Lights in the Shadows
So today is, again, Transgender Day of Remembrance. Totals will be announced, nationally and worldwide, and it will be roundly noted that it’s likely not the tip of the iceberg if we only knew of all the poorly reported cases. Even more bitter is the realization that we’re not even including deaths which result from suicide, and that likewise even if we tried to tally them up there would be far more that we don’t know about than those we do. In many places ceremonies have already occurred over this Transgender Awareness Week just passed.
And all this, as we stand at the precipice, looking back on eight years of steady, and sometimes remarkable progress in the face of hateful opposition, but also look ahead a what will surely be a deep decline for the coming near future, and grave danger for more long-lasting setbacks.
It is right and proper to desire that memorial observations be above and apart from the crassness of political battles, but I’m not in a right or proper mood. I’m afraid for the lives of my friends and fellow travelers on this journey. I mean, if I step back and take a broader view, the troubling reality is that the large majority of those we mourn are women of color, so perhaps the danger to a white woman such as myself is not so great. Likewise, some may argue that from a strictly statistical analysis there re other correlating factors that might play a role in the number of attacks.
But such a dispassionate analysis neither respects the memory of those lost, nor allays the fears of those who remain. To do that, there’s only one thing we can do – continue to pursue the goal of normalizing the transgender experience in our culture. We’ve spent far too much effort time and effort having esoteric discussions, or loud arguments, amongst ourselves trying to refine our labels and categories down to the finest variant shades. I do not in principle object to academic discussions and refinement of language but it can become an end unto itself. I’ve used this example before but it bears repeating – it was an error to try to use the term “assigned at birth” out in the public conversation. It doesn’t ring true in the ears of the cis-audience.it stinks of some claim that a bureaucrat in an office filled a quota rather than aligning with their genuine experience of childbirth. With almost no effort we could be saying “assumed at birth” which has the benefit of being both a perfectly accurate description of what happened, and perfectly communicating to the cis-person what you want to say about the incongruity between your identity and your original anatomy.
Not to get too far into the weeds on this because the point is simple – until we find a way to communicate to non-trans people that while we are no more “normal” than a person born autistic, or blind, or diabetic – we are just as natural as they are. They need to see the reality that they are abusing people for a physiological condition, not a sexual perversion. Whoever is the president, however he strips us of our rights, the ongoing work of reaching people on an individual basis goes on. Even if he and his cronies work to make it harder.
Photo by: Elvert Barnes