20 November 2010

Remembering Our Other Dead

Today is the 12th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, the day we remember those trans people (and those who were suspected of being trans or who were with a trans person) who have been taken from us by transphobic violence.  It is a somber day, a day when we remember that transphobia not only grinds us down every day but can ultimately kill.  I highly recommend you go to a a TDOR event in your area if one is being held.

However, I wanted to do something different for this TDOR.  I wanted to talk about the fact that the transphobic violence that kills us does not always come at the hands of another.  Sometimes it's at our own hands.  Almost half of living trans people have attempted suicide.  I am one of them.

While many factors contributed to my suicide attempt the primary one was the transphobia I had internalised over years.  The self-loathing from knowing how abject a person I was built to self-hatred and, when I lost my primary emotional support, finally to the calm assurance that the way to deal with transphobia was to kill myself. Because I had not transitioned at that time.  I knew lots of things.  I knew that I would always look like "a man in a dress", that I would never be truly accepted among lesbians (even though cis lesbians had always been very supportive of me, a rarity for a trans woman), that no one could truly love me as a woman because I had the wrong genital configuration, but most of all that I was a freak and a pervert.  Does any of that sound familiar to you?  It should as that's the transphobia that surrounds us and pervades our culture.

I was fortunate.  I changed my mind at the last moment, and, while I paid the price for my attempt in time in hospital, permanent physical damage, and likely a shortened lifespan, I consider myself lucky.  I lived and decided to transition.  Not everyone is so lucky.

Transphobia in a cis person can obviously be deadly.  The roll of names that we read every year shows just how deadly.  And those names should not be forgotten.  They should be remembered as lives lost to the hatred of trans people.  But we should also spare a thought for those whose names we likely don't know.  Because transphobia in a trans person can be just as deadly, likely even more deadly considering the number of those of us who have tried suicide and lived.  Spare a thought today for those trans people who may have never come out enough to even hint to others that they were trans.  Spare a thought for those trans people who learned the hatred of trans people so well that their response was to kill themselves because they could not live with that hatred.

Even if you have never hurt a trans person, if you have expressed transphobia you may have contributed, in however small a part, to the death of a trans person.  That is even more sombering than knowing that trans people are killed by others.  Even if you can't stop a murderer from killing us, you can help prevent the death of trans people by stomping out transphobia in yourself and others.  Please remember that beyond this day of remembrance.

ETA: I would be remiss if I did not provide trans-specific suicide prevention information.  Here are two brochures provided by the MTPC on transgender suicide.

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