, and I still keep in touch with them. I have witnessed many tragedies in their community from the sidelines. I have witnessed one of their friends take her own life after suffering from bullying at her workplace for over ten years.
I have witnessed another friend attempting to raise money for treatment of her transwoman friend’s cancer.
And I have witnessed this same friend attempting to raise the small sum of $1,000 to pay for this same woman’s cremation.
It took two months to do it.
The goal was met yesterday, and I contributed some money. Afterwards, as I took a shower, I cried. The reality of the situation hit me.
This woman was abandoned by those she held dear, and it was up to her friends, most of whom were also underemployed trans people, to scrape together enough money to take care of her body after her death. To give her this final simple rite.
Society has spoken loud and clear about how much her life didn’t matter. And how the lives of so many people like her don’t matter.
How the perceived danger of these marginalized people is more threatening to America than the murders and beatings they experience all the time.
How the whole bathroom bill kerfuffle isn’t actually about protecting cisgender individuals from transpeople: it’s about protecting cisgender women and children from cisgender sexual predators. Transpeople are just expendable scapegoats for a made-up issue.
This is all so very not okay.
Until you’ve spent hours listening to someone cry about how much they want their body to be different, how much they just want their parents to love them, how they can’t afford to do anything to make things better for themselves, you have no right to make any sort of judgments or assumptions about these people. To deny them the basic everyday act of using a public restroom.
They just want to pee. That’s all they want. They don’t want to leer at you. They don’t want to touch your children. They’re way more terrified to be in there than you could possibly be of them.
And now, with these Bathroom Bills reaching a fever pitch, I’m realizing that, in many states, I too am no longer safe.
There was an instance recently of the police forcibly escorting an androgynous lesbian woman out of a restroom because she didn’t have her ID on her to prove she was a woman.
There was a recent incident in which a woman had just donated her hair to cancer patients and how had a pixie cut. She was asked to leave a bathroom in a Walmart because they thought she was a transwoman.
Every time I use the bathroom in a more conservative or rural location, I wonder if today’s the day the same will happen to me.
But at least I have the luxury of being cisgender. Others aren’t so lucky.