Looking for lighter Unicorn fare? Check out Phat Unicorn!, our sister-blog focusing on travel blogging, mindful eating and living joyously, hosted by yours truly, your favorite sparkly Unicorn!
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Wishing we didn't have to remember...
Hello, Darlings. The nature of this post is making me feel sad, and I haven't even written it yet. It will probably be brief - I hear you thinking you don't believe me, by the way - but the truth is that this topic is so simple that going on and on ad nauseum about it will serve no purpose other than to make me cry. And it's not pretty when Unicorns cry. Seriously.
Today is International Transgender Day of Remembrance. If you don't know what that means, let my Google-fu help you along:
What is the history Transgender Day of Remembrance?
Transgender Day of Remembrance is held in November in honor of Rita Hester, a
trans-woman who was murdered in her apartment just outside Boston, Mass., on the
night of Nov. 28, 1998. Rita died of multiple stab wounds, and her murder--like a lot of
anti-transgender murder cases—has not been solved. Her murder caused the creation
of "Remembering Our Dead," a web project (www.rememberingourdead.org) dedicated
to immortalizing the names of those persons killed because of anti-transgender hatred
or prejudice. A candlelight vigil held in San Francisco in 1999 is seen as the first Day of
Remembrance event. Since then, events have been organized in numerous cities in the
U.S. as well as in various countries around the world on November 20 every year.
Not that it's anyone's business what's in my pants (or what isn't, or what used to be, or whatever), but I am not transgender. I'm not just saying that because I hate, hate, hate labels - because you know I do - but because it's physically true. I am not, never have been, and never will be (as far as I know!) trans. That said, I know that I can never, ever understand the 'trans experience' (if such a thing can be labelled, as everyone is different and their experiences must therefore also be). I know several people who are trans, who identify that way, and who have gone through various stages of life transitions in order to live their lives the way that are true for them. I respect them. I honor them. And I love them, not only for who they are, but for having the courage to embrace themselves and do whatever they need to do to live their lives whole.
And I hate that we need this day.
I hate that the world, as we near the end of 2013, is still such a judgmental and narrow-minded place that it's not only socially risky for transpeople, but physically dangerous as well.
Transpeople face a struggle that no one who hasn't gone through it can really understand. We think we do, and maybe we have some idea about some of the struggles, but we don't. Not really.
There is the mental confusion that many suffer until they understand that trans is real, it's not just that they are mentally sick or otherwise eff'd up.
There is the relief they feel once they realize that, which for many is quickly subsumed by the fear of what their friends and family will say if/when they "find out".
For many, there is the relief when the friends and family do find out, because at least now they can face the worst, and hope some of those people will still love them.
Some of those people still love them. And hopefully they will have the happiness of making new friends and 'family' within the LGBTQ community who will accept them for who they are, and who they are becoming.
For many, there is also the pain of losing friends from within the LGBTQ community who see transfolk as 'traitors' (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean). This can feel like a double betrayal, coming from a group of people that is meant to be a support, not an enemy.
For some there is the rollercoaster adventure of beginning a physical transition, which can involve not only dressing and presenting differently, but also hormone treatments and multiple painful (and expensive) surgical procedures.
Revisit the previous stages as needed, as remaining friends and family watch the changes and may or may not be OK with them.
Another risk I almost forgot to mention, one that may not be apparent if you haven't been there. Peeing. As in, how do you use a public restroom without being accused of perving, of trying to spy on (or worse!) the 'normal people' who are in there, minding their own business. Even though you are minding your own business, there are people who aren't. And they might accuse you of being a deviant, a predator, or worse - even though they're the ones who are looking you over in the ladies' or mens' room.
Afterwards, for some who have made it thus far through the transition, comes the morass of forms, court dates, background checks, newspaper announcements, and the repeated public 'outing' as they navigate the legal process of having a new gender and identity officially recognized.
Now the relief, right? Now everything is OK, and they can relax and just feel 'normal' for a while, right?
Oh, come on. This is where it starts to get really dangerous. This is the part where you can die.
(Actually, you can die during any of those steps above, or on any of the many, many stages and milestones that I'm sure I forgot or didn't know to mention. None of it is safe. None of it.)
Even after all of that, now that they have a handful of pieces of paper and ID that mark them as being of a particular gender, it still isn't over. It's never over. For the rest of their lives, many transfolk will live with the constant undercurrent of fear that someone - read that: the wrong someone - will find out.
Sometimes they do.
If that someone is a co-worker or a boss, and they open their mouth, you're at risk for losing your job. In the majority of states in the US, it's perfectly legal for an employer to fire you for being trans.
If that someone is a friend, depending on how they react, you may be just fine - or you may find the news spreading, and find yourself ostracized, ridiculed and/or excluded.
If that someone is a date, and they aren't Ok with it, you could be insulted, humiliated, beaten up - or dead. That may sound like overreacting to some - hopefully to many - of you who are reading. It's not. It has happened, and it continues to happen.
And it's not just the date that's dangerous. It could be the friend or family of a date. It could be the friend or family of a co-worker - a co-worker who is perfectly fine with transpeople, but who just happened to mention it to someone else, who mentioned it to someone else. It could be a complete stranger in a club or a bar, who happens to decide that something about you just 'doesn't look right'. Or it could be a someone in your own family, although it's horrific to even ponder that someone who is supposed to love us could hurt us. But they have. They do.
What is it about what is in someone else's pants that is such a threat that makes people feel they have to lash out, to embarass, hurt, or even kill? Why is wanting to live your life as the person you know you are so unforgivable?
I don't know the answer.
I don't know how to take people by the hand and lead them to the truth - that a person is a person, and that what is (or isn't) in their pants shouldn't matter, shouldn't change how you see them, how you treat them, and doesn't change their right to live and to be as happy as anyone can be. And that no one has the right to make the decision for another person about who they are, or what they are, or how they are allowed to be.
What I sometimes want to do is take them by the scruff of the neck and just shake the hell out of them until what little brains they have rattle in their skulls, and their teeth chatter together and their eyes bug out, and just scream at them, "Be nice! Quit being a judgmental asshole!! It's not up to you!!"
But I don't. Instead I come here and put up a pretty picture of a candle, and I vent, and I wipe my eyes, and I make a fervent wish that someday, maybe, people will learn to treat everyone else with the same respect and kindness that they want to receive themselves. That we will learn to love each other, and see the divine and beautiful spirit that we share as human beings, no matter what flavor we are. That one day - please, let it be soon! - we are all free to walk down the street, holding our heads high, and holding hands with whomever (or not) we choose, with no fear. With only joy and hope.
Until then, we remember.
Thanks, as always, for reading, Darlings. Leave me a comment if you like, and keep being fabulous!