On the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, Anthony Doubek shared why the actions of even one person matter.
Have you ever heard someone tell you that you have the power to change the world? Have you ever thought that was complete bullshit? I know I have. There are billions of people on this planet with their own ideas, cultures, biases, and values, not to mention the governments that control the policies that inform people of what (and who) is right and wrong.
But do you remember that scene in Disney’s Pocahontas? Grandmother Willow dips her vine into the water causing the surface to break into ripples. She reminds us, “So small at first, then look how they grow. But someone has to start them.” Do you remember how powerful that statement seemed as a child? That thought that every action you made created enough energy to affect the world around you. That hasn’t changed, we just seem to forget about it when we grow up.
This world we live in is very centered on the here and now. What can we do to make ourselves feel better right now? How can we change things right now? Where do we want to be right now? We often forget to look at the bigger picture. Change takes time and we have to be willing not only to fight for change, but to wait for it and understand that while we may not see the change right away, future generations will.
So what am I asking you to change? This year my community suffered 268 murders, 77 instances of direct physical violence, 6 suicides, 4 silicone murders, and 3 missing persons. These people suffered because they were transgender.
For those of you who may not know, being transgender means that you were assigned a certain sex at birth (male or female) but you have a gender identity that does not match that sex assignment. For example, I was assigned female at birth, however I have always felt that I was a boy. So while my biological sex is female, I identify as a transman. I look like a man, I wear men’s clothing, I use he/him pronouns, have a driver’s license that says M instead of F and am seen as a man by almost everyone in my life. (If you would like more information about what it means to be trans, visit this resource page (http://boxersandbinders.com/resources) and start at the section that says Links for Allies, Families and Friends, or visit this Transgender 101 page.
However, I am one of the lucky ones, because every 32 hours a transwoman (male assigned at birth, but identifies and lives as a woman) is reported murdered. Every 32 hours we lose a sister, a daughter, a friend, a life.
November 20th is Transgender Day of Remembrance. This day is set aside for us to grieve those we have lost, to remember their lives, and to discuss the issues in our world that caused their lives to end so tragically. But most importantly, this day is set aside for us to remember that every day we have the power to change this world. One day a year is not enough to change the way society views trans folks. This day is a day for us to educate ourselves, to understand the current statistics of violence and discrimination against trans individuals, to start conversations, and to recommit ourselves to creating a better world for the next generation.
If you are not trans and you don’t know anyone who is trans, you may be asking why you should care. It doesn’t affect you right? Not exactly.
The lives of trans folks are not made harder by other trans folks necessarily. Most of the time our lives are made harder by people who are not trans who do not understand our identities, who are afraid of us, or who hold great hatred towards us. To end the violence and discrimination, we must help all people understand trans identities so they are no longer confused and afraid of us. To do that we need the help not only of the greater LGBQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer) community, but from our straight allies as well.
It is known that people fear what they do not understand. Fear makes humans act in strange ways. They may choose to ignore the fear altogether, to keep the fear away from their lives be excluding those people that cause that discomfort, by devaluing the anything and anyone who values the thing they fear, or sometimes by attempting to violently erase the thing or person that they feel is the cause of their fear. The reality is, trans folks are not causing this fear. The fear and discomfort that is felt by folks who do not understand gender and sexuality is caused by our society.
We are told from a very young age what is and is not acceptable. We are told who we are before we even get a chance to figure that out for ourselves. We are told we are girls so we must be pretty, must not be tough, must allow men to take care of us, must be interested and excited only about certain things, and must never try to leave the box we have been set in. We are told we are boys, that we must be angry and tough, must never show emotion, must be controlling, and can never, under any circumstances, step outside our assigned box and allow ourselves to be feminine.
It beings before we are even born. I was once told this story from a friend of mine who was at work talking with someone about a child that was about to be born. The mother had purchased all “girls clothes” in pink and other “feminine colors” and the point was brought up that she might have a boy. My friend shrugged and said what did it matter? They were just colors. One of her coworkers then went on a very close minded rant about how she would never allow a boy to be dressed in pink. It was not right. Dressing that child in pink would cause him to be… She cut off, catching on that there might be non-straight people among her.
Isn’t it outrageous? We are told we have freedom of expression, but put a baby assigned male at birth in pink clothing and people will go into a rage about what will happen to a child who is not boxed in.
The box continues to fill up as we are a child. The isles of pink and blue do not disappear after you leave the womb. They are reinforced by the pink and blue isles of boys and girls toys. When girls choose a truck or superhero toy adults worry she will grow up to be a dyke. When a young boy asks for ballet shoes, he is told not to be a fag. I am sorry if my words offend you, but this is the reality.
These boxes continued to be filled with rules, regulations, and equipment meant to bury us so deep in stereotypes that we never find our way out. All we see is what we are told to see, the box around us, and we are never given the chance to actually look and see ourselves.
We are all confined by these rigid rules that come from living in a society that only sees gender as having only two options and does not even have the decency of allowing you to choose. And what happens when you break those rules? Look at the stories of Brandon Teena, Islan Nettles, CeCe McDonald, Terrianne Summers. Attacked, raped, murdered, imprisoned for self-defense with the attackers getting off on the “transgender panic” defense with commenters and jurors claiming that they had it coming. And when this does not happen we are treated as something to be looked at under a microscope, as demonstrated by Katie Couric. We are told that our lives and bodies are not our own. We must share with the world our transgender status or we are liers. When we do that, we risk our lives. Every time we tell someone we are transgender, we are risking our lives. And not only that, but love. Ask a transgender person if unconditional love really exists and many of us will tell you no. Because that is what life has taught us from every moment of rejection we have ever faced by those who have told us their love is unconditional. .
So what can you do? How can you help our society truly have freedom of expression?
First of all, wear purple every November 20th and tell people why you are wearing purple, then invite them to also wear purple.
Correct people’s insensitive language. When you hear something that is hurtful or discriminatory, challenge people to rethink why they are saying that. Have a conversation with them about why that is not ok, and help open their minds to better understanding of people who are different from themselves. Visit the You Don’t Say? Campaign to learn more about inclusive language at the You Don’t Say Campaign or visit this Trans Terms Dictionary to learn about gender identity terms. For a complete dictionary of LGBT terms visit this page.
When you yourself find that you are uncomfortable in a situation, take a minute to ask yourself why and analyze the situation. Don’t run from discomfort, embrace that moment as a learning opportunity about yourself and about others.
Learn about the issues and how you can be a better ally. Visit the Resources for Allies section at BoxersandBinders.com.
Speak with your vote! Learn what politicians and policies support LGBTQ people and vote for them. When your politician does not support LGBTQ people, contact them, tell them why it is important that they do so.
You have the power to change this world. Every step we take to make change does have an effect and the more people we reach, the more people who support the lives of trans and gender non-conforming people, the more people we convince that trans lives matter, the more lives we will save. Every year, and every day, we need to be fighting so that one day, on November 20th, we will be able to say that no lives were lost that year to hatred. Every moment we challenge society we are creating change. Please join us not only on November 20th, but every day to create a better world.
Editor’s note: All language as originally used by author.
Also by Anthony Doubek:
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