Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Matter Of Life And Death: Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance. The post I promised before I got levelled by a bug is coming. Today, I'm going to talk matters of life and death.

I am a cissexual woman. That is the term for someone born XX who feels like that is, in fact, the correct gender assignment for her. Because of that, I am almost certainly not the person you should be listening to today. But I'll crave your indulgence for just a few moments before pointing you to those whose stories and feelings need and deserve to be heard.

The first person I ever talked to online live (as opposed to email or newsgroups) is a trans woman. Since that time, I have been blessed (and oh, I do mean blessed) by the friendships of several women who have undertaken the agonizing journey of leaving behind the gender they were assigned at birth and becoming their truest selves.

I am also blessed with the security of knowing that all of these women are still alive, able to be the caring, giving, strong women they are. Tragically, the facts are that trans people are at risk each and every day. Even basics most of us take for granted such as using the washroom are risky activities. Medical care is almost guaranteed to involve some level of humiliation. They are told they do not exist, that they are sick, that their pain is not real, that everything is "all in their heads."

Nearly half of all trans people have attempted suicide. Those numbers cannot be allowed to continue.

Even worse, even those who have found peace with themselves are at increased risk of violence.
That is the point of Transgender Day of Remembrance. Every 20th of November, trans people and their allies stop to remember those who have been lost to violence since the previous November 20th.

Not everyone memorialized this day is a trans person. Some were killed simply because they were perceived to be acting in a manner at variance to their gender. One was a 16-month-old boy who was murdered because he was perceived to be acting like a girl. Stop and ponder that for a moment. The prejudice against trans people is so strong someone felt justified in beating a toddler to death because of it.

This cannot go on.

This evening, I will be going to the Twin Cities Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil in the Twin Cities. You can find your own event here. Then act to stop the violence, especially against Transgender people of color. Reach out. Your life will be the richer for it. You might save someone else's.

Unsure where to start? Too broke to give to trans-supportive charities? Try dropping the word "tranny" from your vocabulary as a first action. Many trans people find it offensive. At best, it's one of those words that a minority gets to use among themselves, but sound wrong and disrespectful coming from those outside the minority group. (Think "the n-word.")

Also, if you're a ciswoman and you see a "cross-dressed guy in the washroom," for goodness' sake don't freak out. Washrooms are among the most dangerous places for trans women. A simple nod and smile, as you'd do for any other woman, is appropriate. Chances are instead of a threatening move toward you, you'll see an expression of profound relief!

I do not want any of my friends to become a statistic. We have it in our power to make a difference.

***A special thanks to @widdershins_cat for her assistance with feedback on this post and links! Love you!!***

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for writing this. It was very respectfully written, and it made my day a little better.

    Some more thoughts on the language issue, because it is one of the easiest ways to effect positive change and is a great place to start:

    Other good words to get rid of are 'shemale' and 'male-to-female/female-to-male' (and all of their abbreviations). Some trans people do identify as male-to-female or female-to-male (view themselves as having *been* their assigned gender before transitioning), but they are not good terms to use in general.

    Also, another good thing to know: it is 'trans man/woman/person', not 'transman/woman/person' (there's a space! it is two words!) For more on this, see

    And please, never say 'a trans' or 'a transgender' or 'a transsexual'. This reduces trans people to one single aspect of our lives (their trans-ness), implies that transgender is a third option between male and female (it isn't - trans people can be men, women, or any of a number of non-binary gender identities), and is comparable to referring to a homosexual person as 'a gay'.