Today we marked another Transgender Day of Remembrance. It warms my heart to see that more people every year seem aware of this day, and that more people treat it with the respect it deserves. We still live in a culture in which we are horribly stigmatized. Too often we are written off as freaks at best and dangerous at worst. Those that would do us harm often come from opposite sides of the gender wars and yet meet in the middle to spread disinformation and hate. So getting this one day a year means a lot to us.
You may not think it is a very big deal, the danger we face. The number of us murdered last year was in the lower half of triple digits. A little over two hundred if I remember correctly. That doesn’t seem like a lot, does it? When you think of what a small population we are, though, it really comes into focus. We are a thousand times more likely to be murdered than any of our cis neighbors. Let that sink in a little.
What that means is I, who have never done anyone any real harm, have something like an 3% chance of being murdered. Almost one in thirty. Again, let that sink in. Wrap your head around those odds, around the more or less infinitesimal odds of a cis person being murdered. Think of how you could fill a triple A baseball stadium with cis people, and only one of them would get murdered, but in a medium sized class room of trans people, someone will meet there end at the hands of someone who hates them just for being.
Oh, I know some of us are killed for reasons not directly related to our gender identity. Still, even when it is not the deciding factor it still looms large. Many of us are at risk simply because society marginalized us. We end up in the seedier aspects of the sex industry. We end up in terrible housing, or maybe without housing altogether. The fact that we are valued so little as human beings puts us in harm’s way, even when our trans status is not why we are being targeted. Then again, there are plenty of times when we are targeted.
Our sexist, heterosexist, cis sexist culture creates monsters out of those whose fragile gender identity is threatened when they encounter us. Maybe it is the result of an intimate encounter gone bad, or maybe our mere presence agitates our killers. Whatever the reason, far too often the murderers inability to cope with us is still accepted as a semi legitimate reason.
That is why we needed today. Why we need it every year. It is why we need our allies to keep talking about it all year long. I have said before that I appreciate how much better I have it than many of my trans brothers and sisters, but I also know, and hope my loved ones understand after reading this, how fragile that safety is. Someday I may go out not passing as well as I could. On that day I may encounter someone who seems friendly enough so I think nothing of saying hi and smiling. Then I may find out, the hard way, that person’s sense of self is so weak that any attention from me threatens it, and he or (less likely) she needs to lash out. On that day, a day that has a one in thirty chance of happening, I may be no more. Let that sink in too, if you know me, or have any trans person you love in your life. Too many of us have been killed, often brutally, and it will continue to happen so long as you remain silent. Remember us, especially our fallen, today and every day.
- Transgender Day of Remembrance 2013 (thefword.org.uk)
- The Onus of Creating Trans* Acceptance Does Not Lie on Trans* People (genderworkwits.wordpress.com)
- Transgender Day of Remembrance: Two Galleries (feministphilosophers.wordpress.com)
- California lets transgender students use the restroom of their gender identity (mydoorsign.com)