Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance, Gentle Reader, during which we remember and mourn the hundreds of human beings who were brutally murdered for being true to themselves. This violence occurs daily, and death is frequently the result.
It’s frequently asserted that lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals ignore the transgender in LGBT. It’s true, too – and worse than just ignoring our allies, a lot of the hate directed at transfolk comes from the L, G, and B. It’s appalling – only this year, in America, was transgender included in the wording of ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which has continually failed since it was first introduced, years ago. Not being fired is an important right, and I’m glad that folks in the community are starting to grudgingly pay attention to our transgender friends, but I’m pretty sure that not living in fear of being brutally murdered is something that should also be addressed.
A lot of cisgender† people are confused about the very concept of being transgender; I have to admit that, being cis myself, I can’t answer that question with any degree of authority or accuracy. I’ve never had those experiences; I don’t know what that struggle is like. All I can do is empathize, based on my own experiences, and do my best to be a good ally – to take what the trans community says at face value, treat them with respect, and try to be a good ally. This doesn’t mean that I won’t get things wrong – I know for a fact that I will – but I can do my best to get things right, and apologize when I fuck up. Sometimes, though, that isn’t good enough.
For example, in my most recent relationship, my partner came out to me as trans. I was taken by surprise, and I tried to be supportive – but I know I frequently misgendered her during the process. There were some other issues going on with the relationship, but I can see now that while I was being supportive, I was going about it in entirely the wrong way. I was still trying to impose my worldview on hers. I’m sorry, my dear; I’ve educated myself since then.
Or there’s the time when my cousin M. came to an art show that I had a piece in. She had come out to the family as trans* after Grandpa passed – I was so proud of her! At this point, I had educated myself quite a bit more about the trans* community and deemed myself a better ally. Nevertheless, despite M. presenting as female, and my knowledge and respect of her journey, I still slipped up a few times, misgendering her as well. She calmly corrected me, with a smile, and waved it away with a flick of her wrist, but I know that it’s something she has to deal with every day, and if I, a purported ally, still slip up, what hope is there? Sorry, darling, and thank you for understanding.
The founder of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, Gwendolyn Ann Smith, wrote an article today, which was featured on the Huffington Post. She has this to say:
“Anyone can potentially fall victim to anti-transgender violence. Transgender-identified people and others whose gender identity or expression does not fit the typical binary are who you may think of first, but anyone who is perceived as not being “masculine” or “feminine” enough for their attackers is at risk.
Cases of anti-transgender violence have affected people of all ages, from newborn to elderly, and go across all sexual identities, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds. There’s no “magical” way to be protected from anti-transgender violence.”
I’m not sure what I think about that. At face value, I think that it’s absolutely true, that cisgender people suffer anti-trans* violence, in the same way a young straight boy who lisps will probably suffer anti-gay violence. Despite the fact that I can absolutely see her point as true, I worry that she only mentions this because the rest of the community largely doesn’t care what happens to transfolk. She’s casting her net more widely, telling us that it can happen to us, to get our attention piqued. That’s my fear, anyway.
Gentle Reader, we all need to be there for each other, and support equality for all. I know this post is long-winded and a little disjointed, but I hope I’ve made you question yourself, or the world, just a little. Let’s take a moment to contemplate the deaths of all those who died such tragic, unnecessary, deaths, and to try to make the world a more understanding place.
*A special note, here, G.R. – the term “trans*” typically includes an asterisk at the end, so for purposes of this post, the asterisk does not refer to a footnote. Well, except for this. Damn. You get the idea.
†Cisgender is the state of having your genitals match your identity. I should note that Cis and Trans* are not opposite poles of a binary system, or even goalposts on a spectrum, they’re just two of the more common gender markers.
Also, the cute drawing about pronouns comes from here, and I don’t own it. NSFW, probably.