At birth, everyone is assigned a sex and with that, comes their gender, a range of characteristics between masculinity and femininity as determined by a society. Depending on whose defining those characteristics, “biological” – or physician assigned – sex such as male and female may be included in that definition.
Imagine if you can being assigned the wrong gender at birth and living your entire known life outside of what or how you identify. Further imagine society playing a role in how you identify to the point of enacting legislation defining your existence and monitoring your body functions. It sounds Orwellian, but last year, there were more than 20 bills aimed directly at the bowl movements of people who are transgender, and although according to the HRC 22% of the population now knows or works with someone who is transgender, we as a community are still thought of as pedophiles, perverts and liars.
“I’ve known since I was six,” is the battle cry of your average person who is Trans. Children begin to identify within their gender around age four, so knowing that something may have gone wrong at birth at the age of six would fall into something I’m not used to saying; it would be normal.
Gender dysphoria is like being swallowed by a snake and constantly trying to push your way out. You’re wrapped in an outer body that simply does not fit with your inner core and no amount of punching the mirror is going to make that image change or eliminate the constant deafening sound of that voice inside your head that you should not exist. Suicidal ideation sets in around the teenage years and sadly, 41% of people who are transgender attempt suicide during their lives.
I’m one of those 41% who have attempted suicide and failed, but with that attempt and admission brings scorn from some and cheers from others. I’ve been referred to as a gender fuck-up not even capable of taking my own life and I have had offers from people to help me next time I decide to try and opt out. That’s the value of a Trans life.
In the Trans community, we are all well aware that our value to society is near zero; if our lives had any value, there would be no need for a Trans Awareness Week culminating in a Trans Day of Remembrance [TDOR], “celebrated” every November. During this week, individuals and organizations from all over the country – spreading globally – will help raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people by addressing the “issues” our community faces.
The so-called “issues” in our community are wide, but based on media reports, it would appear that our main issue is bathroom discrimination. What’s not being reported is the widespread homelessness, our underemployment and unemployment rates, and the general lack of health care that a person who is transgender requires to simply stay alive. Hormone Replacement Therapy alone can cost hundreds of dollars a month and it’s not uncommon in our community to run a hormone collection drive to bridge the gap between the time you run out of hormones and the next pay day.
According to a recent Williams University Report, the unemployment rate for people who are Trans run three times higher than the national average. Suicide rates run up to twelve times higher than the cisgender population and the average Trans person survives on an income of less than $10,000.00.
As of today, there have been 22 Trans people that have been unlawfully killed in the United States in 2015 compared to a total of 20 Trans people in 2014; an increase of more than 25% and the year is not yet over. On October 14, 2015, Ashley Hamilton became the twentieth Trans person to commit suicide this year and Zella Ziona was the 21st person who is transgender who was murdered on October 15. At the beginning of this year, Trans folk were being murdered at the rate of one per week and at its height, a trans person was being killed globally every 29 hours.
The last week in February was declared, “Don’t Kill a Trans Person Week,” however, the Facebook page that was created to support the week had to be deleted when it was overrun with hateful comments and threats of murder. At the time it read, “Can we just not kill any Trans women or Trans feminine people for one week this year? This is the one-week, Don’t Kill a Trans Woman Challenge! By joining this event, you agree to not kill any Trans women or trans feminine AMAB (assigned male at birth) people for the entire week?”
We didn’t make it through half the week when Sumaya Ysl’s body was discovered on February 22, 2015 thus continuing the horrible trend.
8 months later, I woke up to the news that Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance [HERO] – an ordinance that would have made it illegal to discriminate against someone based on 15 different “protected characteristics” include gender identity, race, religion and sex – clearing the way for additional discrimination against a large swath of the Houston population. The measure failed with 61% of the constituency voting against the measure as a result of the advertising campaign “NO Men in Women’s Bathrooms.”
Being transgender is painful, both emotionally and physically; it’s isolating and at time the abandonment of family and friends is heartbreaking, but transitioning saved my life and I am never looking back. I have never been as comfortable in my skin as I am today and the constant suicidal ideation has disappeared, but that doesn’t make me any less of a target for anti-transgender legislation flooding state houses across the nation.
It’s TDOR and as I sit here writing this piece knowing full on that I have passing privilege, Chelsea Manning although now being allowed to grow out her hair by the Government, could be put in danger as a result, Vicky Thompson is found dead in the male section of the Armley Leeds jail, and Newt Gingrich is claiming that Transgender Rights in the US are leading to the catastrophe in Syria.
A thousand Caiytln Jenners couldn’t fix this problem and it might be said that a single Caitlyn Jenner increased the transphobia level simply for coming out and putting transgender people back in the spotlight, if we had ever left the so-called spotlight. No longer can anyone say that they don’t know a person who is transgender as a result of Jenner’s announcement earlier this year, but by all media reports, Caitlyn is just another “man in a dress” being handed awards needlessly for her “courage.”
Yes, it’s TDOR today and you miss me when I’m gone.